Dear Mr Woolies...from Nancy

Sunday 14 April 2013

Dear Mr Woolies,

Yes -  I know that’s not your real name but mine isn’t Lissen either – and that’s what your Manager kept calling me when he bawled me out recently.

“Lissen” he hissed…and he hissed it quite a few times which is pretty funny when you think about it – him trying to determine if I really WERE a deaf (and dear) little old lady – and all.

But I digress…

A few days ago one of your stores disgraced itself (for the first time? I have to ask.) It refused entry to a woman who obviously needed (and had) a properly-vested Assistance Dog with her. That’s illegal.

To salve your conscience and make her humiliation go away (Haha!) you threw to a Charity, a few of the dollars you make… (Aussie family businesses spring to mind.) And then it’s HiHo! and off we go to play on our very own Pokies and do WooliesWheelies on our considerable pieces of land and even better - see how much more cheap milk we can squeeze out of the teats of the few cows that remain in this country. Have I got it right?

But I digress…again!

The thing is, Mr Woolies…I got so angry I threw a tweet out on Friday night to the Twitter Cyber Space – you know, that 5th Estate called Social Media?


I may just as well have thrown my nifty little iPhone right into one of your BBQ'd chickens. Talk about MeltDown. Boy! If I hadn’t felt loved before, I certainly do now. Because, Mr Woolies…the 5th Estate is all about reaching out to people – REAL people…you know the ones? The ones that CARE about other people; the ones that by and large are not purple in the face from gobbling and stashing too many dollars under their tongues. (Heavens are you friends with Rupe and…gulp…Gina?)

Anyways! My tweet simply pointed out that you had kicked me and my dog out of a store also.

Thousands of people have read that Tweet now, Mr Woolies and I haven’t yet identified one that isn’t angry, shocked and ashamed of you. One, Andrew Elder, a wondrously intelligent blogger I’m cheeky enough to call a friend, suggested I write to you and invoke my little Granddaughters’ wrath upon your head. But somehow I think, on this one, I have to stand up for myself and all of the dear souls who cope with disability each and every day of their lives.

Here are the facts:

1.      Deaf since birth, aged 73 and living alone, I rely heavily on my Assistance Dog, Gilly who is worth MILLIONS (to me)
2.     I trained Gilly myself because I really do understand - after 73 years of owning and training  dogs and being deaf - what it is I need
3.     We’ve just moved to a new location by the sea
4.    One of your stores is walking distance from us
5.     Recently I went to this store
6.     I’ve always known that it’s required by law for Assistance Dogs to be identified by a vest that says ‘Trained by….’ or some such so I’ve NEVER tried to take Gilly inside a store. He doesn’t have such a vest
7.     However as this was my first trip to your store and I’m acutely conscious that Gilly is an extremely attractive little dog and has already survived one kidnap event, I tied him up as close to the entrance as possible
8.     Then I approached one of your staff whose job it is to stand at the entrance to direct people
9.     I asked her if she would mind just keeping an eye on Gilly now and then as I’m extremely dependent upon him and it’s pretty easy to slip a dog lead – if you’re of a mind to do that
10.  Well…talk about Mother Teresa…without hesitation she said, “Look if he’s an Assistance Dog, take him inside”
11.     I said “Are you sure?  I trained him myself and he doesn’t have a vest”
12.   “No, that’s fine” she said. “Take him in”
13.   So I did
14.  We had a great time
15.   Gilly didn’t pee on anything or molest the meat in the deli and certainly didn’t bite anyone on the bum
16.   Mind you…he did lead me to the Dog Biscuits…just like a kid knows where the Lollies are
17.   Anyway…I’d filled up my basket (No cheap milk though)… when this man came rushing up…right into my face (Latham’s handshake comes to mind)
18.   “Lissen” he said. “I don’t know that you’re deaf. You can’t have that dog in here. You’ll have to get out”
19.   “But…but” I protested. “Your staff INVITED us in”
20. “Then they were WRONG” he hissed. “You’re talking normally…how am I supposed to know if you’re deaf or not?”
21.   Now by this time, a crowd had gathered
22.  I can lip-read
23.  “Oerr” they said. Has she been caught shop-lifting?”
24. “Lissen” said the man who I now realized was the Manager. “Go and get a vest from the Lions” and he took out his phone as if to ring them on the spot.
25.  “Oerr” said the crowd. “He’s ringing the cops.”
26.  I’d had enough so I told the Manager I was leaving
27.  “Lissen” he said. “You can take take your goods…just pay for them on the way out
28.  He did NOT like the fact that I tipped everything out on to the counter and left, humiliated but with dignity intact
30. I must point out that the female staff were also much distressed
29.  I shall never return

