Woolworths shoppers clash over 'insane' new security measure

Woolworths' drastic new plan to protect staff from abuse has divided customers. The supermarket giant has been trialling new body cameras in a small number of stores in a bid to "prevent assaults and abuse" of team members.

The security measure was initially floated after reported assaults in Woolies stores doubled in 2020, when strict product limits were enforced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing lockdowns. "Nobody deserves to be abused at work, so it's important we look at new measures to help keep our team members safe," a spokesperson for Woolworths told Yahoo News.

TikTok screenshot showing Woolworths staff member wearing a body camera
One shopper in Sydney's west was shocked to spot a Woolworths team member wearing a body camera. Source: TikTok/aussiehumour1

One of the "team safety" cameras was spotted by an eagle-eyed shopper, who shared footage of the device on TikTok. "Woolies employees now using body cams," the TikToker captioned the short clip taken at Berala Woolworths in Sydney's west.

How footage will be used

The Woolies spokesperson clarified that staff body cameras will only be turned on as "a last resort" if a supervisor feels the safety of a team member is under threat.

Any stores trialling the cameras will have signage informing shoppers, including Rundle Mall in Adelaide, St Albans in Melbourne, the Berala Woolies in Sydney's west and Redbank Plains in South East Queensland. Similar cameras are already used widely in retail across the US and UK and have been effective in reducing the rate of reported incidents.

Yahoo News understands any recordings will be stored securely on Australian servers and access to the footage will be limited to a small team of Woolworths security experts and law enforcement agencies where appropriate.

Invasion of privacy?

Many TikTok users praised Woolies for taking action to protect staff. "Great idea, keep the staff safe," one TikTok user commented, and another wrote, "Abuse of retail workers has to stop. Great move."

Others were disappointed that supermarket employees have suffered so much abuse from customers. "Isn't it sad that this is what it's come to for service staff?" asked one viewer.

Some viewers were less than impressed, slamming the cameras as an "invasion of privacy", "disgusting" and "insane". One customer wrote, "That's f**king outrageous, why are they filming me when I'm shopping?"

Woolworths Rosehill staff member wearing a body cam
Since April last year, Woolworths has been trialling body cameras in a small number of stores to see if they can help prevent assaults and abuse of team members. Source: Woolworths

Toll of abuse

Retail employees have deemed the initiative "fair", with many sharing their own shocking experiences of abuse while at work. One customer service worker revealed she was spat on when her register broke down during a Christmas rush, explaining "The camera just missed the culprit's face. She got away with it."

Another TikTok user commented that her manager was "bashed" last week by a "disgruntled shoplifter", and another claimed to have suffered death threats on a regular basis during his stint at Woolworths. "I worked at Woolies for 11 years and minimum once a week someone would threaten to kill me," he commented.

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