Staying Safe When Working Behind a Counter

The two main potential problems which shop workers are likely to be confronted with are angry or annoyed customers and, more seriously, the risk of a robbery attempt.

Dealing With Customer Complaints

From time to time, it’s inevitable that you are going to be faced with irate customers who are going to confront you about shoddy or faulty goods which they have bought from the store and will be seeking a resolution. You will have, no doubt, undertaken a rigorous customer relations/customer service training course before you’ve begun the job or, in the case of small stores, the manager should have at least advised you on what to do if confronted by a particularly difficult customer.

The first thing you should be looking to do is to be attentive and listen to what the customer is complaining about. Remain calm, don’t get heated yourself and show them, through giving off non-verbal signals such as nodding your head in agreement, that you are giving your full attention to their complaint. Remember, it’s difficult for someone to become even angrier and more verbally aggressive if you say nothing and don’t try to interrupt them until they have finished speaking.

Once they have, you need to acknowledge the error (if there has been one), apologise to the customer and then let them know what you are going to do in order to rectify the error. In most cases, this will usually involve replacing the goods like for like or issuing them with a refund but each shop will have its own policy to deal with these issues. Some might ‘go the extra mile’ and offer some kind of compensation or discount offer in addition to putting the problem right. The important thing is to remain calm and sympathetic to a customer’s plight and to do all you can to rectify the issue satisfactorily as being hostile towards a customer could, in extreme circumstances, put you at risk of physical assault.

Confronted by a Robbery Attempt

Your employer should also make you aware of what you should do if you find that you’re faced with an attempted robbery whilst you are working behind a counter. The most important thing to remember is that this is no time or place for heroics and acts of bravery, even if you are the shopkeeper yourself.

No amount of money lost from the theft of the contents of a till is worth putting yourself at physical risk. Yes, you may well have seen CCTV images on TV programmes of shopkeepers pulling out a baseball bat or some other similar implement to fend off a robbery but it’s simply not worth it. After all, you’ll have no idea what weapons the robbers might be carrying.

Such is the shock of a sudden attack of this nature that it’s difficult to remain calm but, even though you’re going to be scared, it’s important to try to hold yourself together, not to panic and to do exactly as the robbers ask you to do. The more compliant you are, the less likely it will be that you’ll be physically harmed and the ordeal is likely to be over as quickly as possible.

After a Robbery Attempt

Once the robbers have left the shop, you should lock up the shop and call the police immediately. Apart from the police, you should refrain from allowing anybody else to enter the premises until after the police have arrived.

This is now a crime scene after all. Therefore, you should try to keep the scene as uncontaminated as possible in terms of not moving or touching anything in and around the crime scene at the risk of disturbing any potential evidence such as fingerprints and any other forensic material. Where possible, try to recall as many physical details as you can about the attackers, e.g. what they were wearing, height, build, any noticeable facial features, the description and, perhaps, even the registration of any vehicle they may have used to make a getaway and their escape route. Obviously, such will have been your fear at the time of the attack that you may not be able to recall all of these details but the more information you’re able to give to the police, the more likely the attackers will be caught.


In some instances, preventing such an attack if a perpetrator is determined to target your store can be quite difficult but having deterrents and other plans in place can often put off an attacker. CCTV is the most obvious deterrent as well as carefully concealed panic buttons behind the counter which can alert police and/or members of staff in other areas of the building instantly to a robbery attempt. Using special code words only familiar to other staff members in terms of them meaning there’s the likelihood of an attack can often help others working in the store to alert the police which could speed up the police’s arrival. Panic alarms and having good lighting and strategically placed counters which are visible to passers-by on the street are also good deterrents.

Fundamentally, however, the main thing is to comply with the attackers and give them what they want in order to minimise the risk of being physically harmed.

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