Rise in retailers reporting abuse and violence from anti-mask-wearing customers

Retailers are reporting an increase in aggression, abuse and even violence by customers when they're asked to wear a mask in store.

One shopping street in Auckland will even employ extra security after an unsavoury incident in a cake store.

Tracy Baird was excited when she got to allow customers inside her Mount Eden village cake shop - until one customer turned aggressive when she was asked to wear a mask the store had provided.

"Then came to the counter and held her mask maybe 20 centimetres away from her face, and started talking to me and I asked her to put her mask on properly," she says.

Baird gave the woman the option of wearing a mask or leaving the store.

"She threw the mask on the floor and demanded her cake," she tells Newshub.

"I turned away to walk up to the kitchen and she grabbed the entire cake in the box and threw it quite close at my back and it sort of hit the back of my neck and then she stomped off," Baird says.

"It did hurt a little bit, I had a wee bruise but it was emotionally quite upsetting in my workplace."

Baird says the police spoke to the woman but as a result of the incident the Mount Eden Business Association has promised to put a security guard on the street.

But this is far from an isolated incident.

One woman on Auckland's North Shore claimed she had a mask exemption but couldn't produce it.

Other videos show an unmasked man hurling abuse at staff at a south Auckland takeaway last week.

And other footage shows a New World Store owner in Tauranga telling an unmasked woman to leave.

The Retail Association says aggression and violence are on the rise.

"The abuse that retailers are experiencing is coming from all sorts of people from all sorts of walks of life and no matter how frustrated you are my key message to everyone in the public is please don't take out your anger or your frustrations on retail workers," Retail NZ CEO Greg Harford says.

Vaccines aren't enough alone to prevent the spread of COVID, masks are a vital tool. And studies show there's a significant reduction in acquiring the virus and passing it on among people who always wear a mask.