Teavana Needs To Teach Its Employees That Disabilities Exist

Some disabilities telegraph themselves pretty obviously: think of someone using a wheelchair, or a blind person walking around guided by a guide dog. Other disabilities don’t. Rosalie is deaf. When she visited her local Teavana and broke an item on the shelf, she tried desperately to point out to the salesperson that just talking at her wasn’t effective communication. The employee wouldn’t listen. When she tried to follow up with Teavana corporate later, no one would answer her.

She wrote to us about her experience at the store, and then trying to deal with Teavana afterward:

On August 7th, I was at my local mall. I walked into a Teavana store to see if they had a particular cup my husband wanted. I picked up one that looked like it was a possibility, and the lid fell off. It fell about a foot onto the shelf beneath it and exploded, leaving chunks of plastic everywhere. I start to clean it up and a staff member comes over, and I say “I’m sorry, I will pay for this, let me just finish my shopping.”

The woman says something, and I tell her I cannot understand her because I’m deaf. She brings me over to the counter area, where I happened to find the cup my husband wanted so I put it on the counter. She points to the teas, so I figured I’d get the tea my husband drinks to try. Once that is done, she starts talking again. I tell her, once again,”I’m deaf and I cannot understand you, can you please write down what you’re saying.” She does not and continues to talk to me. I say, yet again, the same thing. She ignores that and continues talking about the broken cup, which I know because she’s handling it and offering it to me. She had brought out some other lid that sort of fit, and I told her I didn’t want it, I will pay for it because I broke it but I’m leaving it here because no one will use it. Again she continued talking, and again I told her I cannot understand her, she needs to write down what she’s saying.

I am so frustrated by this time I’m beginning to cry. She goes back and gets a manager, I guess because she thought I’d understand that woman better. The first woman was elderly and Asian, maybe she had an accent, I have no idea. The manager starts talking to me, I tell her the same thing,”I’m deaf and cannot understand you, can you please write down what you’re saying.” She doesn’t, and tries to talk to me again. Once more, I tell her, I cannot understand you, you need to write it down.” She STILL talks, and this is just too much for me, so I actively start crying. All my days are difficult when I have to talk to people, being deaf, and some days are much worse than others. This was one of the worst ones in recent times. I pay for my items, they don’t make me pay for the cup, and I leave.

I then tried to contact Teavana to recommend they do disability awareness training with their staff. I emailed them from the site, got no response. I tried calling them, twice, but couldn’t get through to them using relay. I posted on their Google + site. I twittered them. I didn’t contact them on Facebook because I do not use Facebook. Not a single damn response from them. I guess Teavana really doesn’t care about how disabled customers are treated. I thought my request for accomodation from the staff was both quick and easy to do. Every other store I shopped at the same day, where I had a question that needed an answer, was more than willing to write down what they were saying on a scrap piece of paper. Even more damning is how Teavana has refused to get in touch with me to discuss the situation. Obviously, I’m very unlikely to ever go into another Teavana again.


Edit Your Comment

  1. triana says:

    Wow. That staff doesn’t need training. They need common sense and common courtesy.

    • El_Cheapocabra says:

      THAT store needs to correct their employees. Other Teavana stores are far kinder. My community has a prominent deaf education center. The Teavana near me has an employee who knows ASL, and the store is very accommodating. There are also many people from other countries here, so the employees will use anything to communicate. It’s just good business, not to mention good manners.

  2. mypcrepairguy says:

    Wow that’s a fairly messed up situation. Seems like the local ADA may want to get wind of this.

    Either way, my wife and I have decided that we are going to teach our kids ASL, and….Mandarin Chinese.

    • Raekwon says:

      Nice, sounds like my family. I speak Mandarin and my wife is an ASL translator.

    • fleef says:

      What?? ADA? I cannot imagine this becoming a “federal case”. Sounds to ME like the people at that store didn’t/couldn’t understand this woman. I cannot imagine anyone continuing to speak when told “I cannot understand you” why must this become a lesson in “sensitivity”? MAYBE SHE SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN DOWN THAT FACT SHE CANNOT HEAR.

      • Mary says:

        Um, yeah, not even a possibility that they couldn’t tell what she was saying, they weren’t listening. Because if they couldn’t understand HER then the whole conversation would have gone completely differently. I’ve worked retail for decades, and I have a hearing problem (nothing too severe). When I can’t understand someone or can’t hear them I don’t just keep talking and hope they figure it out. That’s just stupid no matter what.

