What Fresh Madness Is This?




DecR writes:

I really hope you can highlight this document on Broadsheet. It was found today in Fresh supermarket in Grand Canal Dock {Dublin]  and is about restriction on staff use of their own languages – even among themselves.

It starts quite sympathetically – but then gets sharper and sharper towards the end. I think it deserves wide attention so that the many people of foreign descent who spend freely in Fresh every day can make an informed decision about where they take their business.

I have used Fresh in Grand Canal Dock every day since it first opened. There are Polish, Brazilians, Romanians, Chinese, Hungarians and more – several of whom I have gotten to know over the years.

Only last Thursday, during lunchtime I was asked by someone doing an in-store survey for Fresh what the best thing about the shop was – my answer “the staff”. Language has  never been an issue to anyone I have ever seen over all those years (Perhaps FRESH can prove different).

Sure – there may be some disaffected misanthropes who complain over such things. But it is incumbent on a responsible business like Fresh to filter feedback the “crazies”.

Particularly galling in this document is the lip-service to valuing “multiple cultures”. Multiple cultures – fine. So long as it fits our in-store mono-culture. I’d love to know if other customer facing businesses have a similar ethos?


147 thoughts on “What Fresh Madness Is This?

  1. Soundings

    Some miffed middle-manager thinking the Poles are talking about him (it’s usually a him) behind his back?

      1. AlisonT

        It all seems fair enough as it is rude to exclude others from your conversation while in work.

        1. Don Pidgeoni

          What if people don’t want to take part in your scintillating conversation Alison, wife of Mr T?

  2. pmc

    The obligatory supermarket memo to staff grammar and syntax is giving me chills, as is the supermarket management condescension. Anyone who has ever worked in a Centra / Spar / SuperValu will know what I mean.

    1. Selfie Sensation

      Who ever wrote this has a far greater problem with English and commas than any member of Fresh’s Staff.

  3. CousinJack

    Safety at work requires clear and unambiguous communication, it is common practice at most work sites to require common language use where feasible

    1. Don Pidgeoni

      Which is why sometimes its easier to use your own language if English isn’t your first?

        1. Don Pidgeoni

          What? The ‘asking for a translation but not too often bit?’

          They should just get rid of the customers who are scared of people not talking English and be done with it

          1. Clampers Outside!


            And I agree with that too. But, how does one spot a gobsh*te coming in the door is anyones guess. These moaners come from all walks, and it aint poor people shoppin in Fresh, it’s closer to the 4×4 driving soccer Mom set.

            I love Fresh by the way.
            PS: I’m not a soccer Mom :)

  4. Pray For Mojo

    I would actually think this is standard policy in all retailers sadly. I worked in Dunnes as youngun (nine years ago) and I did my induction training with two Polish girls who were told the exact same thing. I was more shocked by it then the two ladies it was directed at so it was clearly not the first time they had heard it. I’m not saying it’s right but let’s not hang one retailer out to dry if they all do it.

    1. Mani

      It’s not in any way terrible. These employees work in an English speaking country. If anything, being forced to speak English should improve your fluency.

  5. Spaghetti Hoop

    Ok, having worked in multi-lingual offices in English language countries, this policy perfectly acceptable and is adopted widely amongst multi-nationals. The unifying ‘common denominator’ language for staff is English – therefore it is only fair to ask that workplace communications and conversations are held in English for the benefit of customers AND amongst staff. Having staff speak the common language promotes good teamwork, communications and integration. Yes the wording from Fresh is a little harsh here – they could have explained it a lot better without the heavy disciplinary approach.

    1. garthicus

      I agree with hoop, I’ve worked for massive corporations and this has been the policy.

      1. munkifisht

        Yea, that seems a little far fetched, although I’m guessing the thinking is it’s just better to get people used to speaking English at all times and not letting bad habits form during the working day.

      2. Spaghetti Hoop

        Yep. You usually get fellow native speakers conversing in their own language when alone and then switch to English when joined by another language-speaker. It’s all about good manners really, not just company policy.

