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Abuse & violence from customers makes your workplace unsafe.

That’s why the SDA is doing something about it.

Keep an eye out for us in stores across the country talking about our No One Deserves A Serve campaign eliminate abusive and violent customer behaviour.


Since 2017, the SDA’s “No One Deserve A Serve” campaign has been raising awareness about this issue.

We have made important progress to bring employers and industry groups together and to call out customers who do the wrong thing.

  • Hosted two national roundtables bringing industry groups and employers together to work towards industry wide solutions
  • Nationwide launch of two retail focused advertisements calling out abusive and violent customers in 2017
  • SDA consultations with employers and launch of “Don’t Bag Retail Staff” advertising in select states phasing out plastic bags
  • SDA briefing Federal and State Members of Parliament and Senators about the issue
  • A literature review on solutions for occupational violence in retail and fast food industries
  • Nationwide launch of fast food specific advertisements calling on customers to respect workers
  • Working with individual employers on their specific policies and training
  • A world first trial of preventative measures using retail and fast food stores in NSW, in partnership with icare and Griffith University
  • SDA survey with the Australian Human Rights Commission on sexual harassment, including perpetrated by customers.


Abuse and violence from customers still occurs regularly and makes your workplace unsafe. Over time, this can have serious impacts on your physical and mental health.

We’re calling on employers to take a zero tolerance approach to abusive and violent behaviour and to back you up when it happens and provide appropriate methods to report incidents.

For the last few months, we’ve been asking employers to commit to:

  • Support the eradication of customer disrespect, abuse and violence
  • Positively and publicly promote and support respect and dignity for retail and fast food workers
  • Encourage and facilitate reporting of customer perpetrated abuse and violence, including sexual harassment


We're calling for zero tolerance of abusive & violent customers. Will you add your name too?

What should your employer do to help address abusive & violent behaviour from customers?

Maintain adequate staffing levels to reduce waiting times and help provide a better customer experience, including access to customer service when needed.

Reduce the width of store fronts or using barriers on entries and exits to deter theft.

Clear entries, pathways, and aisles and keep them free from clutter and rubbish to ensure good traffic flow and reduce congestion.

Provide clear signage with relevant information for customers, this may also include standards of behaviour.

Ensure the environment is pleasant for both workers and customers, considering temperature, noise and lighting levels.

Train workers on how to understand and manage customer behaviour before it escalates. Provide additional training for supervisors and line managers on how to safely intervene when required.

Managers should be trained to provide immediate empathetic support to workers when they have experienced abuse or violence.

Clearly communicate policies to customers, including refund and return policies, and make sure they are adhered to by all workers and managers.

Make clear that customer abuse and violence is not tolerated. If customers perpetrate this behaviour there should be repercussions. Appropriate actions may include customers being warned and customers being banned from stores or shopping centres.

Work with police, security guards and local community groups to help understand and address social issues that may be contributing customer abuse and violence


You have the right to work in a safe environment. And reporting abusive and violent customer behaviour is one of the best ways for you to stay safe.

If you’re unsure what to do if a customer is abusive or violent: call your supervisor or manager to help.

Reporting is the key to action:

• It helps determine how often abuse and violence is happening in your store
• It means your employer should provide you with appropriate support
• It provides useful data to help protect the health and safety of workers.

If you need help addressing the issue of reporting in your store, speak to the SDA.

The SDA calls on employers to do everything they can to prevent abuse and violence from customers and ensure workers are protected.

Employers should:

  • Identify risk of exposure your workers may have to abuse or violence from customers
  • Put in place controls to mitigate risks
  • Encourage workers to report all incidents
  • Support workers when incidents occurs
  • Send a clear message to customers that abusive behaviour is not tolerated
  • Have a process for handling incidents and provide training for staff

Many retail and fast food workers think abuse is just part of the job. But this is wrong.

It is a serious health and safety issue that can impact your mental and physical health. Your employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment. Being abused at work is a safety issue – just like slipping on a spill or being burned with hot oil.

We need workers to report incidents so there is a record of it happening when we approach employers about putting in place better protections for you.

If there are no reports of abusive or violent customers, they could just turn around and say ‘no it doesn’t happen here’, which makes any change for a safer store more difficult.

