Bottle-o manager reveals 'entitled' Christmas act from Aussies as violence surges

It's the latest report of shocking abuse Aussie retail staff are facing on a daily basis.

A bottle shop manager has spoken out about the concerning levels of violence staff members are facing, claiming Aussies become "entitled" in the build-up to Christmas.

Andrew McKay, who manages multiple Red Bottle liquor stores across Sydney, said "unfortunately Christmas is a time when we do see a lot more incidents", with staff being bottled, slapped and punched in a spike in violence as well as an alarming increase in theft.

"There's a lot more people around, but it's also it's a time I think when people feel a little bit more disadvantaged on things and feel a bit more entitled to help themselves to things," he told Yahoo News Australia.

Shocking CCTV footage was released this week showing the disturbing physical altercations staff are facing. McKay said they have become so common, staff are now told not to chase shoplifters.

CCTV capturing the moment a man was bottled trying to intercept.
CCTV captured the moment a man was bottled trying to intercept a robbery at a BWS store. Source: Retail Drinks Australia.

It comes as part of a national plea from retailers for the public to show respect towards sales staff in the Christmas lead-up. Earlier this week Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci asked shoppers to practise patience and calm throughout the festive season, amid skyrocketing levels of staff abuse.

Woolworths data revealed that since July, an average of 420 incidents per month had been reported throughout its supermarkets, Metro stores and BIG W outlets — representing a rise of 50 per cent compared with 2022 levels.

More violent footage emerges

The disturbing security footage shows several brutal incidents involving staff at Aussie liquor stores. Among the clips to staff members can be seen being bottled over the head while one is subject to a robbery at knifepoint. Other incidents include physical assaults and robberies.

In one shocking clip, a group of hooded figures are seen robbing a BWS store when a bystander leaps to the sales assistant's defence and attempts to intervene. The man, who is unarmed, bravely tries to intercept the group of robbers, when he cops a bottle to the head.

In another clip, a member of the public can be seen paying for his liquor, when two men — one shoeless — barge into the store with a knife, demanding cigarettes. They can be seen fleeing the shop with stolen bottles of booze shortly after.

Other videos show retail staff slapped, punched and shoved, with countless dollars worth of goods stolen. The locations of these stores have been withheld for safety reasons.

Australia losing billions to theft: study

According to a 2023 report conducted by Griffith University, retail crime costs the Australian economy $4.3 billion per year, which is a 28 per cent increase over four years. Both Woolworths's data and the Griffith University report suggest the concerning trend of violence had particularly increased in the wake of the pandemic.

A robbery at knife-point.
Separate footage captured a robbery at knife-point. Source: Retail Drinks Australia.

Sydney liquor store owner says 'Christmas time is worst'

McKay said it was clear there was a spike in incidents around Christmas.

"It's busier in stores, it's harder for the staff to keep an eye on everything. So there's a bit more opportunity [to steal] at this time of year," he said.

McKay said he's fortunate not to have experienced "too much violence" across the stores that he manages, because he says, "we train our staff already to handle [situations] and deescalate them" — but at times, particularly late at night in the CBD, people can become aggressive.

"We've got 12 stores in and around the CBD of Sydney and we trade until midnight at quite a few of them," he said. "So often people are out and about in the evenings. If you have to refuse to serve somebody, then you can occasionally get the abuse.

The footage also shows a break-and-enter as well as a second bottling.
The footage also shows a break-and-enter as well as a second bottling. Source: Retail Drinks Australia.

"Often it's throwing stuff, if we see somebody is trying to steal something, and they're approached — that can get thrown across the store."

Why bottle shop workers greet you as you walk in

McKay said sometimes simple measures, such as greeting every customer when they walk in, can potentially contribute to lowering levels of theft and increase staff safety.

"The staff acknowledge when they come in. I think if somebody comes in and they know that they've been acknowledged, that staff know that they're there — hopefully that makes them think twice about stealing something," he said.

"If somebody does steal something, we tell them you can't chase somebody out of the store because that's when you can get into quite a bit of trouble, because you never know who's waiting outside for you."

To keep retail liquor workers safe this Christmas, Retail Drinks Australia has today launched "Safe to Serve", an awareness and advocacy initiative aimed at improving safety and protecting their industry’s 75,000 strong workforce.

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