Employees at Masters Home Improvement say they are facing aggression and abuse from customers as the hardware store continues to liquidate $700 million of stock.
Over the weekend shoppers took to social media to complain about disgruntled employees on the floor of the hardware stores.
However, a number of past and current Masters employees have since contacted SmartCompany to say that uncertainty about the future of the business has taken a toll on team members. Several said they are receiving routine abuse and aggression from customers demanding even bigger discounts, while facing larger volumes of shoppers than they had ever experienced in store.
“We are running on skeleton crew as that is all we have left. Most staff have moved on to new jobs and we are all working [overtime] to try and keep up,” one comment writer said in response to yesterday’s SmartCompany report.
“We understand your frustration at times as we are customers on our days off to [sic], but it is not necessary to be an arrogant pig to the people who serve you at your local hardware store,” said another individual, claiming to be a Masters employee.
SmartCompany understands that while staff members have been told to keep a “business as usual” attitude to their day-to-day operations, they have been experiencing routine abuse from customers, including some instances of threats of violence over sales items.
Several staff expressed disappointment that so far the media has pointed blame at employees, rather than parent company Woolworths, after it announced the intention to close all stores by December 11.
Staff say they are encountering customers who have never shopped in Masters stores prior to the liquidation sale, and that the drive to find bargains has resulted in some shoppers hurling abuse at staff who were set to lose their jobs.
“I have been called all manner of curse words, including my integrity, intelligence, and morals called into question by customers for the most tedious of reasons,” one Masters employee told SmartCompany.
“We as team members have been predominantly poorly treated by customers during this whole ordeal.”
“Just take a minute to think about how these families feel,” a reader said through a comment on a SmartCompany article.
“Not sure of their future and just before Christmas too. It is NOT THEIR fault management screwed up the business. It is NOT THEIR fault that your greedy selves can only get 10% off.”
Others say they have been trying their hardest in a difficult situation and that these were some of the most “brutal” days in their retail careers.
“We still go to work with smiles on our faces, snacks in our pockets to keep us going and a lot of encourage words get thrown around after a long hard day,” said one employee on Facebook.
In August Woolworths announced it would exit its failed venture into the home improvement space and stated its intention to close all stores by December 11, 2016.
In its initial announcement to exit the business, Woolworths said it would work hard to find staff members “jobs within the Group, or will pay full redundancy where suitable roles are not available”.
Some customers have also reached out in sympathy to employees of the business, who face uncertain job prospects in the lead-up to Christmas.
“Have some thought for them and stop your bloody complaining. Your world hasn’t fallen apart,” one SmartCompany reader suggested.
Concerns were also raised about welfare of meet and greet staff and those who had to work outside in poor conditions, holding promotional signs for the sale.
This is not the first time a large scale liquidation sale has caused tension between staff members and customers. At the end of 2015 sales at electronics retailer Dick Smith, employees were accused by angry customers of hoarding sales stock, while employees explained the stresses caused by a sudden influx of new shoppers.
Masters staff are telling customers to be calm between now and the official closure of stores at the year’s end – or shop elsewhere.
“If you like Bunnings then shop there and speak to them when their price increases next year,” said one comment writer.
SmartCompany contacted Woolworths for comment on the issue but did not receive a response prior to publication.