The thing is, Mr Woolies, that you have every right to take the letter of the law into your own hands …but you have NO right to try to take a person’s dignity away.

I DID ring the Lions and they said they couldn’t provide me with a vest for Gilly because they didn’t train him. I understand. It’d be just terrible for the Lions if my Spoodle (Poodle/Cocker Spaniel X) Gilly started acting like a trained-to-kill mastiff of some kind.

And yes, I know that I could get some legal dog-trainer-company-whatever to assess him and provide a vest. But hey! I’m old and Gilly’s 6 and in his middle years. How do I get them to understand that THESE are the things my dog does for me?

·      When my alarm goes off he puts his paw on my face…until I tell him to sod off (nicely)
·      When the milkman comes from AussieFarmersDirect around midnight, he runs back and forth to let me know that the lovely man with the light on his head has put my goods on my doorstep
·      He tells me if someone I haven’t noticed, is trying to speak to me
·      If a cyclist rushes up behind me, he pulls me off the path
·      He tells me when an email has arrived and when the postman comes
·      He identifies the ambulance and the firetrucks and sings along with them too
·      In fact he knows each and every sound I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
·      But he also reminds me that I must appreciate I have my sight and there are beautiful things to see, like bark on the trees and the sand blowing in the wind and the moon and rock pools teeming with innocent life
·      He helps me forget that you reminded me that when I was a child I was bullied by boys with sticks as the ‘little kid who cannot hear’
·      He licks my hand when I get a bit sad…over…people like you. The ones that foster this bullying and greed in an ever-growing, uncaring climate-change of cruelty and inhumanity to fellow man.

No, Mr Woolies, I won’t be coming back to give you a second chance. My forebears started a grocery chain called Moran & Cato many years ago. It was built on sound business principles of quality and turnover and nothing over 2/6d. But most importantly of all, it was built on Customer Service and compassion for those in need.

The irony is, Mr Woolies that the true wealth in this country is in its people - like those who flew to my defence.

You would be well served to start looking after them…  as well as you look after yourself.




  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much Robyn. I really appreciate your support.

  2. Oh Nancy - this is a wonderfully penned piece about such an abhorrent experience.
    About a year ago, I wrote to Mr Woolies to tell him I won't ever be shopping there again because they are on of the biggest investors in poor people's misery in the form of poker machines.
    Now I have a second huge reason not to shop at Mr Woolies place ever again.
    Big hugs to you, lovely Nancy.
    I have never met you, but I love you anyway.

    1. The feeling is entirely mutual Ros. Thank you so much for your lovely comments.

    2. Dear Nancy, My heart is just sick for you and the greed and harshness of the wool & cole-opoly! I go to farmers markets and my community garden here in Perth and if I could send you and your beautiful dog my e book cookbook Wilder by the Dozen ~ Bon Appetit, I'd be honoured. If you were closer, I'd make a delicious recipe for you both and including a big (virtual) hug! I foster care safe dogs and grey hounds when I am able too!

  3. Nancy, I gave up shopping at the big supermarkets ages ago - mostly because of the cheap milk thing and then they introduced those self-serve checkouts to further dehumanise the whole consumption process - but this just stiffens my resolve even further.
    The irony is that at the same time as workplace and school bullying is being addressed by government, our corporate-capitalist system is rewarding the same behaviour in companies like Woolies and individuals like Gina and Rupert.
    Hugs to Gilly too! :-)

    1. You are so right Robin. We have many ways available to us to make a stand. I think this experience has sorted out for me how accepting we become of dehumanisation if it's handed out to us often enough. Thank you so much for your support.

