Australian-first trial to curb abusive customers

An ‘Australian-first’ trial by iCare in NSW in partnership with the SDA and Griffith Universtiy has been launched to reduce abuse from customers towards retail and fast food workers.

The Reject Shop has signed up to the trial alongside KFC to implement and test a number of proposed solutions.

This trial is a direct result of the SDA’s ongoing No One Deserves A Serve campaign to stop abusive and violent behaviour in retail and fast food.

A major objective of the trial is to reject the assertion that the ‘customer is always right’.



Customer abuse and violence is a serious workplace health and safety issue. The effects of dysfunctional customer behaviour can be devastating for a worker’s physical, and psychological health, while also presenting significant issues for employers. The frequency and impact of customer abuse often goes unnoticed but contributes heavily to absenteeism rates, workers’ compensation costs, workplace morale and turnover.

A number of surveys initiated by the SDA recognised an alarming rise in customer abuse and violent behaviour towards workers in retail and fast food over the last few years

Over 2016 to 2018, the SDA surveyed over 7,000 retail and fast food workers across Australia about their experiences.

Since 2018, we have been highlighting the seriousness of customer abuse and violence through our major public No One Deserves A Serve campaign.

Following a national industry roundtable on the issue hosted by the SDA in March 2018, iCare commissioned a comprehensive report into approaches to reduce the incidence and employee impacts of dysfunctional customer behaviour: Respect & Resilience in Retail & Fast Food. The report was in partnership with the SDA, Griffith University and Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

The report is one part of the SDA’s work to stop abuse and violence by customers in the retail and fast food industries. The findings and recommendations will help form new approaches and significant information for the SDA to use in discussions with employers, employer groups, shopping centre owners and those in Government.


iCare Respect & Resilience Report: Key Findings

Dysfunctional customer behaviour is a major threat to workers. This is defined as behaviour that goes against what is socially accepted (it includes swearing, yelling, intimidation, threatening, throwing objects, violence).

This behaviour towards retail employees is the norm, not the exception and is therefore pervasive, systemic and detrimental.

Exposure to dysfunctional customer behaviour can have adverse consequences to both the short-term and long-term psychological wellbeing and physical health of an employee.

The research has shown that customer incivility and verbal abuse can be just as impactful as physical violence and aggression.

Research into dysfunctional customer behaviour shows that it negatively impacts employees' productivity, efficiency and attitudes towards work.

To see the full report click here.

This Australian-first trial represents the next step in our campaign towards combatting the excessive and unacceptable abuse facing our members every day.