Reasonably Expecting Knifepoint Robbery, What To Do?
February 10, 2018 11:14 PM   Subscribe

I work alone in a small shop. There have been a number of knife/hammer/machete-point robberies in the area. My place of work has experienced three such robberies in six months, none of which my employer has reported to police and I am now shifted on the one evening of the week that these three have all taken place. I can't afford to just quit. Beyond looking urgently for other employment, articulating concerns to my employer, documenting everything, compliance when threatened and keeping as little money in the till as possible are there any other measures I can take for my own physical, mental and financial safety? (large sums lost may or may not be illegally docked from my wages) Jurisdiction: UK
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who has been held up at gunpoint at their place of work, I feel qualified to answer this.

The answer is yes, you really CAN afford to leave this job. It is lunacy to continue to work at this job. You are setting yourself up for, at minimum, long term psychological issues and at worst, death. The correct answer here is to quit. Hit up your friends or parents or local churches and social services for help with rent/financial needs while you search for a new job.

The young men who robbed me later killed a bank teller in a different robbery. During my robbery, they grabbed me by the sweater and shoved me around the building, demanding our security tapes. I was terrified when they lined us up against the wall. I am still uncomfortable in banks, convenience stores and anywhere else that I perceive to be a soft target for robbery. It’s been 17 years now and I’m uncomfortable- this is progress! It took me a few years to be able to even walk into a bank.

So what I’m saying is I have suffered long term mental health consequences from having a gun in my face. (BTW, looking nervous in a bank is a great way to meet gun-toting security guards, which is just great for the anxiety.) Don’t do this to yourself. It isn’t worth whatever they are paying you.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:14 AM on February 11, 2018 [70 favorites]

You may have very good reasons not to, but barring those, why not go to the police or local council and ask them this question?
posted by minervous at 1:29 AM on February 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

There are a few PDFs from the Health & Safety Executive (here & here) with advice for employers on mitigating the risk of violence at work, particularly for people with public-facing jobs. These include detailed info on your employer's legal obligations to protect you. If there are things in there you believe they're not doing, you can use the HSE's online form to report health & safety violations.

If you're a member of Usdaw, the union for retail workers, they offer additional support if you end up being the victim of workplace violence (more info here). It costs less than £3/week to be a member if you work full time, and less than £1.50/week to join if you work part time. They'll almost certainly have access to better advice than anyone here can give, including what to do about your employer not taking this seriously.
posted by terretu at 1:58 AM on February 11, 2018 [15 favorites]

I have been held up at knifepoint (albeit almost 20 years ago) when I worked in an off license in the UK and when I worked in a pub - for the former, we (luckily there were two of us) gave them everything they asked for. We could not open the safe because it was on a timer. The robbers were not well-organised, and were caught very swiftly, if that helps. They got away with only what was in the till and some cigarettes but were focused on getting in and out quickly. We gave them a bag to put the money in because they hadn't brought one. The police took it extremely seriously and were very kind and courteous afterwards.

I was young (18) and of course now I wish I had kicked up more of a fuss with the owner/manager/company - so I would completely support the suggestion to join your union above. Same goes for reporting to HSE - I believe it can be done anon too. When the incident happened in the pub, and my boss wasn't that useful about it, i just quit. It was the best thing I could have done and no job is worth being in the way of violence, especially if management won't do anything about it and you are on your own.

Best of luck looking for another job - there is always something better and I wish you lots of luck for finding something else and getting away from there. If you happen to be in Edinburgh or surrounds feel free to message me - I might be able to help you with job search.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 6:03 AM on February 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

Quit. Being threatened with violence in that way stays with you, even if the thief is calm and composed. It could be a decade or more later and you’ll flash back to the memory out of nowhere. Your employer should be taking your safety seriously and isn’t. Obviously, it could and does happen to anyone, but it doesn’t need to happen to you.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 7:10 AM on February 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you have exhausted all possible options and are not able to quit, please do a job search on overdrive. Your life is at risk.

It also seems really concerning that the police have never been called in the other robberies. Your employer does not care about your safety or your life.
posted by lunasol at 7:24 AM on February 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

"My place of work has experienced three such robberies in six months, none of which my employer has reported to police-"
[record scratch]
[bass drop]


hhhhhhhhwwwwhhhhYYY NOT?

Tell the cops and bail, stat!
posted by Don Pepino at 8:50 AM on February 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

The fact that none have been reported by the employer should be a big red flag. For some reason they do not want to (insurance rate costs, fines from the police, or even collusion at some level with the robbers).

In any case, they are costing you with your physical and mental health.
posted by nickggully at 8:57 AM on February 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

I agree with all the other people saying that if your employer won't protect you (let alone might dock your pay for any losses in a robbery? WTAF?) then quitting is the only reasonable option.

However, if you're determined to stay there for now, you could go on Craigslist or TaskRabbit (or whatever your local equivalent is) and hire someone large and imposing-looking to keep you company during that shift.
posted by Mchelly at 8:59 AM on February 11, 2018

In self defense class we were taught to whack a coat at someone threatening with a knife.
posted by brujita at 9:46 AM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

hire someone large and imposing looking

One night of this would likely cost more than the OP is being paid per shift. At least if US bodyguard rates apply in the UK.

Please leave this job. Your employer is blatantly irresponsible and your life is at risk. Short of carrying a weapon and being willing to use it, or being a master of martial arts, you are in real danger.
posted by Crystal Fox at 9:55 AM on February 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

large sums lost may or may not be illegally docked from my wages

I believe you when you say you cannot afford to quit. But I also believe that it is better to be in debt than to get robbed and suffer for years as a result. I don't know what the protocol is for Kickstarter-type self-funding here on MetaFilter but if you PM me your PayPal info I will send the equivalent of 50 bucks to kick off your "I must quit my job" fund because jeez louise, that job is shitty even without any robberies. I am not well-off by any means but I am seriously willing to help in this small way if it would make a difference.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:18 AM on February 11, 2018 [16 favorites]

large sums lost may or may not be illegally docked from my wages

Talk to an employment lawyer. In the US it's possible to do this without paying upfront and have a contract where the lawyer only gets paid if they win your case. No idea about the UK.

none of which my employer has reported to police

Talk to an employment lawyer.

I can't afford to just quit.

Won't get paid if you're dead.

On the upside, it's cheap to be dead. Keeps your expenses low.

If your lawyer takes action against them for your lost wages, make sure you aren't putting yourself in a position where it's cheaper and easier for your employer to have one of these robberies go bad than to take care of your back wages and any penalties. Which should involve you not working there any more.
posted by yohko at 6:15 PM on February 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Here is a page from the UK Citizen’s Advice Bureau on whether or not to resign and how to evaluate your options.

It’s a serious consideration because resigning puts the OP at risk of having no income for an extended period of time, even if the benefits system operates by its own rules and on schedule. It’s not a theoretical risk that OP could end up homeless and with ever-increasing debt from making a wrong move here.

OP, go to the CAB and let them help you work out what to do.
posted by tel3path at 4:15 AM on February 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure what the laws around video surveillance are in the UK, but could you, until you can find a new job, park your phone camera somewhere near the cash register where it would record anything that might occur, and upload it to the internet? It's certainly not going to stop the robbery from happening, but would definitely help at the point you report it to the police, which you're going to do when it happens to you, despite what your management says.
posted by jferg at 3:38 PM on February 12, 2018

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