  4. Retweeted to my 1000+ followers. Hope they retweet it down the line. The little cretin deserves, at the least, a demotion. And a written apology to you. No excuse for this, simply NONE.

    And re the no service checkouts - they are shocking. Not self service, no service. Effectively you are working for them, for free, if you use them. They are then able to sack another employee and increase their already disgusting profit margin. I never shop at Woolworths, mainly because of the no service aisles (not to mention their prices). This is just another good reason to ditch them.

    1. I've been totally taken aback by the responses I've received to this, Alison. I do hope they have a look at the way they're going. I can't bear what's happening to our small Aussie say nothing of our Dairy Farmers. Thank you so much for the support.

  5. Replies
    1. Michael if you never say another word to me for the rest of your life...I shall be content with this one! Thank you!

  6. Shared on my facebook account, you and Gilly have dignity and grace and the manager of Woolies at this store, clearly is a jobsworth with no respect.

    1. Thank you Polka Dot Rabbit! I can't tell you how many new words I've learnt since writing this piece. Haha! And thank you!

  7. shared this to the Woolworths Facebook page

    1. I'll be interested to see if you get a response, novel-lover! There have been over 6000 hits for this piece so it must have had SOME effect. Thank you for your action.

    2. Hi Nancy,

      Not one response from Woolworths. Very disappointing.

      Kind regards


  8. I don't use Twitter much, and so I just had to have a look and it is great to see you have plenty of support. I am pleased you made the effort to make a fuss about an unpleasant experience, if that is not understating it.

    1. That's very kind of you, Andrew. I must confess to loving Twitter. I have been utterly overwhelmed by the support...thank you!

  9. Apart from all your drama at that store, I got teary then had a giggle that your dear dog tells you when an email arrives. What a wonder dog he is! I hope you can find another store who, once introduced to you, will allow you to shop in peace with your doggie mate.

    Cheers - Joolz

    1. Thank you Joolz. I'm so glad you were able to share a laugh with me. Gilly is a great little dog...we have no idea of the acute sense of hearing and smell dogs have. And as for the intelligence and unconditional love...well!

  10. I have MS, which made me quite angsty for while. After I got over myself, I thought "surely there must be positives to this"? And of course there are positives to everything. I decided I would set some goals. I would get a walking stick and a disabled parking permit. Those goals took several years, but last year I got a stick. It's a fancy foldy one with polka dots on it that I pull out of my handbag & unfold when I need. About 3 months ago I got a disabled parking permit that I use when I need it.
    Several years ago I read about a woman in Vermont, USA who has MS & has a helper monkey. HOW AWESOME IS THAT? So I have some new goals. Maybe in a 20 years or so, I might have an electric wheelchair and a helper monkey. I'm not so keen on the electric wheelchair, but I'd really LOVE a helper monkey.
    And while I am disgusted that in 2013 you are having to battle to have your dog allowed in the supermarket, I am also grateful to you for pioneering for the rights of people with helper animals. I only hope that I should be as eloquent as you in a similar situation. Alas, I think my hypothetical helper monkey & I would let our emotions get the better of us & resort to flinging poo.

    1. Hahaha! Oh Goshling...that made me laugh. I think you absolutely MUST have a Helper Monkey. I'm so sorry to hear that you have MS but thrilled that you are finding positives...and using them. Do let me know when the monkey arrives. ;0D

  11. Appalled to hear of this shabby treatment of you, Nancy. I've dropped Woolies a note on their facebook advising them I'll be shopping elsewhere. Any others who are sympathetic may also do so here.

    1. What can I say, Jacob? I'm so grateful for all the kindness being shown through Social Media. I wonder if Woolies care about your action? Do let me know if you get a response. Thank you!

  12. "Name & Shame" - the suburb in which the Woolworthless store in question is located should be disclosed; there are quite a lot of them, and it would be enormously helpful to know which one to avoid!

