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Case Studies

Abuse from asking for ID

A third of retail workers say that verbal and physical attacks leave them less confident in asking for ID, according to research commissioned by Under Age Sales, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN). They raise concerns that young people may have more access to alcohol and tobacco, which are potentially harmful and linked to anti-social behaviour.

Almost 30pc of Asian or Asian British shop workers reported being subject to racial abuse at least once a month, for challenging customers asking to buy alcohol or cigarettes over their age. The researchers suggest that male shop workers are more likely to be assaulted as a result of asking for ID than female shop staff. The vast majority of incidents are not reported to police. When incidents were reported to police, more than half of respondents reported that they either did not receive a response or they were not satisfied with the response they got.

Examples of experiences given by independent retailers:

– “I was punched on the side of the head for refusing alcohol due to not having ID, while the attacker’s friends laughed and cheered him on. I pulled the shutters down and locked them in until police arrived – I didn’t know what else to do.”
– “I was once attacked by a boy and two girls for refusing a sale. They dragged me outside, and punched and kicked me. The boy received a verbal warning, lasting just two months.”
– “In the last two years, I’ve been physically attacked twice as a result of refusing to serve someone without ID. On one occasion, they leaned over the counter, grabbed me and shouted in my face. On the other occasion, someone took the shopping out of their basket, item by item, and threw each one at me.”
– “I’ve had stock thrown at me over the counter which has resulted in damaged goods. We’ve also had numerous display stands replaced because they’ve been thrown across the room.”
– “I have been spat at and verbally abused countless time, just for refusing a sale.”
– “Receiving abuse after asking for ID is a weekly occurrence for me. I’m very often told they will be waiting for me outside when I finish my shift, which is very intimidating. I feel more sorry for my staff having to put up with the abuse. We are only doing our job and the implications of failing to get it right can cost us our jobs.”

An online petition has been created calling for the Government to support the Uk retailers who are attacking for requesting ID.

For the full 32-page report visit the NFRN website.

What they say

John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary, said: “All too often shopworkers encounter violence, threats and abuse for simply doing their job. So this latest survey is very worrying, particularly the high number of racially motivated incidents.

“Life on the frontline of retail can be pretty tough for many shopworkers and there is still a lot to do to help protect them. We launched our Freedom From Fear Campaign in the face of growing concerns amongst retail workers about violence, threats and abuse. The campaign works with retailers to promote respect and make workplaces safer for staff and customers alike. Criminals who assault staff are often not even sent to court, and those who are can receive derisory sentences. In other cases, where the offender isn’t even charged, victims are left feeling that no one cares that they were assaulted.

“Retail crime remains too high and there needs to be action to protect shopworkers. It is time for the Government to act by providing stiffer penalties for those who assault shopworkers. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected.”

Tony Allen – Managing Director of Under Age Sales says: “Requesting ID from someone you suspect may be underage is a lawful practice which should never be met with the threat of abuse or physical harm. While there are currently measures in place to protect retailers from general in-store violence, it is time to delve deeper into the specific activities which trigger these reactions, and begin to place sanctions against those who commit them.

“Retailers told us they have been spat on, threatened with knives and some have even received death threats – simply for asking for age verification. This is unacceptable and it’s time for change.”

And NFRN Chief Executive Paul Baxter says: “With retail crime incidents soaring, more has to be done by the police and government before even more retailers are driven out of business. We look forward to working together with Under Age Sales Ltd and Usdaw to raise awareness of the scale of violence and abuse retailers face and the working on a solution. We will continue to lobby police and crime commissioners to act so that retail crime victims have confidence to come forward and report incidents to their local police in the knowledge that action will be taken.”


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