        You stop, look at the person so that they can clearly see your face (because seeing someone’s lips is a huge thing with understanding them) and you can clearly see theirs. You gesture to your ears, and say very plainly (like she did) I’m sorry, I can’t hear you, what was that? Since she’s deaf if they had been trying at all to communicate that they couldn’t understand her, she would have picked up on it.

        • xRocheCoach says:

          Yeah, I just don’t find this story believable. I’m not saying the OP is lying or anything, but it seems pretty far-fetched that she clearly said, “I can’t understand you, I’m deaf,” and people kept trying to speak to her. She’s either exaggerating, or we’re just not hearing the whole story.

          • mokie says:

            At one former place o’ employment, I watched clerks struggle with a Spanish-speaking customer and repeat themselves, over and over, louder and slower, rather than calling a Spanish-speaking co-worker for assistance. At another, I watched a clerk sigh, roll her eyes, and wave off a Bosnian customer she couldn’t understand, instead of calling the Bosnian clerk at the front of the store for assistance. Help was right there, and it either never occurred to the clerks to take advantage of it, or they were so caught up in their mental to-do list that getting help seemed more of a distraction than five minutes trying to play charades with a customer.

            I fully believe this customer made clear she could not understand what was being said, and they just tried saying it again louder.

  3. nightsky says:

    I think this is a psychological issue. Since she was talking to them, their brains did not register what she was saying. They just assumed if she could talk, she can hear. It’s like trying to read the name of a color when the color of the text is different than the color in the word. Our brains get all flustered and nothing makes sense. Or they are just idiots. Yeah, probably the second one.

    • SerenityDan says:

      You have that backwards, it’s trying to say the color the word is written in when the written word is that of another color that tricks you. Otherwise this would be hard – black, yellow, white, red, blue.

    • ablestmage says:

      The solution certainly isn’t to cry about it — but to try to communicate to them in a way that they would better realize the situation, not just try the same technique over and over again with zero success. She could have tried signing to them, or writing something down to them herself, to get the point across. Crying? What’s that going to do?

      • iesika says:

        Crying is something that happens involuntarily when one is under emotional stress.

        And explaining that you have a disability and asking for reasonable accommodation should really be enough.

      • euph_22 says:

        Let me ask you this, what’s being a jackass towards a deaf person who just wants to interact with people going to do?

        Yeah, after a couple failed attempts at telling them she’s deaf she should have written it out. And in a retail store the onus is on the employees to work to communicate with the customer NOT the other way around.

        • fleef says:

          yes…. and why is it every other post on Consumerist turns out to be a giant issue regarding “sensitivity” frankly it’s becoming something of some kind of weird agenda.

      • Aliciaz777 says:

        You know what? Everyone is different, and some people, when they get frustrated or upset to a certain point, they just start crying. There’s nothing wrong with that as everyone handles stress and frustration in different ways. The Teavana employees are extremely stupid as the customer told them repeatedly she’s deaf and couldn’t hear them, and requested that they write what they’re saying. When the customer started crying, the employees should’ve STFU and LISTENED TO HER.

        The amount of stupidity society exhibits sometimes (in this case, the Teavana employees) still surprises me. I’m glad the other stores the customer went to that day were accommodating.

        • StarKillerX says:

          Could it be possible that the employees didn’t understand her?

          I’m not sure what to think of this letter other then it sounds like a massive miscommunication between and it could well simply be that the employee couldn’t understand the woman when she said she was deaf and asked her to write everything down.

          • MsEllenT says:

            You’re right. She was so difficult to understand that staff in the other stores she visited could understand her perfectly and accommodate her. She just suddenly lost her ability to enunciate in this one particular store.


      • lenfercestlesautres says:

        So I’m guessing you work at Teavana?

      • agold says:

        I would have started crying too. Although unfortunately some people use crying as a way to get sympathy from a person of authority (i.e. crying when pulled over by a cop), in this case the poor OP just got overwhelmed.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    If these Teavana workers were former used car dealers then this would explain a lot
    of things. They tend to not listen to you when you’re talking but keep yapping away.

  5. Vermont2US says:

    I empathize with her. Maybe it would have been better had she written it down for them to read. That doesn’t excuse Corporate for their failure to respond though.

  6. Anathema777 says:

    Ugh. That sounds like such a frustrating experience.

    Teavana has a Facebook page. I’d recommend that the OP post this experience over there. Sometimes when these things hit the public eye, companies will suddenly be interested in talking about it.

    • Hirayuki says:

      OP doesn’t use Facebook, or presumably she would have done that already.

    • Not Given says:

      You didn’t listen, she doesn’t Facebook but used other social media to try to reach them.

      • Anathema777 says:

        Whoops! Skipped that whole paragraph for some reason. My mistake!

        I guess I’d recommend that WE post it to Facebook, then. It sounds like they’re ignoring her through all channels. Maybe if they realize they that other people are spreading the story, though, it’ll give them a kick.

      • mikejtimm@yahoo.com says:

        I see what you did there.

  7. SavijMuhdrox says:

    Wally: [yelling in Dave’s ear] Shazaam! Can you hear me?
    Dave: Wally! I heard you! I heard your voice!
    Wally: Hooray! You can hear me!
    Dave: What?
    Wally: You can hear me!
    Dave: [shouts] No, schmuck, I’m deaf! I’m deaf! Now do you get it?

  8. Audiyoda28 says:

    Very poorly handled – but I’m not exactly surprised. My few experiences in Teavana have never been pleasant. My wife is a tea drinker but I am not. When they offer me samples I simply say ‘thank you but no’ – but it’s like I’m insulting the very core of their being.

    So yeah, I’m not surprised.

    • PercussionQueen7 says:

      I had an asshole staffer in Teavana basically insult my way of making tea to my face. I know there are certain temperatures the water is supposed to be based on what kind of tea you use, but for fuck’s sake, if green tea tastes good to me with the water just off the boil instead of whatever is “correct”, don’t berate me and tell me I’m doing it wrong. I don’t CARE that I’m doing it wrong. It’s how I like it, so bugger off.

      /Feels better now, thanks. :)

      • ashley440 says:

        I had a similar experience with my local store. I bought one of their tea tumblers and loved it. Shortly thereafter, I dropped in down the stairs and broke it, so I went in to buy a new one of the same kind. While I was there, I figured I’d also purchase some of my favorite tea as well, and was informed that the kind of tea I was purchasing was incorrect for the tea tumbler. I assured the sales person that I had in fact brewed that very same tea in the tumbler before with no issues, and she actually argued with me because I was ‘doing it wrong’. I can totally understand trying to let the customer know when they are about to do something that might not work, but I do not like to be argued with when I am the one buying the overpriced tea in the first place.

      • Brave Little Toaster says:

        I agree with both of you – I love tea and routinely go to a local tea shop and like to stop in Teavana when I’m at the mall. The local tea folks will explain the “correct” way but say that however it tastes best to me is ultimately the right way. Teavana staff always seems more intense about things. I usually chalk it up to it being a chain and having the mystical “corporate” somewhere dictate how things must be for consistency.

      • lolwat says:

        I have had the very same problem. Sure, explain to me the right way to do it but if I like the way it comes out how I make it, bug off.

        I usually only buy 1 specific tea from them and I usually get “oh you are only buying x amount of 1 tea!?!” Really just over how crappy they treat people.

  9. spartan says:

    I am assuming she wasn’t being reckless with the lid so why should she pay for a piece of merchandise she damaged?

    • PercussionQueen7 says:

      The business, even with breakage allotments and such, will still take a loss if you break a piece of merchandise. I will offer to pay, and am generally told not to worry about it, but I have had people actually take my money in small mom & pop stores. I pay for it because I like the shop and I don’t want them to lose revenue because I am a klutz.

      • spartan says:

        Do stores who take you money charge you full retail, or do they simply let you reimburse their wholesale cost?

        • PercussionQueen7 says:

          Full retail. But it’s only happened once or twice – both times under $20. Giving it to me at cost has a couple of problems. 1. The counter person would have to know what cost for that item is. 2. It would force them to reveal their margin percentage on that piece, and I know a lot of places don’t want to reveal exactly how much they’re jacking up the price.

          • frank64 says:

            I think the store should ask for 1/2 of retail if they are going to ask. That solves the issues you bring up.

            • MuleHeadJoe says:

              It used to be common to see signs in small shops along the lines of “you break it you bought it” … I’ve never ever had a problem with that concept.

              Full retail price is understood walking into the store, maybe the shop keeper might discount it if you come across as completely willing to pay and apologetic for your actions, but I would not *expect* any kind of discount.

