Enraged customer faces multiple attempted murder charges


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I recently sat on a Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals panel for a discussion on consumer rage. It was a fascinating event, and, sadly as it turns out, quite timely.

The consensus of the panel and attendees was that consumer rage was on the increase and in extreme cases posed a threat to the health and safety of customer contact staff. You can find my presentation at http://tinyurl.com/y9v6y9j

We now have a tragic example of the catastrophic effects of consumer rage.

Police in Northern Territory (Australia) have charged a 45-year old male, known as Bird, with nine counts of attempted murder, one count of unlawfully setting fire to a building, one count of intending to cause serious harm by causing an explosion and one count of recklessly endangering life.

Nineteen people were injured in an explosion allegedly caused by Bird, and four remain in hospital.

The man allegedly wheeled a shopping trolley loaded with jerry cans of fuel and fireworks into the downtown office of the Territory Insurance Office and set fire to it. Witnesses described it as a series of explosions that sounded like bombs.

Police believe Bird was an unhappy customer and was acting out of vengeance. After allegedly setting the trolley’s contents alight, Bird fled the burning building and ran a short distance to Darwin Police Station where he handed himself in at the front counter.

Police Commander Colleen Gwynne confirmed the attacker had made threats to police and TIO prior to the attack. “There has been some history between this person that we have in custody and TIO,” she said. “It’s clear he wasn’t happy with a service he was being provided.”

Dr Ian Norton, director of the disaster and preparedness response, yesterday said prospects of recovery were still unknown for the four patients at the High Dependency Unit and the Burns Unit.

“Usually burns victims have to go through treatment for up to 12 to 16 weeks,” he said. “Some have extensive burns to their face, upper chest, arms, hands and feet – up to 13 per cent of burns.”

Bird made a brief appearance at Darwin Magistrates Court. Bird made no application for bail during the hearing, which set his next court appearance for March 5.

This event, which could have resulted in the loss of many lives, puts companies on notice that they must prepare contingency plans to deal with consumer rage.

What resources, training and plans has your company put in place to prepare for extreme customer rage?

Francis Buttle
Dr. Francis Buttle founded the consultancy that bears his name back in 1979. He has over 40 years of international experience in consulting, training, researching, educating, and writing about a broad range of marketing and customer management matters. He is author of 15 books, has been a full professor of Marketing, Customer Relationship Management, Relationship Marketing, and Management.


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