        1. Ciarán

          …then you don’t need to discipline someone for it. people should be allowed to do whatever they want during their breaks (within the boundaries of decency and safety of course!).

          Anything else reeks of social engineering. Foucault would have a field day.

          1. Spaghetti Hoop

            Maybe you do need to discipline if the code of conduct is constantly breached.
            And maybe this is not the first memo from Fresh requesting compliance.

            ‘Social Engineering’ me swiss…..!

      3. Dubloony

        Agreed. Many companies have policies on English as language of business but expected people not to speak their own language when they are having lunch is a bit much.

    2. donkey_kong

      as a customer I don’t like staff member speaking to each other in a different langauge in front of me. I assume I’m not alone. Fresh’s policy seems reasonable only a pinko leftie would get upset with such a rule.

        1. italia'90

          … and, he’s never taken a holiday to a foreign country where he’s had to complete a transaction with “Johnny Foreigner”!
          The amount of prejudice and casual racism in this country never ceases to amaze me.
          What a lovely conservative, racist little country we are to do business in.
          (May be one of FG’s Five Point Plan in the next GE surely?)

          1. Don Pidgeoni

            Everyone knows that foreigners speaking foreign are gossiping about English-speakers. Not what they will have for dinner or how their feet hurt or how they are hungry.

            I am genuinely interested but how do people who are this easily worried survive when they go overseas or even to London?

          2. italia'90

            “Pint-O Beer-O and a large English Breakfast pour fah vor meeamigo”?
            London? What about when they go to Belfast or Derry?

            I’ve had the good fortune to have lived/worked in London and New York in the past.
            Heard this sentiment expressed in both cities too and usually by those who have a superiority complex towards those(Foreigners) who don’t have the same grasp of English as them, as they perceive it.

          3. Don Pidgeoni

            London has lots of Johnny Foreigners speaking foreign. All over the shop! Not sure how prevalent that is in Belfast.

            Everyone knows screaming English at people makes them learn it quicker

          4. italia'90

            What I meant was, that some people from around these parts might not be able to understand the English dialect spoken by the “Natives” up yonder ^^^
            As JC rightly points out below, there’s context and situations where it is preferred to speak in ones own language, and they aren’t always talking about us.
            When you learn a second, third, fourth or even fifth language, as many of our European neighbours often do, from my experience, their brains don’t automatically switch to thinking in the learned language, but rather thought processes happen in their native language before being rapidly translated, depending on their ability, proficiency and years of speaking said language.

      1. pinko_lefto

        I don’t like staff that wear nametags and uniforms. I don’t think it is fair or practical to dictate company policy by whatever customer is in the vicinity at the time. Unless you just want p[olicy set by your whims. Which is also not fair or practical.

        1. The Old Boy

          I want policy set on my whims at all times and in all places. That would be a laugh.

  6. Helen 2.0

    Am I missing something here? Company operating in country that uses English as its first language asks that staff speak English.

        1. Gabby

          There are laws in place so they can’t stop people speaking the native language i.e. Irish.

          1. munkifisht

            Would be interesting to see what they’d do if their staff did start to speak Irish.

      1. scundered

        it’s not taught in all schools in Ireland, people would be up in arms on equality issues.

    1. DecR

      Nope. Thought it was way too harsh.

      I’d be very p**sed-off if I worked in Germany & was told not to speak English to an Australian during my break.

      Guess I am a softie.

      1. fits

        In front of a colleague who doesnt speak English? And you are fluent in German?

        Thats rude.

          1. DecR

            Look. It’s obvious…
            – The two guys speak English
            – The paper is in French
            – The man wearing the red carnation is Italian & he should be fired for speaking Spanish to the Cuban doctor.

          2. The Old Boy

            The forgery of the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies is with the German Colonel in the Château but the originals are disguised as Italian salami back in the café.

          3. DecR

            How about if FRESH staff agree to speak like the undercover English Gendarme:
            “Good moan-ing oveery-won”

      2. Ciarán

        I agree. I live and work in Germany in a blilngual English-German school, so with German and English-speaking collegues.

