Abuse shouldn't be in a day's work

A major national campaign was launched by the SDA before Christmas, calling on customers to respect retail and fast food workers by checking their attitude before they get to the checkout, especially during the holiday shopping rush.


Unacceptable figures

A staggering 85% of retail and fast food workers have experienced abuse by customers, prompting the SDA to launch the No One Deserves a Serve campaign.

The SDA’s online survey of more than 6,000 retail and fast food workers identified this as a serious workplace health and safety issue.


A stressful time of year

The No One Deserves a Serve campaign was rolled out over the Christmas and New Year period — a time when workers are at greater risk of being unfairly subjected to customer outbursts.

Fast food worker Michelle Hooper said a mother had screamed abuse at her on New Year’s Eve when she was closing.

Lawrence, a retail worker in Western Sydney said customers get more and more angry as it gets closer to Christmas.

“Just a couple of weeks ago I had a customer become extremely irate at me, because we had sold out of the item he wanted. He was blaming me and yelling that it was my fault,” Lawrence said.


Getting the message out

Abuse shouldn’t be in a day’s work, and the SDA took this message straight to customers.

The massive campaign included television, radio, digital and outdoor advertising, and was extremely successful, with the series of advertisements and media reports achieving national and international exposure.

The message to customers was seen and heard online, on the airwaves, on screens, on buses and trains and in shopping centres in every State and Territory across the country.

The emotionally stirring content and real stories from retail and fast food workers provoked discussion and publicity across the country and ads even appeared on programs like Sunrise and were applauded for their positive messaging.

Our member Michelle Hooper sharing her story on SBS News was viewed 1.2 million times and shared thousands of times

It is no surprise retail and fast food workers were overwhelming supportive of this campaign, giving the public an insight into the issues they face every day at work.


Not part of the job

Retail and fast food workers have told us they routinely have customers swearing and yelling at them, spitting in their faces or threatening them, simply for doing their jobs.

This abuse can severely affect their physical and psychological health and it cannot continue.

Everyone has the right to be able to do their job in a safe environment.

The No One Deserves a Serve campaign reminded everyone to respect workers, not just as they work through a time of year most get to spend enjoying with family and friends, but all year round.


What’s next?

This is an ongoing campaign. To make a difference, we need to create community awareness, change customer attitudes and behaviour as well as find practical workplace solutions to protect workers.

The SDA is working hard to find ways to build better protections for retail and fast food workers. We are pushing for widespread industry changes to ensure that customers can’t continue this behaviour.


Spreading the message in Melbourne

The SDA Victorian Branch spread the message via screens at the St Kilda Festival on 11 February and at Yarra Park on New Year’s Eve, where we reached thousands of people who might otherwise have missed this important information. The response from the public was extremely positive.


What you can do if you see or experience customer abuse or violence

  • Report the incident to your store manager or supervisor
  • Tell your SDA Health & Safety Rep (HSR) or Delegate
  • Report the incident to your Health & Safety Committee

Need help?

Customer abuse and violence can impact on your mental health.

If you need to talk to someone about issues impacting on your mental health, or you are concerned about someone at work you can also contact:

  1. Lifeline: 13 11 14
  2. Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au