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French retail workers describe ‘dread’ of returning to work

A week after France eased lockdown restrictions, many French shop assistants are frustrated at having to deal with irascible customers who refuse to wear masks, use hand gel or maintain social distancing, David Chazan reports from Paris.

“I dread going to work each morning,” said Patricia, 29, who works in a Paris gift shop. “Customers call us names. They tell us we’re stupid, incompetent and shouldn’t be giving them orders when we ask them to wear face-masks inside the shop or use hand gel.”

Many supermarkets have stationed burly security guards at their entrances, who ensure that customers use hand gel as they come in. “They don’t get as much abuse as we do because customers are scared to insult them,” Patricia told The Telegraph.

Estelle, 26, who works in a well-known international clothing store, said: “Some customers started screaming at me when I asked them to wear face-masks. Others laugh and joke that they don’t want to get caught disobeying the shop assistant.” 

Estelle said she feels “like a punchball for customers” and broke down in tears after her first day back at work. “For two months I just wanted lockdown to end, but now I’m not so sure.”

Parisians have a reputation for rudeness, but French newspapers report similar complaints from shop assistants across the country.

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