The Right Not To Be Offended?

SUPERMARKET staff allegedly refused to serve a woman after claiming her Help for Heroes charity wristband meant she supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beth Hoyle, of Whitworth, claims she was turned away from the tills at Asda in Dane Street, because the checkout operator objected to ‘what she was wearing’.

The ‘stunned’ mum-of-three said: “My hand instinctively went to the Celtic cross around my neck. But the young lad on the till said it wasn’t that, pointed to my Help for Heroes wristband and accused me of supporting the war. I told him it was nothing to do with the war, but about supporting our injured troops.”

Mrs Hoyle, whose brother is an ex-paratrooper, complained to a supervisor but was shocked to hear he backed his staff member’s approach.

She added: “I immediately complained to a supervisor, but he said the cashier was entitled to his opinion and it was his right not to serve me. I was disgusted.”

-From the Rochdale Observer, H/T a lovely lady on Face Book.

I’ve been thinking about supermarkets lately, thanks in part to JD’s Infamous Ketchup Rant, and also partly because the company I work for, while not a supermarket, is sufficiently similar to warrant comparisons.

As far as I’m aware, it is perfectly within the rights of retail staff to refuse to serve anyone they wish, although I’d struggle to find the relevant sections in retail law. I’m willing to be corrected/enlightened on this. I imagine that the idea is to provide some recourse against abusive or threatening customers and not to protect staff against having their sensibilities offended. In my opinion, while you are on the clock, your sensibilities belong to your employer, and if your employer is not offended by charity bracelets, burkhas or Guy Fawkes masks then tough. Your employer has (or should have, as I said, I’m not sure in this case) the absolute right not to employ you anymore if you don’t like it.

But I digress. What I’m trying to get at here is the growing assumption that we have the right not to be offended. This till clerk obviously thought he did. He’s against the war, you see. Noble cause and all that so he’s offended by the Help For Heroes bands. Big deal, I’m offended by all those charity bands, the idea that putting a pound in a tin -once- makes you look wonderful in the eyes of others until the bands rot off your wrists. I once even spent several months wearing a band with ‘The Legend Of Zelda‘ on it, in protest. I’m not a christian any more, but the story about the beggar hiding his donation while the rich man showed all and sundry his largesse stayed with me. Anyway, my views on charity wristbands aside, I’d never refuse to serve a customer with one on, and I’d expect to be in serious trouble if I did.

The roots of all this lie, I believe, in all those local news stories concerning people with pig ornaments in their windows being prosecuted by the council in case they “offend muslims” (that actually happened to a lady living a few streets away from me), renaming christmas events and the like. Once one or two groups suddenly had the right not to be offended the idea grew and grew until we’re in the situation we are today, where televison comics can lose their jobs for lampooning the appearance of swimmers. This poor youngster is presumably going to lose their job- if not over this (If that right is protected in law) then over the next technical gross misconduct (that retail firms rountinely force their employees to commit in order to do their jobs, and turn a blind eye until just this sort of eventuality) for behaving in a way that they have been taught -by local and national news, by society, by the very zeitgeist- is correct.

The situation is ridiculous, and getting worse. Could we have Muslim checkout operators refusing to serve pork? Hindu ones refusing beef? Jehovah’s Witness bus drivers refusing to drive buses with blood donation adverts on the side? The country would grind to a halt. Nobody has the right not to be offended. I’ve long held that the fault lies with the offendee rather than the offender, for letting themselves get so easily riled.

In effect, this country needs to grow up.

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One response to “The Right Not To Be Offended?

  1. Try refusing to serve someone because he’s black, or (gasp!) Muslim, and see how far it gets you.

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