Foreign coffee shops in England ~ can you understand me?

4 09 2008

Last week I was in Wimbledon and I got bored waiting for my friend to turn up, so I popped into a shop nearby for coffee. It was a little place called Tchibo. A staff member approached me and told me that dogs weren’t allowed in the shop. I explained he’s a Hearing Dog which is an Assistance Dog. She walked away and I thought ‘Whew, that was easy’.

Two minutes later, another staff member walked up and told me that dogs weren’t allowed in the shop. Now, this shop was pretty small and the staff members had been within ten feet of each other. I would’ve thought they could hear conversations quite easily in the shop as it was also very quiet. Or perhaps they just thought I needed telling more than once.

I explained again that my dog is a Hearing Dog, not a pet. That a Hearing Dog has the same rights as a Guide Dog for the Blind. She didn’t believe me. I opened my bag and dug around for his identity cards, one which states he is an official Hearing Dog and one which is an endorsement from the Department of Health. I showed her the cards. I pointed out his Hearing Dogs for Deaf People coat. She said they couldn’t allow dogs in the shop. I explained, yet again, that he has the same rights as a Guide Dog for the Blind. She said … (wait for it) ….

(Assistant) – But you’re not blind!

* Blinking rapidly in disbelief at what she’s just said …
(me) – Too RIGHT I’m not blind! I’m DEAF! And he’s my HEARING DOG! These are his identity cards. Do you think I’m making all this up?!

(Assistant) – You’re very rude!

(me) – No. I’m NOT being rude. I’m simply trying to explain to you my legal rights and your legal duty.

She stood there glaring at me. She just didn’t understand. No matter what I said. I sighed.

(me) – Why don’t you just leave me alone to do my shopping like everyone else?

I then turned around, ignored her, and she left me alone. After I left, I emailed Tchibo’s head office and explained what had happened. I didn’t expect to get a reply at all.

Well, surprise, surprise.

A couple of days later, I got an email from them and they said they were sorry to hear what had happened and would be investigating.

Today, I got a letter from Tchibo customer services. The letter said customer feedback is most valuable to them and they take all complaints very seriously. The sales assistants were not aware of Hearing Dogs at the time of my visit, they said. Ho hum. I had given them some free, personal training and they chose not to listen. Where does ‘not aware’ come in? I was assured this incident would not happen again and they had not intended to cause offence. They are taking steps to ensure such problems do not happen again.

And they apologised. Sincerely.

And they even enclosed a voucher. Wow.

Kudos to them for doing something positive about staff training and deaf awareness, and for being willing to foster good customer relations.

– I might even go back and try those assistants out again *wink*



One response

4 09 2008

un ..leave… i think they should have done more to make it up to you. you really could have caused more of a fuss (i.e. legal action…) and they should be kneeling at your feet thanking you that you didnt.

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