Dymocks bookshop owner urges Vic government to end in-store vaccine checks after alleged assault

Dymocks Melbourne

Source: Facebook

The owners of a Dymocks bookstore in Melbourne have called on the Victorian government to end the requirement for non-essential retailers to check customers’ vaccination status, one week after a staff member was injured when a customer allegedly pushed them down an escalator. 

Dino Traderso says the staff at the bookshop he owns with his wife Melissa on Collins Street in Melbourne’s CBD were understandably concerned following the “confronting” incident, which left their co-worker with a mild concussion and cuts on his back. 

The police are investigating the incident that occurred when the staff member was working as a COVID-19 marshal and the customer allegedly refused to check in using a QR code or show their vaccination certificate. 

The incident was captured on CCTV footage, but Traderso says the police are still trying to locate the person of interest. 

While the staff member has returned to work, Traderso says the aftermath of the event is still being felt and the team is relieved their co-worker escaped more serious injuries. 

“We felt terrible, we felt really bad about this,” he says.

Traderso says the business, which employs around 40 people, had expected to encounter some verbal abuse in relation to COVID-19 vaccination mandates, however, they never expected they would experience violence in the store. 

The franchised business has felt the support from its customers in the week since, with many leaving sending their best wishes on social media or calling the store. Similarly, fellow booksellers across Melbourne have also sent messages of support, and Traderso says he’s even heard from his bank manager and the person who looks after his business insurance. 

However, he believes the state government must do more to help businesses that are already under pressure after an immensely challenging two years.

While Traderso says one option could be for the government to help businesses cover the cost of security personnel, he says removing the requirement for businesses to check vaccination certificates would immediately “take the pressure off” retailers.

“You have to question whether it is necessary to force non-essential retailers to do this checking,” he says, referencing New South Wales, where restrictions are due to ease further on December 15

Instead, the business owner believes it would be better to put the onus back on individuals to check in properly when visiting retail stores. In his experience, the vast majority of people have already been doing so. 

“At least they won’t be angry with us,” he says. 

Traderso also worries about the mental health of the retail sector, which is dealing with a greater amount of abusive and aggressive behaviour from customers, after having “done it tough” for two years. 

“It has cost lots of money and we are trying desperately to have a good Christmas. There are customers around, which is great, but [being in the CBD], customers are missing and tourists are missing,” he explains. 

“It is very challenging at the moment.”

Former small business ombudsman Kate Carnell agrees governments need to do more to support businesses in these situations. 

Carnell tells SmartCompany she has heard of many similar incidents occurring at small businesses across the country. 

“When you’re in business, and we’re talking about customer-facing businesses here, what do you do? You spend your time making your customers happy and being nice to them, to encourage them to buy products. But all of sudden, you’re in the position of being a policeman.”

While Carnell says it’s important to keep all staff and customers safe by following public health measures, “what we really need is the government to really back up businesses in this space”. 

In the case of the incident at the Dymocks bookshop, she believes authorities also need to “send a message” to individuals that it is not okay to treat staff in stores this way. 

“It is assault and it is illegal.”

SmartCompany has contacted Victorian Small Business Minister Jaala Pulford for comment.


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5 months ago

Retail works – abuse. In my opinion7 the answer is quite simple, punish the offenders severely. 1 day, 3 days, 5 days etc., etc. Jail an minimum fine of AU$10,000 and up for more severe abuse. same punishments for physical and verbal abuse. There is no reason whatever why retail and similar workers should suffer such abuse. Shaming could be another avenue of punishment, publish their photos on news sites, fb, twitter, WhatsApp etc. every day for a week, impossible to remove. And put their photos on various sites (with facial recognition coding, so that other stores, restaurants etc., can quickly realize they have a past offended in their store/restaurant etc., before they receive any service/sit down.

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