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Help Them Learn, Don’t Make Them Burn

, , , , , , | Right | July 12, 2022

I am collecting carts in my store’s parking lot. I am at the front of the store giving directions to a driver to our overflow parking.

Me: “You just round the corner, past the handicap parking, and you’ll see the sign.”

Driver: “Thanks so much!”

They drive away, and then, I feel an aggressive tap on my shoulder. I turn around to see a very angry woman glaring at me.

Customer: “You ableist piece of s***!”

Me: *Shocked* “What?”

Customer: “I can’t believe you f****** said that word! ‘Handicap’ is offensive to the disabled, you piece of s***!”

Me: “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know. It’s just always been called that since I’ve worked here.”

Customer: “Get your manager! You need to go on sensitivity training, you ableist trash!”

Upset and shocked, I go get my manager, who listens to the customer.

Manager: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I did not know that particular word was inappropriate, and neither did my member of staff. I’ll be happy to circulate that knowledge to all employees.”

Customer: “And what about him?” *Glaring at me*

Manager: “What about him?”

Customer: “Obviously, you’re going to fire him?”

Manager: “Ma’am, he didn’t know that word was offensive. Now he does. He can’t be punished for not knowing.”

Customer: “That is unacceptable! You fire him right now or I am calling corporate!”

Manager: “Ma’am, please calm down. No one is trying to be offensive here. It was a simple mistake, and we will do what we can to rectify this as soon as possible.”

The customer glares at my name badge and then storms off. My manager reassures me I have done nothing wrong, but a few days later, we get a Human Resources representative visit from corporate to review the “incident.” I am suspended without pay for three weeks while they do this, and I can barely make rent. I get that I unintentionally used an offensive word, but maybe give me the chance to learn from it before immediately bringing out the pitchforks?

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