Supermarket workers are facing appalling abuse from customers. It needs to stop

Abusive customers in supermarkets during pandemic on Silver Magazine

Anyone working in an essential job right now will tell you it’s no bed of roses, particularly if it’s customer facing. This article exposes some of the shameful behaviour from punters in just one arena – the supermarket.

Unquestionably we support the NHS and those at the frontline. And if there’s something that has become increasingly clear through the pandemic, it’s who the most important people in the world are. Clue, it’s not the billionaires with their begging bowls.

It’s time we recognised who we owe our comfortable lives to. And gave them more respect.

You’re getting my dander up, you grotty little man

I’m writing this after some whiney man in a Facebook group posted about a certain supermarket. And how their staff weren’t ensuring customers followed the one-way system guidelines. This genius then went on to have a bitch about some other stuff he felt they were getting wrong, and made it sound like the staff didn’t give a toss about customer safety.

My daughter works in the supermarket he’s talking about. I’m afraid I waded in. I know, I know.

SHL comment on fb about supermarket Silver Magazine you want to know what I said, here it is. I’m not going to identify the supermarket. Firstly because it’s not their fault that customers are brainless idiots. But also I don’t want to get into trouble with my daughter. She’ll throttle me. Actually the store does an amazing job of managing stupid people like this, but anyway. Best not mentioned.

Gratifyingly, there were a number of supportive comments under mine, and I wasn’t the only one to take him to task. In fact, he got roundly slapped down, which was most agreeable. I don’t like bullying, but he deserved a bit of a verbal kicking – the dickhead. I hope he leaves it alone now, I don’t want to see him ripped apart.

I don’t like bullies at any time, but I particularly don’t like them when my daughter is on the receiving end. And some of the treatment she’s endured at work since lockdown is truly shocking – and cowardly. Bearing in mind without workers like her, people would be struggling harder to eat, or wipe their arses. You’d think there’d be a bit more respect.

I know better, sadly. To understand why I expect so little from the general public, let’s look at how people behave when there isn’t even a pandemic. Here’s a few nuggets she’s told me over the time she’s been there…

10 ‘secrets of the store’ in normal times

  1. About 50 hand baskets a day are stolen. Seriously, people take those wire baskets home. God alone knows why, but it happens every single day.
  2. Shoplifters favour the self-service area of the shop and think they’re really clever. They do stuff like swapping stickers on food and weighing the wrong things. What they don’t know is that their games are really obvious (I’m not going to tell you how, but they are). For every one of those that gets away with it, they bust 10 idiots.
  3. She’s seen people she knows come in and try this whilst knowing she’s on shift, by the way. If you’re reading this, know that. She’s seen you and feels sad that you’ve done that in front of her, putting her in that position.
  4. There’s a garage at the superstore. People go to the ‘pay at pump only’ pumps and then get angry because they have to, er, pay at the pump. Then they come into the kiosk and kick off, shouting at the staff. Always fun.
  5. Shoplifters again – the self-scanner section. The number of times people try to walk out having paid for four items but have a trolley brimming with food. And FYI – if you ‘make a mistake’ in that area, you will get checked. Every, single, time. The random check is not random if you’ve been busted before.
  6. Female staff on checkouts get called sugar tits by old geezers. Who also think it’s dead sexy to leer at them and lick their lips. They think it’s funny. It makes some of the younger girls cry.
  7. When it was the minute silence on Remembrance Sunday there were people who refused to stop. And they got angry because the staff wouldn’t serve them until the minute had passed (I kid you not).
  8. Reduced items go out same time each day. People come regularly to get the bargains and fill up their trolleys. You’d think it would be people who aren’t so well off, who really need the bargains, but it’s not. It’s greedy people driving off in their Range Rovers. Because it’s 8pm when the items are knocked down, and parents are home with their kids. So the people who could really do with a cheaper meal often can’t get there.
  9. Also, the local restaurant owners come and totally plunder the reduced food. Not only do they monopolise the sale foods, they hide them from their competitors in different aisles. The staff are constantly having to find the food and put it back.
  10. There are often physical fights over the reduced aisle with actual security guards detailed now, as staff members have ended up getting hurt in the scrum. That scene with the women fighting over loo roll? Nothing new.

See what I mean? Anyone who has worked in customer service at some point will identify with some of this, and how hard it is to put a smile on some days. But they do it, idiots notwithstanding.

Her store is regularly rewarded for its customer service – the staff go in there every day and strap it on. Even when people are dying of a virus, and they’re at risk of catching it just by going into work, they put themselves out there, every day.

