Four days after the murder of a petrol station cashier in Idar-Oberstein in Rhineland-Palatinate, fear is spreading among retail workers. Employees say they are exposed to increasingly aggressive customers on social media.
Petrol station employees had expected an escalation
It is said, among other things, that “the fists have flown” more frequently in the shops because of the mask requirement. In particular, petrol station employees report that they feared such an escalation. It was only a matter of time before the mask costs a human life, writes a woman who claims to have worked at gas stations at night. Many say that they were already badly insulted when they were referred to the mask requirement.
“I am probably not the only person who has been badly insulted for having pointed out the mask requirement. Unfortunately, there is also much worse. No wonder that more and more cashiers are afraid to say something.” Sissi Meichle on BR24 / Facebook
Gas station cashiers are repeatedly attacked
When asked by the BR, the Bavarian Trade Association said that the employees in the branch had always been exposed to “ruthless” customers. They have been given special training in dealing with these for years. After all, it is in the company’s own best interest to satisfy customers.
An increase in conflicts due to the mask requirement has not been recorded in the past few months, according to the association’s spokesman, Bernd Ohlmann. On the contrary: When the wearing of masks and keeping safety distances were required for the first time at the beginning of the pandemic, conflicts arose far more frequently in the shops. Accordingly, the demand from the association for tips and recommendations for action in the event of a conflict remains high, but not increasing.
The Bavarian Motor Vehicle Association, to which around 1,000 Bavarian petrol stations belong, sees it similarly. Again and again, employees at petrol stations would also be physically attacked. You would be at the forefront and would always be the first to come to terms with popular displeasure.
Trade association: Many customers are grateful for the mask requirement
The spokesman for the trade association says that largely unnoticed by the public, more people today even reacted gratefully to the mask requirement to protect themselves from corona infection. There are numerous letters showing that customers without the mask requirement would have long since turned away from stationary retail and switched to online retail. The prospect of an end to the pandemic next year also makes most customers more confident than aggressive.
Nevertheless, the corona pandemic has brought the conflicts at the shop counter into a new dimension. Exchanging an unsuitable article or putting it off to a later delivery time is something different than discussing the sense and nonsense of a hygiene measure. For this reason, some people on social media also demand that the control of the mask requirement should not be passed on to the employees. That is not her job, writes a woman on Facebook. If you don’t wear the face mask, she won’t argue about it either, writes another.
“I wouldn’t ask anyone about it if I worked in sales. You never know how such customers would react, as you can see in this case.” Kevin Mühlstädt on BR24 / Facebook
Talk to customers about missing a mask or not?
The employees do not have to address customers, according to the Bavarian Trade Association. As long as a sign in the entrance area indicates that a mask is required in the shop, it is not the owner who is liable, but the customer in the event of a violation. Incidentally, the Corona catalog of fines provides for 150 euros for this. Ohlmann also contradicts voices claiming that the petrol station employee killed in Idar-Oberstein had to address the mask refuser.
The association cannot give a clear recommendation for action, says Ohlmann. Each case is different. The reaction of a family father who simply forgot the mask could be different than that of a corona denier who takes off the mask to provoke. It is important that the companies clearly indicate to their employees which paths to follow in the event of a conflict. So whether other employees should be called in to help, a security service, the boss, or even the police.
Police union sees radicalization of corona deniers
According to the trade association, it is understandable that the fear of individual retail employees increases after an act like the one in Idar-Oberstein. Statements like those of the police union GdP, which is now warning of the increasing radicalization of the corona deniers, would increase this fear.
GdP Vice Jörg Radek had previously spoken of the only case of killing in connection with the corona pandemic, but also pointed out that the police had been aware of the radicalization of opponents of the corona measures since last year.
When asked by the BR, Radek said that, as a trade unionist, he understood employers’ concern about growing fear in the workforce. However, the police cannot hide the increasing risk to people from corona deniers. After all, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Federal Criminal Police Office recorded around 3,500 cases of politically motivated crimes in connection with the corona pandemic between April 2020 and June 2021. If the police did not address this, they would later be accused of being blind and deaf to this development.
Gas station worker shot in the head
On Saturday evening, an alleged perpetrator shot a gas station employee in the head. The 20-year-old cashier had previously advised the 49-year-old of the obligation to wear a mask. The alleged perpetrator then left the gas station to come back later with a revolver and commit the murder.
According to the public prosecutor’s office, the suspect made his victim responsible for the overall situation of the corona pandemic, which he said was a heavy burden on him. He rejects the corona measures and has seen no other way out than to set an example. Investigators said he was “well versed” in the theories of the corona deniers.
The act was also celebrated in lateral thinker groups of the messenger service Telegram. The federal government was dismayed by this on Wednesday. Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn spoke of “pandemic extremism”, which every citizen must oppose.