An open letter to Countdown Greenlane

I sent this to Countdown/Progressive Enterprises via their customer support page tonight, 18th of November. I will also publish the response I receive, apparently I can expect it in three working days. I’m interested to hear from other women and customer service staff their thoughts on this incident, feel free to tweet me: @antheaw

Tēna koe,

I want to report on an incident in your Greenlane store this evening at 7pm from a customer perspective. I hope it has already been reported by staff and I would like to know follow up actions, as well as provide my own suggestions.

From the pet care aisle of the store I heard shouting coming from the checkout area at about 6:50pm, a woman screaming and shouting at a man. I assumed it was a domestic issue, and I had seen a security person at the store entrance when I arrived. I felt sure the matter would be resolved quickly.

It continued however, and was still in full swing when I arrived at the checkout area, busy with social purchases at this time on a Saturday night. A woman in her late twenties was shouting at a man of a similar age to get away from her and that he reminded her of someone who had hurt her.

I witnessed other customers standing around staring, and staff doing the same. The checkout operator was fulfilling their tasks of sales and taking payment from these two separate customers.

I garnered further details but hope to convey the most useful information to Countdown for handling such matters.

It would have been appropriate for one of the customers to have been escorted to complete their purchase at another checkout. Either of them.

In this scenario, the woman was very distressed. I approached her gently and I tried to gather if she was going to be driving (she shouldn’t have in her state) and if there was someone who I could call for her. She just wanted to get out of there and repeated that.

I had items to pay for and a personal obligation to meet immediately, otherwise I would have left my items and stayed to support her. She paid and left.

I paid for my items (receipt marked 7:02pm) and looked for the woman in the car park. I am still concerned for her wellbeing and wasn’t able to locate her. I did see a staff member from Countdown standing outside.

In this incident, I would have liked to have seen a supervisor approach her to ask if she was safe, if she could be helped.

The customers concerned did not actually know each other but the woman thought the man looked like someone who had abused her and so was triggered into this episode.

Someone should have stood between her and this person, and supported her. She should have been taken to a private space and offered support and a phone, her wellbeing needed care.

I would like to know whether there are any procedures in place for handling instances like this in your stores, what they are, and whether there is any training given to your staff to handle these situations.

The event could have been upsetting to staff on duty, and I hope they are well supported too.

Could you please advise what your policies on this are, how they are upheld, and what else has been reported on this incident please.

I do expect a personal response please.

Thank you,
Anthea Whittle