Angry customers during pandemic Silver Magazine

Worse during the pandemic

You know stuff like this is going to be worse right now, don’t you. It’s obvious – all that additional stress, shortages of particular items, having to WAIT IN LINE for god’s sake… it’s a heady mixture for the superstore baddie. People are starting to lose sight of boundaries.

She’s had people do stuff like screw up a receipt and throw it directly in her face

The other day a guy tried to barge his way past a bunch of people queueing because ‘he only had two things to get’ and didn’t see why he should wait. When my daughter politely told him he had to, he shouted in her face. Then leaned forward and with his bare hands, moved her hair out of the way so he could see her name badge. So he could complain about her personally.

The feeling of anger I have for this moment alone is hard to put into words. And yes, she was upset. But kept her cool – she’s a smarter person than I am – and asked him firmly not to do that, and still made him wait. I might have hit him. I WANT to hit him. She made him wait, which was much more painful for him. She enjoyed that.

But he’s not the only one to abuse her or invade her space. She’s had people do stuff like screw up a receipt and throw it directly in her face because they disagreed with the total. Been called a fucking idiot more times than she can remember, and has to deal with drunk customers on a daily basis.

One woman came in the other day and slurred, “you’re gonna have to help me, I’m really drunk.” She was buying vodka. They had to explain to her that they couldn’t serve her – you can imagine how that ended.

Fancy hearing a few more fun things that have happened recently?

  • A man paid for his goods with cash, and got his change in cash. Then lost it, because he didn’t want his change in cash. He’d wanted it put on his card. It’s not possible to even do that, but he yelled at a staff member for ages until he was removed from the store. Shouting and swearing and calling her a stupid bitch.
  • People don’t like the one-way system and although staff try really hard to make sure everyone follows the (very clear) signage, there’s always people who just ‘nip down this aisle quickly’ and think it’s ok. Then they get upset when other customers shout at them.
  • When this sort of thing happens, it’s not unusual for it to get physical, with customers barging each other with their trolleys. There’s a lot more security in the store than normal at the moment.
  • The barging and shouting got so bad the other day a woman had a severe anxiety attack in the middle of the store and had to get an ambulance. Some people were kind – more people were laughing at her.
  • Another day, a man went round the entire store any which way he liked, calling other shoppers c*nts and being deeply unpleasant. There was a store-wide round of applause when security kicked him out.
  • The store has had to move the food bank donations container, because people – unable to find some items on shelves – were stealing the food out of it.
  • The changing rooms are closed right now because of cross-contamination. So a guy literally stripped off his trousers in the store. Trying on strides in the clothing area. When a staff member politely told him that wasn’t okay, he really lost it at her. So badly that the poor girl had to finish her shift early and get a security escort to her car to go home. “I’ll be waiting for you in the car park darlin’,” he’d hissed in her face.

There’s so much more I could tell you, but I think this is enough. Imagine going in and dealing with this sort of shit on a daily basis. And as I pointed out in my post above, all this before you even take into consideration that they’re at high risk of being infected every time they go to work. There’s no PPE for the store worker.

This is brave. This isn’t staying at home doing Joe Wicks and overeating in the sunny garden. The rigorous cleaning and restrictions the store implements means that staff have been well supported, and very few have been ill. And they do everything possible to protect their customers. But it’s a risk, every day.

So next time you’re in the supermarket and your checkout bod looks knackered, or is struggling to be chirpy, cut them some slack. If you see customers behaving badly and feel staff ought to be working harder – spare them a thought. If you’re sitting inside a warm home, with a fridge full of food and reasonable to good health, you know who to thank, don’t you.

And if you’re one of those people who think it’s okay to take your stress out on staff – anywhere, not just in shops – then fucking stop it. Now.

They’re going through all sort of crap every day. Give them a smile and spread a little love.


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About Sam Harrington-Lowe
Sam is Silver's founder and editor-in-chief. She's largely responsible for organising all the things, but still finds time to do the odd bit of writing. Not enough though. Send help.


  1. sarah-jane rich 12/05/2020 at 12:25 pm

    why oh why are people so vile ?? i am so pleased my local supermarkets are open They really take care of their customers who on the whole understand that the precautions are in place for everyones safety

  2. I make a point – EVERY TIME – I go to the supermarket (trying to keep it to once every 5-6 days) to smile at staff, thank them and chat to them. I do that anyway, but it’s 100 times more important now to make sure they know how much we appreciate them. I’m super-stressed and workless because pandemic but I’m not the only one and being super-stresesed and workless is not an excuse to be abusive to key workers. And I do call out shoppers when they behave like a shitshow.

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