Over half of retail workers in a new survey say customers treat them worse over the holidays

Over half of retail workers in a new survey say customers treat them worse over the holidays
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
  • Nearly 60% of workers in a new survey said that customers treat them even worse during the holidays.
  • Workers continue to report abuse and understaffing across the retail industry.

A majority of retail workers say that treatment from customers gets worse around the holidays, according to a new survey from Jobcase.

The survey uses input from 2,000 US retail workers, 59% of whom say that customers' behavior dips during the holiday shopping season. The condition could get even more stressful for the 40% of workers who said that they were afraid their employers wouldn't have enough workers to handle the busy retail season, and 43% said that their employers haven't done anything to prepare for increased workloads.

Workers in service and customer-facing roles across the economy have spoken out about abusive customers and difficult work conditions lately. According to restaurant workers surveyed by Lightspeed, 62% said that customers are more demanding than ever before. This fits with other data coming out of the industry, including a majority of restaurant workers reporting emotional abuse and disrespect from customers. Of restaurant operators, 72% agree that customer behavior has gotten worse over the past year.

Instances of workers on the receiving end of abuse and extreme disrespect from workers have continued to appear over the past 18 months. Workers have reported attacks and aggressive customers in restaurants, big box stores, on flights, and in other settings. This treatment is bolstered by the "the customer is always right" mantra that gave customers license to treat workers poorly, Avery Hartmans reported for Insider.

These difficult conditions are leading to a mass exodus of workers from across the retail industry. Turnover, which is already higher in restaurants than in many industries, is still elevated over pre-pandemic levels, according to a survey of 4,700 former, current, and hopeful restaurant workers from Black Box Intelligence. 15% of those surveyed workers left the restaurant world in the last year, and another 33% said they hope to leave by the end of 2021.


As workers leave, conditions become even more difficult for operators and remaining workers. Business owners say they're unable to find staff and in some cases even cite a lack of desire to work, while workers say they can demand better pay and benefits in the tight labor market.

Many of the workers who do leave opt for that don't include face-to-face interaction with customers, like warehouse jobs, or going back to school in hopes of entering another industry.

"The idea seems to be: 'Get away from retail,'" Jessica Walsh, who left her retail job to work as a receptionist, told Insider's Aine Caine.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.