Shop workers have been given body cameras to keep them safe, with “unprecedented levels” of abuse and violence in the Covid pandemic.
Research by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) found 76% of those questioned said abuse had been “worse than normal”.
One anonymous worker in mid Wales said: “I had a customer tell me she has the virus and cough in my face.”
Another worker from Mold, Flintshire, said she felt anxious going into work.
“You don’t know what you’re going to face,” said Jane, who works in a supermarket.
“A couple have behaved really awfully – we had one gentleman come in with no mask, filming the store, shouting abuse, telling us we were all robots for the government.”
She said she had been “personally intimidated by a customer who’s really got in my face and invaded my personal space” and other customers had been removed from the store.
“It certainly isn’t right that shop workers should have to put up with that kind of behaviour.
“We’ve been going to work all the way through the pandemic to keep the country fed and abuse shouldn’t be part of our job at all.”
A Co-op spokesperson said violence, abuse and antisocial behaviour had become “normalised”, was at “unprecedented levels” and affected all retailers.
The behaviour “impacts the mental and physical welfare of frontline shop workers”, they said.
The supermarket has invested £70m in security measures for staff across the UK, including body-worn cameras.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “No-one should have to face violence or threats in the workplace but every day over 400 retail workers are abused, attacked or assaulted. And, despite record spending of over £1bn on crime prevention, incidents are on the rise.
“Coronavirus has further exacerbated the severity of this issue. While the hard-working people in retail put themselves on the front line, some have been met with violence and abuse.
“One national retailer experienced over 100 incidents a day of threats of coughing and spitting.”
A private member’s bill aiming to bring in tougher penalties for those who assault retail workers is due to get its second hearing in Parliament in January 2021.