An African mum living, learning, and documenting the process.

Marcy Madzikanda: On work place attitude

As I clear notes from my phone I may just publish some that I think are still relevant. I wrote this last year. Held on to it as I didn’t want to be labelled as aggressive again… Then the pandemic and Mr George Floyd and the global protests. I wasn’t writing at that time. I shared a lot on my Instagram stories. Consumed a lot of content. I felt everything.

Although this was written a year ago. It is still relevant. I may write more about work place attitudes as I’ve been reflecting a lot on this and mulling over career pivots.?

Is it me or are staff at some establishments becoming increasingly rude? Why come to work with an IDGAF attitude? Have any other black people noticed it or am I being paranoid? I don’t believe so.

I have noticed this on numerous occasions from mainly European staff a lot more in recent years. I would like to think they know this is unacceptable behaviour, especially here, at least I thought but I must acknowledge the political environment has changed and there is an air of we can do and say anything without repercussions.

The more we talk openly about these experiences, the more stories we hear recounting similar experiences. This behaviour or attitude maybe acceptable in some cultures but I refuse to accept that, more so when unprovoked and definitely not when I am paying for a service.

What irks me more, is that they THINK they can act or say certain things because I’m Black? There was a time when I wouldn’t engage and I think many are operating on a misguided assumption that Black folk don’t want the embarrassment or ‘aggro’ and will quietly walk away. That may have been me to an extent but now… I will call out their BS and do so publicly.

I once went to a store selling shoes, in an Indian area circa 2012. The guy stocking shelves literally dropped his stock and ran to hover over as I browsed, at arms length. I was incensed. He gave some lame excuse about following his managers instruction. I told him a piece of my mind and walked out. The area is largely Asian. I used to have my grocery shopping delivered and one time the delivery person asked if the area was still racist? I said I hadn’t noticed as I worked and socialised in central London and never explored the area. Then the shoe shop incident.

I then noticed that staff in PAKS (black hair store run by Indians) did the same thing. How had I never noticed? If I had, why had it never angered me? Because I still needed to get my hair ‘did’ and there weren’t any black stores?!

I know we may at times notice these behaviours and choose to ignore them, buy that product or pay for that service but if we continue to do so how will they ever acknowledge their behaviour? Better yet how will we say enough is enough and mobilise to set our own stores, services and keep the Black currency in our own communities?

I haven’t stepped into PAKS since. I think this happened 2015/16. I came to the U.K. in 1995 and always used one of their two stores in Harlesden. Over time exclusively the store this happened, Craven Park branch. It had more products, easier to park and open seven days a week.

I had never noticed the intention behind staff running to the aisle and following my every move. I used to think they were being attentive until my last experience a few years ago. I questioned the guy about his behaviour and left the store and what I wanted.

I now buy what I need from Amazon (yes problematic but convenient and do need to wean myself of this platform), Asda, and since I discovered Shea Butter Cottage from small brands, however these options aren’t as competitively priced as the big stores – I understand why but this is not the point of this article. Since writing this I started seeing Enitan Hair coach and buying products from her as well.

What triggered this post was an incident in YO Sushi Westfield over the Easter Bank Weekend. I had wanted to go with my little one for awhile for the experience as she was older, having last been when she was a toddler. The first attendant directed us to a booth, the attendant managing that section wasn’t particularly friendly and I ignored it, thinking it was lunch hour, busy and that she was probably tired or having a bad day.

When it came to ordering, she wasn’t friendly when I enquired about the free kids meals and activity pack and placed a drinks order. Notice, I had to request the activity pack. Restaurants with these available automatically bring these to the table. Usually with the right attitude to match. She didn’t even bother with the crayons and I didn’t ask her. I carry my own to use in venues these aren’t provided. I left it because I empathised, thinking she was having a bad day and engaged with her pleasantly.

I had noticed some plates I wanted weren’t on the conveyor belt and she said I had to order them. After some time, one dish hadn’t appeared, I asked her. We were sat a step away from her till so she wasn’t going out of her way to come to our table. My little one wasn’t causing a scene and we were polite. The manner in which she spoke to me ‘irked me’. The points I’ve mentioned also shouldn’t matter. I am firstly a customer.

I then said to my partner “if people hate their job they really shouldn’t continue to work in that job if their going to be rude to people”. She was within earshot and heard me. Stopped what she was doing and glared. My partner said she can hear you. I said “I wanted her to hear, we are not here as a favour, we are paying customers”.

I am patient with retail and service staff because I know that is not a job I could have ever done without being sacked, snapping at a customer or walking out. With that in mind it must be noted that you have chosen to do that job and there is an expectation of the attitude on the job. If you are tired take a break. If you hate your job, get another. But don’t give attitude to your customers. Don’t bring your personal problems to work.

I swear white people seem to have liberties at the moment and these aren’t even Brits (though some are) but Eastern European’s looking at black folk here like filth. I went to pick up some shopping I had ordered online from Next recently and I had to say to the attendant your “attitude stinks working in retail” and she said “what’s your point”? I had to pick my child from school and had already been waiting for ages for her to find one of my packages I didn’t have time to pursue it. Because believe me I would have and have time for these issues. With most of cases when I say something I have given them at least three passes. After that point I know the person is rude and needs to be told.

I know others have talked about Superdrug security acting a certain way towards black people. Lidl giving free shopping vouchers for rude staff singling out black people. Alliance Francaise calling me aggressive when I pointed out inconsistencies in their conduct, when I was simply asking them to clarify their position. I could go on naming stores and people but yes that is exhausting for me and Black people as a whole. When I have decided to go and spend my money somewhere I expect to be respected.

Yes, we can keep it moving, or not engage, but what kind of world will my child grow up in if this behaviour goes unchallenged? I will continue to speak out because being rude is simply not okay.

Written in April 2019 never got round posting. Post events of summer 2020, one should probably read this article again and replace any reference to rude, attitude with racist.

Again the energy has shifted and people are need to remember we are not our ancestors.

Also worth pointing out is the success of Black Pound Day . Long may this continue.

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