It's lovely to see equal opportunity in retail stores

Recently I posted on my Facebook page: “Bouquets to Big W! I was served by a non-verbal person in their Brisbane store. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this was such a frequent occurrence I didn’t feel the need to comment?”

A friend immediately came back to me saying she thought she had been served by the same person. After some discussion we decided that yes, we were talking about the same checkout operator. My friend also commented about the positive experience and what a lovely smile she received with her change. I agree, when I signed thank you, I too received a big smile and a thank you and thumbs up, in return. Such a positive experience.

Policies exist in every company everywhere, they are a mandatory requirement for businesses. Equal opportunity is one of those policies easy to make, great motherhood statement and many businesses proudly boast of the ratio of men and women in their workforce. In a public service department where I worked they even did head counts of women and their grading. (The fact that women dominated the overall count reflected the number of low grade AO2/3 women, not any equality in opportunity). What is often overlooked is “equal opportunity” for men and women in our society who are a little different – not better, not worse – just different.

In posting to Facebook, I was not trying to shine a spotlight on the fact that the person didn’t speak, I wanted to acknowledge I received good service and that Big W put their money where their policy was. I am quick to let companies know when I don’t like their policies or receive bad service. It is only “equal opportunity” to praise them when the service is good, or they are doing something positive in the community.

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Likewise, I would love to live in a world where my comment was totally redundant because we were accustomed to the checkout operator who does not hear, speak, look or walk as I do or who chooses to cover their head with a hijab, turban, yarmulke etc.

The most difficult part of the comment was how to describe someone who does not talk. Non-verbal is the word I used, not to be politically correct, but because I find words such as “dumb,” “mute,” and “speech impaired” offensive, although I believe the medical term for inability to speak is “mute”. There is a language spoken and understood in the non-hearing, non-speaking world, AUSLAN; that it is not spoken by the majority of the community does not make it irrelevant. Different does not, and should never, equal “impaired”.

Whatever the semantics, I received excellent service from a checkout operator at Big W and I thank and congratulate both the person and the company.

I do not know the correct terms and apologise unreservedly if any term used in this article is offensive. I am willing to learn, welcome your input and will correct any such word – Karen


Have you had a similar experience to Karen where you saw equal opportunities in the stores or shops you frequent?