Sheffield Centertainment staff ‘dread going to work’ as customers abuse them over masks
A worker at Valley Centertainment in Sheffield has spoken out about the daily abuse staff face over masks.
Alexandra Needham, who is an assistant manager at the popular entertainment complex, says the level of vitriol to which she and her colleagues are subjected has left many dreading going to work.
The 22-year-old told how employees are frequently shouted at and insulted for simply trying to do their job and comply with government rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
She revealed how one customer had to be asked to leave after becoming so abusive that a teenage worker was left fearing for her safety.
Since August, anyone who is not exempt has been required by law to wear a face covering at entertainment venues and many other indoor spaces.
But staff enforcing the new rules have had to contend with anger from both people who object to being asked to wear a mask and those who are upset that other customers are not covering up.
Ms Needham, who has worked at Valley Centertainment for six years, said: “We get people arguing that they shouldn’t have to wear a mask and we have others arguing that someone else isn’t wearing a mask.
"The other day, we had one group come in without masks and when I asked them if they had masks they went off on one saying they shouldn’t have to wear them.
"I asked them to please just try to keep their distance from other groups in that case, but then someone from another group who was wearing a mask started complaining and pointing out that masks are mandatory.
"We’re getting a lot of abuse from all sides and it’s really hard. It’s so bad you don’t want to go to work anymore.
"Whatever job you do you have to deal with a bit of abuse every now and then but at the moment it’s happening almost every day.
"We had to call security once because this customer was giving us so much abuse about being asked to wear a mask and he started getting personal about it.
"He was calling us stupid and asking us why we believed in Covid-19 when he claimed it was all a conspiracy.
"One of my colleagues who was only 16 or 17 started feeling really uncomfortable and thought this man was going to hurt her.
"We have signs up everywhere and most people are happy to comply with the rules but it can be really hard when customers take out their anger on us. I would just ask people to be kind.”
Ms Needham said it was not just her and her colleagues facing abuse due to the restrictions in place.
She told how friends working at restaurants within Valley Centertainment offering discounted meals during Eat Out to Help Out had found it particularly hard.
"If they’d ever hated their jobs before they said it was nothing like as bad as it was then. That was the most stressful time in their lives due to the amount of abuse they got, which just makes you really sad” she added.