Police arrest a man at Countdown credit Otago Daily Times
Police arrest a man at Countdown credit Otago Daily Times

Peter Williams: Life is just not simple anymore

Peter Williams 12/05/2021

OPINION: How do you feel about the possibility of staff at supermarkets wearing body cameras because of the abuse and even assaults they get as part of their daily work schedule? 

Now we all know what happened at the Dunedin Countdown earlier this week, and that sort of incident is thankfully very rare in this country. But in the follow-up to that attack, the whole subject of abuse of staff from customers is put in the spotlight. 

I was at a bank on Monday afternoon and there was a sign behind the counter there warning customers not to abuse staff. I never thought too much about this before but why would you abuse staff at the bank? Well, the point is that there appears to be so much regulation around what you can and can’t do with your money and the IDs and proof of address that you have to provide that it doesn’t take long to get really really frustrated with bank staff - especially if you’re in a bit of hurry and trying to do a transaction pretty quickly. 

So it got me thinking, how much abuse do front-of-house people get? If you’ve worked at the front desk or in what they these days call a customer-facing role, have you copped any abuse from customers? Has a customer ever physically lashed out at you? How was it handled by the bosses?

Have you ever been a perpetrator of abuse to frontline staff? I’ll confess I have. The organisation was Auckland Transport. Well, no surprises there I guess. They decided there should be a residents-only parking zone outside my house in Auckland and they were going to charge me $70 a year I think, which was a pain, but you had to do it. However, they wouldn’t give you a bank account to pay directly into and wanted a cheque, cash or card payment at their office in the city.

I went in there with the appropriate identification, and it’s a pain. There’s no parking nearby so you have to walk a distance, you want the job done quickly and when you finally get to the front of the queue I was told I didn’t have two forms of proof of address or something ludicrous like that. I’m not normally like this but I was really angry and frustrated and told the young woman as much about their stupid systems. I felt better. She may have never wanted to see me again. I understand. 

But you see it’s the officiousness of public policy which drives people mad. Life is just not simple anymore. Why is that? 

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