My husband often says that racism is a rife as ever, and up until today I have always been able to rebut his comments. Because in all my 29 years, as a woman of mixed heritage I can honestly say that I have never directly experienced racism. Something that has given me faith that there are some good people out there. That said, just because I have been fortunate enough never to experience it does not mean im naive enough to think that it doesn’t exist. It does. What I wasnt expecting however was to find it in my local Waitrose, lurking behind the till.
Of course you may be thinking you silly woman, you, Waitrose?! How can you be so surprised? But I really was. Because whenever I have shopped there, I have never been greeted or regarded with anything but politeness, friendliness and the best customer service. It’s what keeps me shopping there. But that was noticably absent today as I got to the checkout, precariously balancing the little lady on one hip and using all my strength to keep hold of a heaving basket of shopping in my hand on the other side. Usually shopping isn’t such a physical exertion, but I stupidly decided to leave the pushchair in the car thinking I was just running in to grab a few bits, and that if I had any difficulty that one of the Waitrose employees would probably help me. In fact I would be so bold as to admit that I expected they would help me. Not because they are Waitrose, but because I would expect that in most of the places I would go. I don’t think expecting or asking an employee to help you pack your grocery bags or carry them out to the car is a lot to ask, especially when you have a little one with you. But this afternoon it would seem it was. I knew as soon as I put my items on the conveyor belt that the lady behind the checkout wasnt going to help me pack my bags. I wanted to be wrong, but I wasnt. I said hello and smiled, watching as the middle aged woman behind the checkout offered me a cursory glance whilst she scanned my items then proceeded to watch me struggle with the little lady on my hips as I packed my own bags. She just watched me and waited. She didn’t smile, she didn’t offer any help or conversation, and when I left she mumbled what felt like a forced goodbye in reply to my own bewildered goodbye. In the end it wasnt so much the appaling customer service that marked this interaction, but the fact that she clearly didnt want to serve or talk to me.
Now I know I cant assume just like that, that it was race related. I am only too aware of how different ones perspective can be from anothers. For all I know she could have been having a bad day, she could have been feeling unwell, the possibilities are endless, although it doesn’t excuse it. But I do know how her service, or rather the lack of it made me feel. I’m not one to claim racism, but I have to say, for the first time in my life I feel like I may have experienced it..
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/54851530@N04/5080593765/”>greggavedon.com</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>