It is important staff understand policies, how to communicate well and what steps to take if a problem escalates with a customer. This is so you can make sure the customer has no grounds to accuse you of discrimination.

If a customer is aggressive or angry, listen to the problem and acknowledge it before trying to fix it.

  • Don't take it personally. Be calm and sincere. Maintain an open and attentive body posture.
  • If the customer is making a complaint, follow the complaint handling policy.
  • Know who to consult if a problem escalates - for example, refer it upward to a manager.
  • Trust your instincts. If a person is behaving aggressively or strangely, do not put yourself at risk.
  • Politely ask the person to calm down. If they do not calm down, ask them to leave. Do not try to touch them or shepherd them off the premises.

If the person continues to behave aggressively, stay in public view and call a manager or the police if necessary.

You are more likely to experience problem customers at busy times of the year. Make sure you have adequate staffing and they know how to handle difficult situations if they arise, including short-term casual workers.

Refusal of service

Occasionally people may be refused entry or service.

Rules should be applied consistently to all customers or it could be unlawfully discriminating.

Some businesses, such as those with liquor licences, are bound by strict rules about who and when they can serve - eg refusing entry to people under 18.

If refusing entry or service, make sure:

  • it is based it on the customer's behaviour (for example, some people have disabilities which cause them to slur their speech and might appear intoxicated when sober.)
  • you can explain what behaviour was unacceptable
  • you don't intimidate or threaten them
  • dress codes apply equally to everyone.

Make sure staff know your policy on refusing entry or service.

It is against the law to refuse entry or service because a person has an assistance (guide) dog.

All guide dogs must be allowed to accompany their owners, even into eating areas.

For more information, see disability access.


There is no typical shoplifter. They come in all ages, races and from various backgrounds.

When trying to identify a shoplifter, observe their behaviour, not how they look, before taking any action. Look for customers who:

  • spend more time looking at the counter and staff than at goods
  • take several items into a changing room but leave with one
  • act nervously and pick up random items with no interest
  • frequently enter the shop but never buy
  • hide from view
  • fiddle with price tags.

Take care not to impose security checks which may be discriminatory (e.g searching only women's bags and strollers).

Clearly display a sign if you have a bag checking policy.

Make sure bags are checked in the same way every time for all customers. For example, check all bags over a certain size, regardless of who is carrying them.

If a customer refuses to have their bag checked, you cannot force them. You can:

  • ask them to leave
  • refuse to sell them anything
  • call the police if you believe they have been shoplifting.

Before confronting a suspected shoplifter, make sure it is their behaviour that is causing your suspicion, not a personal characteristic such as age, gender identity, disability, marital or domestic partnership status, pregnancy, race, sex and sexual identity.

Make sure you explain to the customer that you wish to check their bag. In all instances:

  • be polite and don't make accusations
  • try to have someone present as a witness
  • remain calm and identify yourself
  • never touch or search the person, as this may break the law
  • not intimidate or threaten them.

See the SA.GOV website for more information on your legal requirements when confronting suspicious customers.