Abuse of shop staff on the rise

13 June, 2008

Survey finds retailers increasingly intimidated, especially over proof of age

Staff who ask customers for proof of their age are being threatened and verbally abused by customers, according to a major new survey.

Some 553 retailers were questioned, and reported 1,269 incidents where customers had shouted at and tried to intimidate sales assistants.

The Scottish Grocers' Federation, which carried out the study, said that much of the problem could be put down to the increasing likelihood of customers being asked to prove their age when purchasing drink.  

John Drummond, chief executive of the SGF, said the amount of abuse faced by shop staff was increasingly causing "great concern".

"Our members adopt the highly re-sponsible policy of asking for proof of age when a customer appears 21 or younger, even though the legal age to buy alcohol is 18," he explained. "If no proof is provided, the sale is refused. In fact, many retailers are now moving to a Challenge 25 policy.

"That's really being highly responsible and it is frustrating to learn that they are receiving abuse and dealing with violence as a consequence of simply trying to uphold the law.

"The answer lies with government. We have called for a nationally recognised proof-of-age card that all youngsters can carry and present when purchasing age- related products. Youngsters should be encouraged by government to do so and this would remove the conflict that can exist at the cash point.

"We have petitioned the Scottish parliament on this issue and we are now awaiting a response from government.

"If retailers and sales staff are expected to enforce the regulations surrounding the sale of age-restricted products and the repercussions if they get it wrong, then the Scottish government must reciprocate accordingly by providing the police with greater resources to tackle retail crime and supporting a recognised proof-of-age card backed by a national awareness campaign."


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