George Jasonides is a regular at Spotlight. But when he walked into the Box Hill store on Monday 30 October he was shocked at the treatment he received.
The 24-year-old who has autism was accompanied by his carer Claudia who was allegedly told by one of the managers that he should be “put on a leash”, according to a Facebook post by his sister Natolé Jasonides.
“In the words of George’s carer: ‘I was crying in the car and George is traumatised. He’s never done anything wrong in that store. I don’t know her name but she told me to ‘put a leash on him’ she said ‘I’m the manager’. Then she followed us around the store like we were criminals. When I asked why, given he hasn’t hurt anyone or broken anything in the store, she said ‘Well he’s been here before and he scares people’,” Natolé recalled in her post.
“George was most definitely not breaking any law by visiting a place he regularly visits. This manager was rude and aggressive towards George’s carer and made it very clear that George was not welcome. In fact, she slammed the door of her office while the carer tried to speak in his defence.”
Made to feel unwelcome, George and his carer left the store.
But the incident had a continued effect on George, his sister telling Kidspot that her brother wasn’t himself all week following the incident, going to bed early as a coping mechanism.
“He keeps saying ‘no school’ which is his way of saying ‘no outing’,” Natolé said.
“He is good at sensing vibes – so the situation obviously didn’t sit well with him.”
While she said that this is the first time George has experienced this in a Spotlight store, the 27-year-old said that her brother is boisterous but completely harmless, and admitted that they have had their fair share of ignorant reactions from strangers, which she is devastated “still exists in modern society”.
“George’s pleasures in life are simple: a trip to the shops, a visit to the library, a smile, a conversation with a stranger and kindness. In saying that, as human beings it is a basic human right to have the ability to freely access the community,” Natolé said in her post. “I truly thought we had transcended as people – especially in Australia.”
In response to the incident, Spotlight released a statement to 7 News in which they disclosed that they were currently in contact with George’s family to offer “our sincere apologies on behalf of the Spotlight team”.
“We have spoken to the store team in question and wish to express that any offence that was given, does not reflect the values of Spotlight,” the statement read.
“We are a family business committed to our communities and our doors are open to all. We have taken statements from all staff members and all of them say those words about ‘on a leash’ were not used.”