Tricks and tactics used against troublesome travelers—Frontline staff's experiences from Swedish buses and trains

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, mode - rail, place - europe, ridership - behaviour, planning - surveys, planning - personal safety/crime


Public transport, Customer misbehavior, Employee strategies


Public transport is facing escalating problems with passengers who behave badly by threatening and assaulting both staff and other passengers. Troublesome customers are known to affect employees' health and work motivation adversely. However, employees also form strategies for handling the incidents that arise. Developing successful ways of dealing with customer misbehavior, on both an operational and a strategic level, represents a key challenge facing the public transport sector. The aim of this article is to investigate the nature of such negative situations in public transport; in particular, highlighting the practical strategies that are used by public transport staff to handle these kinds of incidents. An interview study consisting of 23 in-depth interviews was conducted both with conductors on regional trains and bus drivers on local buses in Sweden. Several instances of customer misbehavior were described by the respondents, e.g. verbal abuse, threats, and even physical violence. These alarming incidents were dealt with by staff using a range of individual strategies aimed at averting or controlling misbehaving customers. Our study clearly demonstrates the importance of the employees' appearance and their interactional abilities, in addition to their use of the physical environment, when handling incidents that included misbehavior.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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