        German is the lingua-franca, we speak it collectively during social occasions/breaks and during all meetings of course. But if I am sitting in the teachers room chatting with an English-native, I will do so in Englsih even if another German teacher is there, but not directly involved (reading, doing their own thing, whatever). Often the conversation flip flopped between both languages (and that inlcuded the whole group…some Germans like to speak English and often it is more fluent than my German anyhow)

        No one has told us what to speak, it was understood when to speak what language. I can’t imagine any suxh rule having come down…but then again we weren’t supermarket employees, so I think there was a different management-staff relationship.

  7. Just a thought

    Extending the scope of the policy to rest breaks compounds the issue. The idea that you can be disciplined for speaking another language on your rest break shows just how insecure with their own identity the policy writer is.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      Amazing insight, astounding even, you should probably become a priest and wow people every Sunday with how you can make such leaps to judgement. The church loves judging from the pulpit and you’d be a shoe in!

  8. fits

    Worked in multinational environments in non english speaking countries and this is common practice. Any occasion where there are multiple persons present it is expected to speak english. It can feel quite exclusionary if the native speakers of the country communicate in their own language at lunchtime etc.

    Nothing wrong with Fresh’s policy at all in my opinion.

  9. Niamh

    I have worked in two different places (one shop, one office) where on most days I would be the only Irish person and all the other people on the team shared a foreign language and I can tell you it was horribly lonely and isolating as no one ever spoke to me and I couldn’t even attempt to join in any conversation as I had no idea what they were saying.

    1. Ciarán

      Did you ever considered learning the other language which was 99% of your colleagues spoke…?

      Also the fact that no one spoke to you just speaks of bad manners, or a bad relationship between you and them.

      1. Niamh

        I did actually make an attempt – I took a French class but I was a total beginner and I’ve never been good at learning languages, even in school. After three months (during which I continued my beginner classes) I still had no clue what the other three team members were saying all day. I got fed up and I quit. The gave me an exit interview and I told them the only advice I have for them is to put a French person in the role. Yes you are right there was a bad relationship between us – but I don’t see how I could have changed that, beyond becoming French.

        As for the other place, no I did not attempt to learn Chinese, given the failed attempt at French that would have just been a lost cause from the start. I quit that job even quicker because it was a lot more pointed. They would speak in Chinese and then turn and look at me and say “isn’t that right Niamh?” and then laugh.

      2. Kieran NYC

        Yeah, of course it’s rude of him not to learn Polish/etc. How dare he! And perfectly polite of them to exclude him. You’ve got it in a nutshell.

      1. ABM's Bloodied Underwear

        Of course, everyone here is on tenterhooks waiting for the next bit of drivel you spew forth.

    2. Nigel

      I remember working in a few places where I was the only Irish person who didn’t care about sport. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Terribly lonely and isolating. Of course, long term exposure allows one to pick up most languages and soon I began to comprehend some of their conversations. It was so boring I went back to being lonely and isolated.

  10. Mike

    I would have thought it would be considered rude to speak in your own language with a colleague while in the presence of an english speaking customer/colleague???

    I remember in an office I worked in once this was a major issue with a French guy, I’d often join them for lunch and as soon as I’d sit down to join them he’d say “english please guys” to his fellow french speakers. He’d go crazy if they spoke another word of french while I was sitting at the table :D

  11. Paolo

    It is standard in most companies that one language of business is chosen. In my company, all communications should be carried out in US English.

  12. Clampers Outside!

    “Language has never been an issue to anyone I have ever seen over all those years (Perhaps FRESH can prove different).”

    Did DecR read the document at all?

    I think DecR should’ve waited until tomorrow to tell the world of his woes, mightn’t seem so bad and might seem commonsensical on a Tuesday.

  13. Ribeard

    While the lunchbreak part seems a bit tyrannical, there shouldn’t be a need to say it at all if people have a bit of cop on and basic manners.

  14. Steve

    Nothing wrong with this at all, should be common practice, and is for most large multinationals.

  15. postmanpat

    Now if only the Irish hobby language dorks would cut it out where I work! I feel like I’m back in school hearing teachers in the hall giving out about the headmaster.

