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Retail staff face growing danger at work

Day-to-day working conditions for those employed in kiosks and shops are becoming more dangerous. Sales staffs are on the front line in a growing trend of shoplifting and petty theft.

Margariinipaketti ja tomaattipussi kaupan kassan liukuhihnalla.
Image: Iina Kluukeri / Yle

In the Tampere region, dozens of robberies have been reported in recent months, many from small convenience stores.

Thefts of beer packs are also commonplace where the bandit picks up a product and casually walks out of the store without paying. Although no-one is threatened in such cases, the event is particularly unpalatable to check-out staff. The situation can become violent if staff intervene.

Local officials from the Service Union United PAM in Tampere are calling for more security guards to be recruited. At the very least, security patrols should be increased at stores prone to thefts. The union says increasing a security presence in a store is a long-term investment for the employer, leading to a reduction in stock losses and a better reputation for the store in question.

Crimes more daring

Gangs examine scout out when a minimum of staff are likely to be present on the shop floor and then make their move.

"In some daring cases, a thief can push in a queue and demand money from the cash register," explains Chief Shop Steward Kari Peltovirta at Suomen Lähikauppa, which operates a national chain of small convenience stores

Delegates at a recent conference of the Service Union United PAM, a body that represents over 200,000 working in the private services sector, called for the reimposition of jail sentences for those with unpaid shoplifting fines.

"This would make the potential thief weigh if such a crime is worth it," Peltovirta explained.

He adds it would also improve witness protection.

"I have heard of cases of witnesses providing evidence in secret to the court only to meet the assailant in the waiting room; hardly a pleasant experience," Peltovirta muses.

One solution, he suggests, would be not to use witnesses in cases where CCTV images can place the accused at the scene of the crime.

Staff in most retail stores receive precise instructions on how to deal with a variety of security situations. In a majority of cases, they must calmly acquiesce even in the presence of a knife-brandishing thief. For many low-paid retail staff, it can be the safest bet.

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