    1. I do understand how you feel Dr Keats, but I was concerned about other innocent employees and decided to leave the matter in the hands of the upper echelon of Woolies themselves. I've found AussieFarmersDirect to be a wonderful substitute and smaller grocery stores for whatever else I need. Thank you for leaving a is appreciated.

  13. Its truly sad to see how "customer service " has evolved into "human disservice ". Thanks for sharing, Nancy.

    1. My absolute pleasure, trevorez. Thank you so much for the support.

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  15. I guess they say you have to have a "registered" guide/assistance dog because if they didn't every bogan on the planet would try to take their mutt into the stores.

    Having said that, the Manager should be fired immediately for what he did, and Woolworths heavily fined.

    Good on you, Nancy, for sticking up for your rights - I particularly like the "tipping the groceries out on the counter and walking out"

    1. Jon...I totally agree with you. There have to be laws and guidelines to create parameters beyond which we do not stray. The only point I wanted to make was that there are always humane ways to go about things...and this example isn't one of them.

  16. Salute love. You're a true aussie battler. Its sad that society doesn't reflect what corporate capitalism (power/money hungry idiots who have no social/moral conscience)

    There are still good people in australia love :)

    1. Too right there are...and I'm meeting them every day through Social Media, Kevin. I cannot stand the way monopolies are riding roughshod over the smaller businesses...and causing dreadful social harm along the way.

  17. Nancy,

    That was beautiful. Horrible, but still beautiful. And Gilly sounds like a dead-set champion!

    1. Thank you Tom. I loved the way you expressed that..."horrible, but still beautiful." And Gilly IS a dead-set champion. I'll post a pic of him when this all dies down - can't have him getting a swollen ear!

  18. Oh Nancy... what a tosser. I love that you stand up for yourself. I love that you stand up for your dog. I love that you do it on a blog. And I love that you support your Aussie farmers.

    Keep seeing the beautiful, amazing, generous, wonderful things in your life. This experience may not be among those things (although that lovely girl who invited you in should be) but the response to your story should give you much joy. There is much good in this world.


    1. You are so right Amanda...the response has me gob-smacked. People have been totally supportive and kind and I'm immeasurably grateful. Thank you for your lovely comments.

  19. Nancy, I've just read this post ... the link forwarded via twitter from a friend ... good old twitter.

    I'm appalled to hear that you were treated in this manner. I'm hoping the 5th estate will have an impact on the powers-that-be at Woollies and that the officious, ignorant person and others of his ilk responsible for treating you this way will get a severe ticking off. I hope the apology from the Woolworth's hierarchy is already in the mail.

    What a splendid dog your Gilly sounds. Give him a tickle behind the ear for me if that is his thing. I know that my girl ... the Border Collie Who Must Be Obeyed ... loves it.

    Take care.

    1. Hello Kate...good old Twitter indeed. This experience has really opened my eyes to a tiny taste of the potential of the 5th Estate. One of my sons - a Senior Communications Manager of a large corporation wrote to them today and they had no idea about it...thinking he was referring to the 'other incident' with the woman not allowed into a store with her properly-vested dog. Gilly said to tell you he will take a tickle anywhere he can grab one. ;0D Thank you for your response.

  20. So proud of you and Gilly! Many congratulations on your stance, in response to the commiserations of your appalling treatytment from a dickhead!

    May you and Gilly enjoy many years of fun, laughter, good health, fine food - including doggie treats - and great company, together!

    Fondest regards, Robyn

    1. Haha! Thank you Robyn. I appreciated your comments enormously but Gilly wants to know if he has to share his 'doggie treats' with me. ;0D

  21. Thank you Nancy, this is an awesome piece, I'm in the business of teaching "customer service" and guess what? - this gorgeous piece of yours is going to be printed and circulated to some 150 uni students with instructions to share with at least another 5 people each!
    Well done, keep up the good fight - we have a dog and I am paranoid about him being "dognapped" and one of the 2 legged children has to stay outside the store with the 4 legged one...Give Gilly a pat...I know what you mean about the "sad" bit...

