Jac Roper

In this month’s Service Centre I talk about turning down cash and kicking customers out, which may sound contraindicated in your line of work but sometimes it’s the only way.

This is a nasty story.  Jay Patel, who runs a small station and shop in the north-east next to a council estate, has had a bad run-in with a customer, a young man – a boy really – who took great exception to his £20 note being refused. Jay had already had several counterfeit £20 notes in the past and was suspicious of the customer who he knew “was a bit dodgy anyway”.

The guy threatened Jay and refused to pay by card or phone.

The retailer was perfectly within his rights to refuse cash – there was a petition online two years ago called ‘Make it unlawful for shops to refuse cash payments’. It closed on 5 July 2022 after six months having achieved only 33,498 signatures.

Once a petition has been published on the website, it will be open to signatures for six months. At 10,000 signatures, the government will formally respond. At 100,000 signatures, the request will be considered by the Petitions Committee for debate in Parliament.

The government’s verdict on the petition: “Businesses are able to choose the forms of payment they accept.”

For once, the government is on your side!

Things took a turn for the worse when the ‘customer’ came back with a mate who distracted Jay while the lad helped himself to a bottle of vodka. When Jay confronted him the guy bolted out the door with Jay shouting “you’re banned” at him. He got off lightly.

This brings us to another right that Jay has. You can refuse access to your property to any person at any time for any, or no, reason. Tell him where to go. You don’t need to tell him what the law is, you don’t need to justify your actions. Simply tell him he is not welcome in your shop and he is banned. Usually banning is due to shoplifting (or stealing if you prefer), obnoxious behaviour, drinking or drugs. But there doesn’t have to be a reason so long as it isn’t discriminatory. If you refuse on discriminatory grounds, that makes it illegal. So avoid the usual ‘isms’ like racism, religion, disability, gender or sexism.

(An anecdote I often fall back on was that I got a call to the helpline many years ago from a retailer complaining about a very smelly customer, so smelly that he was putting other customers off. How to do it tactfully was the query.) Very tricky. All you can do is politely tell them that you would rather they didn’t come into your store any more and that if they return in future they will be trespassing. You can then order them to leave.

A banning notice is often a good idea. If a person steals as a trespasser that is burglary but the law states that, in order for an offender to be convicted of burglary he must know that at the time of entering that he was in fact a trespasser. By issuing a banning notice to a shoplifter you are legally informing them that, if they enter your premises again, they are trespassing and if they shoplift again, they will be charged with the more serious offence of burglary.

Jay was also concerned that the lad might come back with even more mates. Scary and definitely a job for the police. And yes, I can hear you at the back: the police often do not turn up.

Last year the Co-op was widely reported as saying crime was out of control with nearly 1,000 incidents a day in its branches. Co-op said that police did not respond in 71 per cent of cases.

The ACS Crime Report 2024 stated that the UK’s local shops recorded a shocking 5.6 million incidents of shop theft over the last year, smashing the previous record of 1.1m incidents recorded in the 2023 report. That’s a huge increase and grim reading.

The report reveals that retailers have recorded over 600 incidents of theft an hour over the last year.

The report also highlights a huge increase in violent incidents committed against retailers and their colleagues. Over the last year, there have been around 76,000 incidents of violence in shops compared to 41,000 the previous year.

The report also concludes that retailers are doing what they can to fight back by investing in crime prevention and detection measures, with £339m spent over the last year in areas like CCTV, security staff, intruder alarms and internal communication systems.

Taken together, the cost of crime and the cost of investing in fighting crime results in a 10p ‘crime tax’ on every transaction that takes place in every store across the UK, up from 6p in 2023.

Additional findings include that the top motivations for repeat offending are drug or alcohol addiction, organised crime and opportunism. Probably don’t need to tell you that the top triggers for abuse in stores are encountering shop thieves, enforcing the law on age restricted sales and refusing to serve drunks.

Up to 87% of workers in convenience stores have faced verbal abuse over the last year. Many believe that the cost of living crisis has led to an increase in theft.

And over three quarters of retailers (76%) believe organised crime has become more prevalent over the last year.

ACS has called on government to take the following action to support retailers in tackling the UK’s retail crime crisis: more punishment for offenders; more police resources on neighbourhood policing to keep communities safe and more investment in technology to deter and detect criminals.

Like I said – grim reading.

You can email your queries, news and views to Jac@roper-biz.co.uk or call 0208 8502 9775.