A woman who stammers says that a staff member at a Costa in Wakefield laughed twice as she stammered when ordering a tea.
She says that ordering a tea with lactose-free milk, she got stuck on “lac” and the staff member did a little laugh to herself. When the customer went to speak again, she says the staff member laughed again. The customer felt very uncomfortable. She tried to rush her words and kept tripping over them. She quickly got her order and ran out of the store as fast as she could.
She put the incident on Twitter. In a BBC video (bbc.co.uk) she says what has touched her more than anything is the amount of people who stammer contacting her. She called for raising awarness in customer-facing roles.
- It’s not OK to laugh at someone who stammers (stamma.org), Oct 2019 – article by her on the British Stammering Association website;
- Wakefield woman laughed at in coffee shop for stuttering (bbc.co.uk), with video, 26/9/19;
- Woman ‘humiliated’ after Costa Coffee staff member laughed at her stammer (mirror.co.uk), 23/9/19.
This sounds likely to be harassment contrary to Equality Act 2010.
Costa said in response that store teams receive disability awareness training. I wonder whether this includes training on stammering. If not, hopefully the publicity around incidents like this will encourage them to introduce stammering into their training.
The customer said in a TV interview that Costa had offered her 800 points on her Costa card, worth £8. This is a lot less than the hundreds of pounds compensation that might be awarded on a claim under the Equality Act: Complaints and going to court: services.
There is an article by her: It’s not OK to laugh at someone who stammers (stamma.org), Oct 2019. She says what she wanted was for Costa staff to be trained how to deal with people who stammer.