  16. popeyedol

    its standard practice and good manners to speak a common language in multinationals…so why not in retail?
    Non-issue IMO

  17. JC

    I wonder how many of you which don’t see what’s wrong with this letter have ever lived and worked in a country where you don’t speak the language well. When you are paid low wages, when you have the stress of learning the language and adjusting to the million little reminders of how much of an outsider you are in that country, when you have to deal with better-than-thou attitude from customers and the humiliation of knowing that you are smarter than what you sound like, … speaking to a colleague in your native tongue during your rest brakes (and even while working) is sometimes your only consolation during the day.

    1. Soundings

      Agree with you, the letter is over the top for the management objective it’s trying to achieve. Rest breaks? Come off it. And if this is the first letter on the subject, the threat of disciplinary action just shows us what a complete shower of basturbs own and manage Fresh.

      I shall be boycotting Fresh from now on.

      Back to Tesco sandwich deal for me (how do they manage to sell a quality sandwich, pure orange juice and apple/grapes for just €3.50?). As for Fresh’s overpriced artisan this, organic that, please, we can get the same quality or better for a fraction of the price elsewhere, and in retailers who aren’t fascist closet-xenophobes.

      1. Joe the Lion

        Certain supermarket chains employee infant dwarf leprechaun slaves to deliver your daily deal.

        Every little helps

        1. Soundings

          They employ slaves? That’s progress for you. Is the pay any good?

          As for dwarf leprechauns, everyone starts small in their career, and their nimble hands probably mean the sandwiches are more evenly filled.

          1. Soundings

            I believe Greencore prepare the sandwiches for Tesco. That’s Greencore, the food group led by FG’s Simon Coveney’s brother.

    2. jeremy kyle

      In all the fairness an employer is within their right to request their employees to speak English.

  18. Anomanomanom

    Really can’t see a problem with this. My work place is made up of about 60% non irish workers. If they all spoke their own language when ever they wanted it would be mayhem. So its English at all times expect their break periods. Simple and no problems.

  19. Odis

    I hate it when they say Print Name when they mean “Write your name in Capital letters”/Use BLOCK CAPITALS. Like we all walk about with printing machines.

    1. dan

      Print names means separate individual letters, not all capitals, it’s correct, just a different meaning of the word.

  20. Kolmo

    The only people I’ve seen and heard complaining about not hearing English in their environs are ignorant, loud skrotes – I’ve seen an alteration were a skobette got paranoid that two germans tourists were talking about her….really…the tourists were initially bemused then frightened as Ireland’s-shame roared at them to stop talking foddin, i’ve seen this happen more than once. (They were talking about how expensive things were in Dublin)
    Same type of ape probably goes to Costa Del Sol and shouts in English at the natives..

      1. Joe the Lion

        Same type of ape probably lurches, scowls and talks monkey all day long and scratches their bare dirty ass in public

    1. Ciarán

      Reminds me of a joke I heard.
      A group of German tourists were in the centre of Dublin, and had veered off O’Connell St. and got lost. Wondering how to get from this side street to Trinity, they passed a group of townies and one of the tourists was heard to suggest to another: “Frag mal die Athleten”.

  21. madouveh on the dole

    I work as an English tutor and the policy in my classroom is ‘English Only Please’.

    Their level of English wont improve if they are speaking their mother tongue and frankly it is a bit unprofessional to be blabbing away in front of customers in English, let alone Portuguese/Polish/whatever/.

    Very standard procedure in any organization to have a singular language policy at a particular location. The person outraged by this is an easily scandalized PC cunce.

    1. Ciarán

      My God, reading that, I certainly wouldn’t send anyone to you for written English lessons.

      1. italia'90

        It does explain a lot though in fairness.
        How do those poor foreign students stand a chance of learning English with this level of tutor and their attitude of inclusiveness?

        Can we ask the “gays” not to act gay when a straight person is in their company or place of business?
        I mean REALLY!

  22. Christopher

    I was totally in agreement with the letter until he wrote “going forward”, then I got sick a little in my mouth and didn’t read the rest.

