Hove store manager speaks out about customer abuse for Christmas kindness campaign

Posted On 01 Dec 2020 at 11:11 am

A Hove store manager has spoken about how customers have screamed in his face and thrown beer at him as part of a campaign asking people to be kind at Christmas.

Steve Pelling, who manages the Co Op in Western Road, Hove, was filmed as part of Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne’s Keep Christmas Kind campaign.

Ms Bourne said she is concerned the year’s tensions could spill out on the high street this Christmas, leading to more abuse and assaults.

Steve, who has worked in retail for more than 20 years, features with his daughter Kayleigh.

In the video, Kayleigh says: “In the mornings, my dad’s quite happy, depending on whether the cat’s woken him up.

“I love the most about my dad that he’s always there for people

“You could ask him any question and he’d always give the best advice he could which for me has been really helpful.

“He has lot of challenging customers. He’s been verbally abused, he’s been in fights. He’s had beer thrown at him.

“He’s exposed to a lot of stressful situations and that can really take a toll on his mental health at times.”

Steve said: “I might be a store manager, but I am also a father. I still try to be upbeat but it’s hard when you have someone shouting in your face or throwing beer at you. Life is incredibly difficult for a lot of people right now and we understand that but please don’t make it harder for us.”

Ms Bourne said: “The rise in assaults and abuse against shop workers is getting out of hand.

“This pandemic has shown how important our local businesses and their staff are to our communities. Intimidation, verbal abuse and violence of any kind against our shopworkers cannot be tolerated.

“I’m seriously concerned about the impact a covid Christmas may have on our local stores. We have all had an incredibly challenging year but we cannot stand by and watch those who have helped keep our country going be abused in this way.”

According to retail trade union Usdaw, every minute of the working day during the pandemic, a shopworker nationally is verbally abused, threatened with violence or physically attacked.

A recent survey with 100 Sussex business owners also showed that 53% had experienced an increase in abuse against their staff during the pandemic.

PCC Bourne recently established the Safer Sussex Business Partnership to identify easier ways for businesses to report crime, increase victim support for shopworkers and target prolific offenders.

Working with retail and other partners, Sussex Police are now leading the way in developing new business crime initiatives, including the training of call handlers to identify which victims should be offered support and providing advice to businesses about how best to supply evidence to ensure a successful case can be brought against criminals.

These improvements are being made to tackle business crime more effectively in the future, but senior police officers are worried about the immediate impact that this Christmas may have on shop workers.

They are showing support to the Keeping Christmas Kind campaign and saying that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated.

Sussex Police’s Business Crime Lead Chris Neilson commented: “The assault and abuse of shop workers simply doing their job in our communities is a serious concern for Sussex Police and will not be tolerated.

“Sussex police will wherever possible take robust action against anyone targeting and intimidating retail staff.

“Sussex police has invested in officers that are dedicated to investigating business crimes and provided recent training to contact handlers to recognise where violence and abuse has occurred so that we can act effectively and ensure a victim can access appropriate support.”

  1. Chaz Reply

    Sadly this is continuing all over the country.
    Appealing to peoples morals and better nature just does not work any longer as everyone has rights but no responsibilities.
    Until the courts enforce the laws in place and we have a Police Force not a Police Service this will carry on.

  2. Nigel Furness Reply

    Well said, Chaz.
    I use that store on a regular basis and I have nothing but respect and admiration for Steve and his staff for performing their duties under the most trying of circumstances.
    The underlying problem is that Western Road in Brunswick has become a magnet for drunken and drug-addicted louts, Twenty-four-seven, 365 days a year!
    The problem is threefold:
    Firstly, in the 43 years since I’ve lived in this vicinity, the demographic, as is the case in many other parts of our City, has been gradually changing as the indigenous population grew older and either moved on or passed on, to be replaced by ever younger generations which, to begin with, was not a problem as young, mainly local couples purchased their own homes as bedsit letting houses were converted into flats for sale at largely affordable prices, a process which began in the late ’80’s.
    Then came the absurd house-price boom of the the mid-’90’s, following the financial melt-down resulting from Prime Minister John Major’s ECONOMICALLY-ILLITERATE and, thank God, ill-fated attempt to take the UK into the EXCHANGE RATE MECHANISM of the EUSSR, in a vain bid to replace the Pound with that ridiculous Euro; thank Heaven they’re both history now!
    Egged-on by the Banks and Estate Agents with that glib catch-phrase: “INVESTING NOT NESTING, most of the aforementioned young couples were actively encouraged to look upon their homes as investments and that’s exactly what they did.
    As a result of house-price inflation many of these people were able to trade-up by renting-out their existing flats at vastly-inflated amounts to the surge of people moving down from London who could afford, by virtue of the higher wages in the Capital, to pay these rents, and these new landlords used those rents to cover their now more expesive mortgages.
    So began avicious cycle which has by now, virtually destroyed the once-thriving Brunswick community spirit—especially as so many of these properties are now occupied by students who, in the main, have ZERO respect for their neighbours and further, provided the economic conditions for my next point.
    Secondly, the Southern side of Western Road, opposite the Co-op store and stretching from the Western corner of Little Western Street in the East to the Eastern corner of Upper Market Street in the West, has gradually evolved into the ‘STREET OF A THOUSAND KEBAB SHOPS,’ open, in most cases throught the night,doors wide open, and thumping, loud music blaring out around the clock to accompany the all-pervading stench of BURNING ANIMAL FAT!
    Now add to that the ‘wannabe musicians’ with their monotonous bongos and weird and wonderful ‘instruments’ which I’ve never seen before and frankly wish I’d never suffered the displeasure of HEARING either. plus the stench of rotten meat emanating from the over flowing trade refuse bins lining the pavement along with the Taxis parked either half or WHOLLY on it and, to crown it all, the louts lurking around, obligatory cans (purchased from these outlets, don’t you know) in hand whilst screaming and shouting in between puffing on their HEROIN and Skunk joints—and—not forgetting—even the odd CRACK COCAINE pipe and It’s plain to see what attracts most of the ills which befall poor Steve and his wonderful staff–is it?
    Thirdly, in the early hours, the REAL night-shift begins as the drugged and drunken revellers heading home from WEST STREET stagger in to top-up on yet MORE booze and a kebab whilst joining the ever-growing party, prior to either THROWING-UP or DUMPING the half-eaten remains on the pavement outside or further along.
    As for the Weasel Words of our ‘PCC’ Katy Bourne and her “SAFER SUSSEX PARTNERSHIP”—it’s a joke in poor taste! I’ve now given up reporting cases of BLATANT shop-lifting in the Co-op because the staff say that there’s: “Nothing we can do, we’ve been advised not to put ourselves in danger.”
    I take this to mean the police do not regard shop-lifting as a crime worthy of expending their ‘limited’ resource upon—BUT— I could be wrong, in which case, Katy, dear, perhaps YOU might care to explain WHY, after I’ve taken the time and trouble over all these years to pursue my own enquiries into the ROOT causes of this plethora of crime and anti-social behaviour BE-DEVILING not just poor Steve and his staff but THE ENTIRE NEIGHBOURHOOD, the one glaring omission, ALWAYS, from this VIBRANT street-scene is—wait for it—THE POLICE!!
    As a footnote, prominently displayed around the walls of this store aere large, glossy photos (contact details attached), of our two Ward Councillors; “We’re here to help,” they proclaim.
    WELL, if only that were true because, you see, they just so happen to be NONE OTHER than the Leader of the Council and his side kick—PHELIM MACCAFFERTY and HANNAH CLARE!
    Readers and contributors may draw their own conclusions.

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