It’s lovely to see equal opportunity in retail stores 39



View Profile

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.

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? 

Karen O'Brien-Hall

I've had many careers in my life and loved each one! My new career blossomed when I retired and become an OAP. I am passionate about childhood literacy, books in general and my garden. I love Ballet, Opera, Concerts, Theatre, (both professional and community) and Movies. I tend to have opinions on most things and enjoy a good debate about the topic, not the person. In my thirties, I married my GOM (Gorgeous or Grumpy Old Man) the love of my life.

  1. Good on Big W or any place of employment who gives everyone an opportunity! I’ve been a special educator for many years and an advocate for anyone with a difference. My local supermarkets both employ people who wouldn’t have been several years ago. A change in acceptance and tolerance is wonderful to see!!!!!

  2. I gave been served byca deaf boy at big w bendigo vic.he has a board with greetings written on it and to say he doesnt speak.has the loveliest smile and is a pleasure to be xx served by.havent seen him recently but sure he is still there.keep up the good work!

  3. There is a young man at big w bendigo a perfect gentleman he really doesn’t have to utter a word he wears a little badge saying he can’t speak

  4. I agree with you Wendy Atkins. I know the person you are talking about and he has a wonderful smile……. I too enjoy being served by him in the store in Bendigo…..

  5. Yes I was served in Coles by a young girl with one arm She was on the till packing my bag at the same time Certainly as good as anyone else Pleasant attitude and happy to have her job

  6. This should be forwarded to Big W Bendigo. The kid is obviously good at his job and deserves qudos.

  7. It’s great to see, Coles where I live also have some people in their fifties and sixties with disabilities.

  8. I’m disappointed! I thought you meant some young chippy who didn’t ask you how your day is going, or whether you have plans for the weekend! Sometimes when I’ve had a hard day at work, or have had grandchildren with me, I just want to get my stuff and get out of there! I don’t want to discuss my plans or lack thereof with someone who doesn’t really care or who’s not really interested, especially when they are young enough to be my grandchild! And yes, I fear I am turning into a Grumpy Old Woman!

    4 REPLY
    • I know most of the young ones who work at our local Woolies shop and I must say, I enjoy the chatter. Each to their own. I find it rude if I step up and don’t even get a hello. They don’t have to ask me my life story but just politeness in this day and age is nice, both sides of the counter!

  9. There are two hearing impaired folk in local businesses I use. Always a welcoming smile and great service from them. I also have a number of hearing and sight impaired customers that use my business regularly. Transactions are always fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *