Posts tagged ‘Indian’


Trade not supplied

17.02.2011

In November 1993, while my mother was dying of cancer, I went and bought 12 cans of Wattie’s baked beans from Woolworth’s in Kilbirnie. She said it would be an easy breakfast to prepare for her, so I should go and get some. There was a limit of six, but there was a misunderstanding about which type the limit applied to, and a disagreement at the counter.
   That’s not much of a problem, but it was very rudely done, and I complained to Richard Olliver, the duty manager, about the attitude I got.
   He defended his colleague, saying that he did not approve of my tactics because the policy was that trade was not supplied.
   I am not sure since when typeface design or publishing was considered ‘trade’ as far as Woolworth’s went, but his reasoning was clear enough: I am Chinese, all Chinese are greengrocers, convenience store operators or restaurateurs, and, therefore, all Chinese are trade.
   I, as a member of this supposed trade, was not welcome at Woolworth’s Kilbirnie, and that I should consider myself warned.
   Since 1993, I have not set foot in there or any branch of Woolworth’s as a customer (I visited Countdown a few times in the 1990s till I learned it was the same group, I visited Woolworth’s in Newmarket with a friend in 2002 as she had to do her shopping, and I made a delivery to Woolworth’s in 2006). I have heeded Mr Olliver’s warning.
   This was one case that angered me that when my father applied for a One Card in 2003, I called Woolworth’s. I never drag others into my bans but I was upset they had our family home details.
   I asked that his application be taken out of the pile, and the staff member at Woolworth’s Kilbirnie said she would oblige.
   Two weeks later, his One Card arrived. So much for the word of a Woolworth’s employee. I proceeded to cut it into pieces and sent it back to the company, explaining what had happened a decade before. I said that if they were willing to apologize for the 1993 incident, I was prepared to listen. I also demanded that our details be removed from the database. And I wanted the apology in writing.
   I never received it.
   I received a phone call within the week but there was still no apology. The closest Woolworth’s got on this occasion was, ‘I hope you will change your mind about Woolworth’s some day.’ Those were the last words from their representative.
   Not bloody likely.
   Three incidents in a decade, all negative. The brand is tarnished, at least for my lifetime, to the point where I associate Woolworth’s with racism—helpfully cemented by its own staff only eight years ago. It’s hard to undo when each encounter reinforces the last negative one.
   As we approach the 20th anniversary of my Woolworth’s ban, of a company seemingly still wishing to stand by prejudice, I hear of another incident from my friend Andy in Auckland.
   He experienced the same, at Pak ’n’ Save, Albany.
   Like a lot of young guys, Andy decided to throw a party. And he was questioned at the check-out: ‘Are you going to resell these goods?’
   Andy is an Indian New Zealander.
   For goodness’ sake, as unlikely as it was in 1993 for a suited New Zealander of Chinese descent—yes, I remember what I was wearing that day—to be running this mythical grocery store in the Kilbirnie region, I find it equally unlikely that this mythical Asian reseller of beer and chips exists in Albany.
   Your booze prices aren’t that good, Pak ’n’ Save. Not till the expiry date nears.
   Of course this reselling exists. I’m not naïve. But I also know it is confined to certain individuals (and who gives a toss about what ethnicity they are), who are usually known to the supermarkets.
   I believe this is what is called ‘racial profiling’ and it’s this sort of behaviour that gets dickheads like Paul Henry questioning whether an Auckland-accented Governor-General ‘sounds like a New Zealander’.
   I thought my case was confined as an anomaly of the 1990s, which is why I have not waged the sort of anti-Woolworth’s campaign that I have against, say, Google. It happened to me, it was personal, and I trot the story out occasionally.
   But to hear it happens in the 2010s makes me wonder whether we have taken two steps forward—then two steps back.
   This nation’s history is one of migrants, regardless of what race we are. Just that some of us got here first, and then another mob came, and supposedly these two have joint sovereignty.
   We all came from somewhere, and just as I was appalled at the treatment when it was metered out to me, I’m appalled that someone else experienced it. It would not have mattered if Andy was Caucasian, or Native American, or whatever: he should not have been asked. Andy is Andy—and I’ve asked that he write to Pak ’n’ Save and see if they are capable of apologizing.
   Woolworth’s isn’t.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, New Zealand, Wellington | 4 Comments »


Thoughts on Players, the Indian remake of The Italian Job

12.12.2010

It’s been known for some time that Players, the official, licensed Indian remake of The Italian Job, will film in New Zealand, but what surprised me is that Wellington is to take the place of Torino in the 21st-century version.
   At least they changed the name, because the American remake of The Italian Job was set in Los Angeles. I assume it is called Players because The Wellington Job doesn’t have the same ring to it.
   Abbas and Mastan Burmawalla are directing, which will mean plenty of style, and the cast includes Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Bobby Deol, Sikander Kher and Neil Nitin Mukesh. With the female names in there, this may be a remake of the remake of The Italian Job, because I cannot see either Sonam or Bipasha called Rozzer, Yellow or Camp Freddie. And the male names suggest that this film should do well among a decent part of the audience with four of India’s super-hunks in it.
   None are identifiable as the local equivalent of Prof Peach.
   A few things interest me at this stage.
   We’ll need an excuse for $4 million of gold bullion to be shipped to Wellington, and it won’t be for a Fiat car factory. Assuming that’s closer to $40 million today, there aren’t too many reasons someone would shift that much to us down here in gold.
   Possibilities include: (a) PM John Key decides to shift his personal fortune for safe-keeping at Bill English’s house in Wellington; (b) MGM’s payment for the Hobbit movie; or (c) a Chinese bribe for concessions on the free-trade deal to lock India out.
   We already know that you can race a Mini around the city quite happily thanks to Goodbye, Pork Pie:

so three should not be a problem.
   I’m not terribly sure where the Wellington traffic computer is, whether our women are, indeed, as large as Prof Peach would like them, and I wonder what shape our fictional Mafia (‘The Mafia? The Mafia’) will take. I have some suspicions, and it involves the local cast of The Apprentice throwing Filofaxes. One hears, however, Russian actor Vyacheslav Razbegaev is lined up to take a part.
   The only question remains is: what is Hindi for ‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ so I may add it to my ‘Favourite quotes’ section in Facebook?
   In all seriousness, I may well time my next visit to India when this premières. Time to email some enquiries through …

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Posted in business, cars, humour, India, interests, New Zealand, USA, Wellington | No Comments »