    1. Oh my Goodness! Really? How absolutely fabulous (to coin a phrase!) I couldn't be more delighted. Please give your students my love with the handout. And yes...Gilly has had his pat...and then suggested he deserved another!

  22. Nancy,

    You have style. Go, you strong woman. Shame on you, Mr Woolies.

    If Gilly gets a pat for every 10th person on your side, she is in doggy fantasy land. Deservedly so.

    How clever of you to teach her all those things.

    I wonder if the local council, perhaps on your doctor's advice, can offer some assistance to verify Gilly, just as they do with disabled stickers. An official tag on her collar or something.

    Apart from anything else, that man(ager) needs a lesson or two in good manners and polite behaviour. Seems big business isn't into building intangible assets anymore, i.e. public relations.


    1. Hello Hannah. Gilly was a little embarrassed about asking me to tell you that he's a bloke. Haha! I'm very touched by your kind words - who knows where this might lead...a little less discrimination for those who may not yet have a voice I hope. Thank you!

    2. Oh dear, Gilly, I'm very, very sorry. I'm getting old and I don't see as well as I used to. I'm very impressed with the work you do, though, and even a little bit jealous of your 'mum' for having you. What a pair you must be, proud and caring for each other and never deserving of what happened that day. Nasty man, that manager. He could take a page from your book on How to Be A Good Bloke.

      I agree with you, Nancy. I do hope this whole ugly and unnecessary experience leads him and anyone else who's read your letter to realise there is no need for outburst before facts, or rudeness over civility.

      Big pats for that clever bloke, Gilly.

  23. So true
    I think the "response to bullying is placate the heartbroken..when our "leaders' fall over to grovel and pander to the Ginas and Ruperts and assorted psychopaths of this world
    Nancy- I am posting ur link on my fb..have had a growing disgust worth Woolworths over the last 10 years..and this incident means I will do my level best never to spend any money in any business WW owns

  24. To state the bleeding obvious
    children learn from example.. and corporations and "leaders" are responsible for setting poor examples
    Address the cause of the problem- rather than the symptoms

    I hope the report of this disgraceful incident goes "viral" on social media..
    reap the whirlwind Woolworths

    1. I love your passion Poppy and thank you for taking time to leave your comments - all duly noted. I'm grateful and appreciative.

  25. thank You Nancy..such a gracious answer..the very least I could do
    24 hours later and I still feel really angry ... and..mystifyingly..embarrassed...
    pondering on when Australia changed the person came to think that was acceptable behaviour...

    Woolworths have a fb page..of you can refresh their memory at

  26. Poppy - I think all forms of discrimination have been with us since the first boatloads were forced to settle here in 1788. But as with everything else that goes on, we are so much more aware of it because of the internet. I'm touched by your concern and feel confident that you will do your bit by calling it out for what it is, whenever you see it.

  27. Dear Nancy, I'm 55 years old and a Writer-Producer and Journalist (used to be "The Age Green" Guide's children's/family columnist). I never missed your shows when I was a kid. You know what? You're still my hero! 0:) Ellen 0:)

  28. Oh Ellen - how fantastic is that! And you were one of 'my kids' that have never left my heart. I'm so thrilled that you bothered to leave this message and I certainly remember your name. Thank you!

  29. Dear Nancy,

    You may be interested in this story on Page 9 of the 'Frankston Leader' which describes a similar situation at Woolworths inCarrum Downs.
    Frankston Leader 22 April 2013 Page 9.

    A young woman who has epilepsy and uses an assistive dog received an apology after she was asked to leave the store.

    My colleague, who is undertaking a study of access issues in local supermarkets, pointed this story out and I thought you might be interested

    Kate (@wetherby2012) on Twitter.

  30. Thank you Kate. It was actually that story that prompted me to write this piece out of support. I wasn't going to do anything about my situation because as I pointed out, the Manager was quite within his rights - my dog having been trained by me and not a recognised authority. However, Mr Woolies obviously takes no notice of the impact that Social Media can have...and after more than 10,000 hits on this piece, I would suggest that that is not very wise.