It has been a long 18 months since the pandemic hit, characterised by constant changes and tweaks to health and infection control measures that irritate consumers in those areas that are not experiencing cases, and enflame the frustrations of those consumers who are in lockdown and out for rare essential purposes.  While confusion about, and frustration with, the rules  is easy to understand, what has been extremely disappointing to see, and downright un-Australian, is the abuse, aggression and violence that has been pointed at Australia’s retail workers.  Sadly this aggression is on the rise nation wide and has to stop.


Constant changes to health controls, inconsistent rules and enforcement across jurisdictions, and a frustrated population have contributed to a noticeable increase in disrespectful and frankly un-Australian aggression being directed to frontline retail workers.  It is understood that there is frustration in the community, frustration that is compounded by an economy and family finances under pressure, and general COVID fatigue.  The frustration is understandable, what is absolutely not ok is pointing that at the retail workers who are turning up to work, day after day, to ensure that customers have access to the essential products that they need. 


“Mask mandates and QR Check In are a hassle for customers and for staff who are just doing their job when they ask if you have checked in or ask you to ensure your mask is on correctly” explains ACAPMAs Executive Manager for Employment and Training, Elisha Radwanowski.


“The frustration and casual anger of customers has been seen to be rising to pointed aggression and it has to stop…it has to stop now.  This needs to stop now, before the extreme assaults, and even murder, that have been observed overseas become a feature of the Australian retail landscape.  It has to stop.  The console operator at your local service station is not asking you to pop your mask over your nose because they have a political agenda, or they subscribe to any particular theory – they are just doing their job, they are just following the law.  If you have a problem with the law and have an opinion, write a letter to a lawmaker.  Take your comment to the people who can change it.  Your fatigue and frustration is understood, but retail workers can not fix it for you, we can not advance your case, we can not change the law, so please stop yelling” continued Elisha.


Practically it is important to offer circuit breakers to aggressive behaviour and to de-escalate confrontations. Businesses are reminded that signage can help to reduce the casual anger, which can help to depressurising situations overall.  Staff should also be reminded to take deescalating steps (distance self from requirement, reflect understanding of frustration) and be empowered to contact police if required.  ACAPMA has produced signage to help remind customers that the workers behind the counters are humans too, and deserve to be treated civilly.


It has been a disappointing situation that has seen some customers at retail fuel outlets, frustrated in general, taking their frustration out on the retail staff who are simply doing their job.  Whether it has been the removal of tables and chairs (which has been a cause of endless frustration for roadhouses and the police) in compliance with changing State requirements, or stock outages or the ever present fuel prices, there has been a disturbing increase in reports of retail fuel site staff facing abuse and aggression and even violence from customers.


“Disrespect and aggression towards retail staff just doing their job is not on.  It is unacceptable.  More than that it is completely un-Australian.”


“While the vast majority of customers recognise the reality, that the retail fuel site staff are simply following the restrictions imposed on them, those few customers that probably understand these facts on an intellectual level, have despite this, been blaming the staff and attacking them.  Staff are reporting feeling unsafe at work” continued Elisha.


“This is at a time when they are getting up and coming into work to ensure that the fuel and convenience necessities that the countries essential workers and locked down population need, are there and available.  It is not on”


ACAPMA has released posters to remind customers that abuse, aggression and violence towards staff is unacceptable and un-Australian.  A copy of the posters are included below and have been added to the broader Keeping Staff and Customers article and resources here; Sites are also advised to discuss this with their staff and to remind staff that they have the right to contact the police if they are feeling threatened or unsafe.


For a copy of the poster see below. Note a space has been included to note the management contact email. If used it is suggested that the notation state “please direct your questions and comments to”.

Download poster here:

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)