    1. Caroline

      You have a strong constitution my friend. I only made it to the repetition of the word “however” before hurling my brandy glass into the fire.

  23. Hashtag Diversity

    ironically, the majority of the clientele in Grand Canal Dock is multi-cultural – well-paid people from Google, Facebook, etc.

    #boycott and go to Donnybrook Fair with your stock option proceeds…

  24. Brian S

    Haven’t read comments but presume most of the 119 are liberal hipster types “outraged” while the others are normal people who don’t have so much time on their hands. This is pretty standard in most companies that are multinational. Speaking in your native tongue to others in the office or in the course of your duties alienates colleagues and customers alike.

    By all means chat with your friends at lunch in your native language but if there is one or 2 people in your group you should try to include them by speaking in a language everyone can understand. In other words don’t be a douche

  25. broadsideskid

    Someone once said : “having good manners means not making other people feel uncomfortable”.
    That’s what I think this is about -manners. Not race or language.

    As to breaks : please see above …

    1. Ciarán

      Yeah, like, don’t kiss your same sex partner, or partner of a different race, if it makes a person near you uncomfortable.

      1. dan

        Nah, not like that at all, since no company wants you wearing the face off anyone while you’re working.

  26. Jones

    Don’t see the issue. Makes sense and as a regular shopper in there, think it is a good idea towards getting their staff in line. They strive to maintain their image of good customer service and quality produce but this is rarely the case. Looking through their breads and seeing packages that are a month out of date isn’t uncommon.. the staff response is usually a shrugged shoulder and no effort to remove off the shelves

    1. Joe the Lion

      Because staff who speak their own mother tongue is far more important than selling stuff out of date?

      lol at your repeat procurement of their overpriced out of date tat

  27. Hashtag Diversity

    “It was found today in Fresh supermarket in Grand Canal Dock {Dublin] …”

    Translation: “I work in Fresh and I am sending you this document ”


  28. Ponstan

    Opinions on manners, while indicative of some erstwhile self-righteousness parading as benevolent intent, are supremely irrelevant in this discussion. You can’t police a person’s manners any more than you can his or her ‘bad habits’ (so that came up in this thread. Utterly charming, really.) Fine, fine, fine, you made your point, they’re living in your English-speaking country. Yada.

    At the end of the day, it’s still bad politics to presume to lord over another person’s basic identitiy – yes, language included – and order that they put it aside for your wage. Here’s where a healthy dose of tact and diplomacy would go a way many times longer toward promoting healthy cooperation and teamwork than would this display of blanket, flaccid absolutism.

    Just getting so bored of this trend.

    ps: you hired them.

  29. Mé Féin

    I went down to the Gaeltacht and demanded that everyone speak English. When they ignored me, I had to shout. Eventually I was shouting so much my face went all red and I was spitting. I was standing there in the middle of the road and they still wouldn’t speak to me.

    1. Caroline

      You should have tried speaking Irish to them. They’d be responding to you in English in a split second.

  30. Ron

    Absolutely standard practice from a HR point of view and such policies are the norm in many large companies. English is the business language of the company.

  31. Monica

    It sounds like when the English forbid the Irish not to use their Irish language, although this happened some centuries ago. It’s fair that staff talk in their language when they talk among themselves. Why other customers should they feel uncomfortable? Probably they feel uncomfortable because they cannot understand their conversation and make other people’s business. As long as English is spoken when staff direct to customers whose common language is only English that’s fair. When I go to a shop and I meet staff of whom I know some of their language, I like exchanging a thank you or a hello in their language. I see this is appreciated and I’ll continue doing so.
    I’m very disappointed of Fresh, I regret to say I won’t do my shopping there anymore.

  32. Tina

    And what is the situation on speaking your country’s national langauge Gaelige? I was told in a financial institution by a staff member, whose first language was not English or Irish, that I must have my Irish name in proper English. I asked “what is your name in proper English?” Obviously there wasn’t an answer for this because people of descent from other countires of different languages, don’t have to translate it. Swings and roundabouts.

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