Incidences of verbal abuse against Britain's shop workers have increased by 35 per cent over the last year, retail union Usdaw has claimed.
In a new report, the union said that up to half a million retail workers suffered verbal abuse every day, with "out of control" customers responsible for a growing wave of swearing, sexist comments and other forms of insults.
The survey of 500 workers found that the impact of verbal abuse was having an effect just as damaging as physical abuse on workers, with some respondents claiming that they had suffered from depression as a result of mistreatment by customers.
Others said that they had left their jobs as a result of suffering verbal abuse.
Examples of abuse cited by respondents included a shop worker who was threatened after explaining to a customer that a product was not in stock.
Usdaw, which is beginning a campaign on Wednesday to highlight awareness of the problem, said that its members were no longer prepared to accept abusive behaviour from customers in their work.
The union plans to distribute 30,000 "red cards" to consumers across the country, in order to spread the message that customers who abuse shop staff can be removed from stores or even face prosecution.
"Most shoppers would never think of physically assaulting a shop worker, but many seem to think it is alright to scream the most disgusting abuse," explained Usdaw general secretary John Hannett.
"Our members are saying enough is enough and they will no longer tolerate vile abuse as part of their daily working lives," he added.