The process for reporting health and safety issues such as abusive and violent customer behaviour may be different depending on your employer and your store.

Find out the correct procedure in your store and when an incident occurs report it to your supervisor.

You should also report it to your SDA Health & Safety Rep or Delegate/Shop Steward and your Health & Safety Committee if your store has one.

Remember, you’re not alone. If you’re reporting incidents but don’t feel like you’re being appropriately supported, get in touch with the SDA for help.

Yes. You can report any safety issue or hazard that you see or experience, even if it doesn’t happen to you directly.

Reporting incidents creates a record of the abuse so we can push for better protections to make your store safer. If you don’t report it – it’s like it never happened.

When someone gets injured at work, you report it. If you were to slip from a spill on the floor at work, you would report it.

Being on the receiving end or seeing abusive or violent behaviour is a safety hazard. It can have a serious impact on the mental and physical health of you and your work mates.

That’s why you should report it. For you and for your work mates.

Exposure to abusive behaviour from customers can impact on your mental health.

If you need immediate help, contact the following organisations for professional help.

13 11 14 

Beyond Blue:
1300 22 4636

1800 737 732

Please note, these are real stories from workers in their own own words and may contain offensive language.

Keep in mind, of the 1,000 workers we surveyed 41% were 17 years old or under and 71% were women.

  • “We didn’t have frozen raspberry … so he threatened to slit my throat.”
  • “A customer threatened to kill my family and myself if I didn’t remake his cheeseburger because the first one was apparently too cold.”
  • “He threatened to break my kneecaps with a bat.”
  • “A customer threatened to kill me and tried to jump through the Drive Thru window.”
  • “A customer threw a cigarette butt at me and then drove off.”
  • “I’ve been threatened with actual physical knives.”
  • “I have been threatened to be raped.  I have had customers physically throw items at me including hot coffee.”
  • “I’ve had things thrown at me. Been told they are going to kill me and wait for me after work.”
  • “I have been physically and sexually threatened. I have been verbally abused. I have had my life, health, safety threatened. I have been spat on.”
  • “One guy tried to fight one of our 16-year-old workers and then threw his food at the window and then called the store making bomb threats.”
  • “Threats to jump the counter and smash my face in. A customer poured a bottle of coke over my head. Constant verbal abuse.”
  • “I have had customers coming in and say things like “where the f*ck is my pizza you little c*nt I’m gonna f*ck this place up if I don’t get my f*cking pizza.”
  • “He threw 4 large soft drinks at me and demanded his money back so I was soaking wet, he also told me to go die.”
  • “A male customer told me to “go get f*cked you stupid f*cking sl*t”.
  • “I am constantly yelled at, sworn at and treated inhumanely by customers at my workplace. I’ve been called names ranging from “incompetent piece of sh*t” to “dumb c*nt” and “fat sl*t”.
  • “I’ve also had someone attempt to pull me out the drive thru window.”
  • “I’ve been called a b*tch, been grabbed at, been sworn at and been told they’ll come find me. Some tell me I’m a worthless drop out. I’m literally still in school.”
  • “A guy was rubbing himself down there while I was serving him.”
  • “Old men winking and saying rude sexual comments.”
  • “A customer said oh, you’re the area manager? I’d let you manage my area”.
  • “Customers will speak to the girls inappropriately, asking for their numbers when they’re clearly underage.”
  • “On at least 3 occasions, a trucker I see on a regular basis, has told me he wants me in response to me asking him if he wanted anything else with his meal.”
  • “Constantly hitting on me to get me to go out with them and telling me how age doesn’t matter.”
  • “Passing the cash change through the window he took my hand and was rubbing up and down my hand saying how nice I felt under his fingertips. Also, have had an old man ask to take me home with his fries.”
  • “Inappropriate comments and wouldn’t take no for an answer…. followed me outside when I was on break and wouldn’t leave me alone. Tried kissing me.”
  • “Making comments like “I love it when a girl gives it a good twist” and inappropriate nicknames such as babe, darling, and sweetie, particularly from older, middle aged men. For context, I experienced this as a 16-17-year-old.”


Check out our No One Deserves A Serve campaign in the news