Shopworkers, GP surgeries and call centres have all reported an alarming rise in abusive behaviour directed toward them. How can we calm this national rage?
In November 2019, a customer made a complaint to the insurance firm Ageas. Repairs had been carried out on his car after it was damaged in an accident, but he felt necessary work had been missed. Ageas sent out an engineer to inspect the vehicle, but it was decided that no further action was required. That’s when the abuse began, says Rachel Undy, operations leader at the company. “It was mostly sexist abuse – very angry – shouting, disgusting language and quite personal insults.” Over the months that followed, the customer contacted Ageas 98 times, in an increasingly threatening, and often grotesque, manner.
“Eventually, we refused to speak to him, but then his emails carried on with the same language,” says Undy. At one point, she recalls, he made viciously crude remarks to her, before eventually directing his ire at the male engineer, too – “even threatening to come to the office and deal with him face to face”.