Countdown worker recounts day racist customer hurled basket of tins at her - 'This shouldn’t be normalised'

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the worst in customers, according to many retail workers. 

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Kalein Howard told Breakfast of the abuse she endures while doing her job. Source: Breakfast

Kalein Howard, who works at a Countdown in Hamilton, told Breakfast abuse from customers had got worse over lockdowns. 

The issue has come to the fore in the wake of stabbings at a Countdown in Dunedin on Monday which left four people injured.

Countdown's general manager, Kiri Hannifin, said yesterday it was "inevitable" body cameras would wind up in some of its stores after
"quite a significant increase" in public aggression against staff.

Emotional Countdown manager says stabbed Dunedin staff 'doing OK', chokes up discussing daily threats to staff

Howard said she had gone home crying one day after a customer threw a basket of tins at her and was racist. 

"I feel disappointed that New Zealand's come to this. I don't remember it being this bad ..."

She said such abuse needed to stop. 

"We need to make a change. This shouldn't be normalised ... We've got families, we've got feelings and we're human," Howard said.

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Four people including two Countdown staff were injured in the attack. Source: Breakfast

"We're doing this for the community. This isn't New Zealand. Be kind."

For Waikato Z service station owner Briar Farrar, abuse against staff had "significantly increased phenomenally" in the last 12 to 18 months. 

She told Breakfast it had always been an issue, but the threat of physical abuse had increased 30 to 50 per cent since the pandemic began.

Staff had had knives pulled on them and cans thrown at them, Farrar said. They had also been spat on and had been threatened with getting "the bash" after their shift. 

"What is this about? That is the question," she said.

It was time for Kiwis to be brave and bold and address the issue, Farrar felt, because it had an impact. 

"Every single time one of my staff gets abused or threatened, it has an impact. They're human beings," she said.