Editorial: Harassing workers a trend that needs to stop

At first glance, the “day of kindness” owners of the Brewster restaurant Apt Cape Cod treated their employees to seems like a nice gesture for hard-working staff.

It is, but there’s a dark backstory.

According to The Hill, owners Regina and Brandi Felt Castellano announced on Facebook that they would be closed for the morning due to the “astronomical influx daily” of customers swearing, threatening to sue and making team members cry, the post said.

“We decided to close for the morning because we wanted our staff to know that they have value to us, not just as employees but also as humans,” the owners told The Hill. “Everyone should be treated with kindness and respect, no one deserves to berated.”

The Castellanos hit the nail on the head — but the problem is that far too many customers and patrons feel they have the right to berate, hurl abuse and even strike those who are serving them, from restaurant staff to retail workers to flight attendants and more.

After the post, other restaurant workers shared their own similar stories.

There have always been incidents of bad behavior and unreasonable requests, but public tantrums and profanity-laced meltdowns ramped up during the pandemic.

Who can forget the great Toilet Paper Panic of 2020 and the ensuing brawls over Charmin that broke out among determined hoarders in supermarket aisles?

From there the freakout crowd turned their focus on face masks, convinced that their outsized sense of entitlement permitted them to harass and attack workers trying to enforce safety protocols.

According to Business Insider, anti-mask customers created a crisis for retailers as workers at stores like Target and Costco had to deal with customers throwing tantrums and destroying displays.

As the country reopens and travelers take to the skies again, unruly behavior from passengers is hitting an all-time high, flight attendant union leader Sara Nelson told CNBC.

“This is an environment that we just haven’t seen before, and we can’t wait for it to be over,” the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said.

Her comments followed a recent violent confrontation that resulted in a Southwest Airlines flight attendant sustaining facial injuries and losing two teeth. In a statement to NBC News, Southwest said the passenger “repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said it has received around 2,500 reports of unruly passenger behavior since Jan. 1, roughly three-quarters of which involve failure to adhere to the federal face mask mandate that has been instituted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whether this is all due to pent-up frustrations coming out after a year in lockdown, the glorification of bad behavior on TV and YouTube, or the continuing decline of decency, it has to stop.

This cannot be our new normal.

Retailers are betting on the good guys among us to help stem the tide.

As MarketWatch reported, a dozen retailers including Gap and H&M are collaborating on a campaign spearheaded by nonprofits Open to All, Hollaback and the Retail Industry Leaders Association this fall to enlist customers to combat bad behavior against retail workers.

Calla Devlin Rongerude, director of Open to All, said the campaign is not asking customers to physically stop altercations, but rather to help de-escalate the situation and show support for workers.

We hope it is successful.

But it’s sad that such a campaign is necessary.

Read More