    • Emperor Norton I says:

      She was probably embarrassed & offered to pay to avoid any problems.
      I’m definitely not attacking her, but in the future, she needs to add that while she can’t hear them, she retains the ability to speak. Her being able to speak understandably probably caused them to wrongly assume she was lying to them about her deafness & was really trying to not pay. Basically a form of cognitive dissonance.
      What I would like to know is how well she speaks. If she sounds like Marlee Matlin, then I definitely know she is deaf as Matlin has always been deaf & has never heard herself speak, so her speech is affected by that.
      But if she lost her hearing long after learning to speak, her speech will sound fairly “normal” especially if she gets regular sessions with a speech teacher who will help her keep her speaking voice.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      The mantra is ‘You Break It, You Buy It,’ not ‘You Break It Accidentally, Don’t Worry About It, We’ll Just Pretend We Burned That Money.”

    • El_Fez says:

      I fail to see how her breaking the lid (and her subsequently trying to pay for it) relates to the Teavania counter jockeys being ass hats and totally ignoring that she’s deaf.

      But good job on missing the point!

  10. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    I can see this happening with people that are not exposed to deaf people frequently. Many people confuse deaf with deaf/mute and can not wrap their heads around someone that can speak (with or without the characteristic deaf intonations/inflections) that can not hear.

    What is a little surprising to me after all the dealings I have had with the deaf (NOT blaming the OP, just an observation) is why she did not pull out her pad of paper or pantomime writing to ask for one and write down the “I am deaf, please write what you are saying” and showing that to the people after getting one or 2 idiotic responses from the staff. It was obvious from the OP’s posting that these were the people that could not separate deaf and deaf/mute.

    Short of someone that has a deaf friend or family member, I have probably been exposed to more than the average number of deaf and deaf mute customers. I had a store 5 blocks from Gallaudet University and the DC area in general has a higher proportion than many areas due to that.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      This, damnit.

      I think I’d print up bloody business cards for the “light-bulb deficient” that I could hand out. If there is no obvious outward sign of the impairment, I can easily see where a clerk who was ESL and a manager not quite grasping the events in play would just not hear what she was saying.

      I do not think they were intentionally refusing to communicate by writing. The lightbulb just didn’t come on.

      I can see why OP was frustrated, but the number of people she is likely to meet who react in a similar way is significant enough to take a pro-active stance to prevent ignorant people from upsetting her so much.

      • Snapdragon says:

        I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately; I’ve developed hearing loss in my right ear, and my speech is unaffected and otherwise, outwardly, it isn’t obvious at all. But if you’re on my right side and you say something to me, I either may not hear you, or not realize you were talking to me. Jokingly I’ve said I want to get a pin for my lapel on the right side that says, “I’m not ignoring you… I’m deaf”.

        How incredibly frustrating for the OP. I’m sure I would have cried with frustration, too.

  11. tungstencoil says:

    OP sounds rational, and I feel bad for her. What an awful and frustrating experience. And for the company to ignore her…

    If we assume Teavana corporate isn’t totally inept, it may be that they’re afraid of an ADA lawsuit. I know a small percentage of very loud people are litigious, but it seems if the OP were setting up for a lawsuit, they’d do better to mitigate now (“We’re not sure what happened, but we’re taking it seriously, here’s some tea” or whatever). This is just plain sh*#*y.

    BTW, I don’t believe there’s a single state that holds you accountable for accidentally breaking something in a retail establishment. They have to prove carelessness or intent upon your part, otherwise it’s their fault for having stuff incorrectly staged. I know in MI, where I used to live, it was actually written into law. Interesting, but true.


  12. Groovymarlin says:

    I posted a link to this story on Teavana’s FB page. Of course, how long it will stay there is anybody’s guess. To the OP: I’m sorry about your experience. I hope it’s just a case of two really ignorant, insensitive people happening to work at the same store, and not an organizational failing.

    • MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

      I didn’t see a post there about this, so I posted the link, too…apparently, they’re culling comments that they don’t like? >:|

      • tasselhoff76 says:

        I posted it there too and will keep posting it all day.

        • PercussionQueen7 says:

          I wonder if there’s some sort of setting where they have to approve all posts – the last post was from about 10 hours ago, so it says on my facebook…

        • RandomLetters says:

          Time to post again tass.

          • tasselhoff76 says:

            Mine is still there. It’s been there since I first posted it.

            • tasselhoff76 says:

              I wonder if Facebook controls what posts from others we see. I did notice that someone else had linked to the story after I did and I no longer see that post.

              • MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

                Yes, you will see your own post no matter what if you’re logged in. I’ve been opening an Incognito window in Chrome and looking at their FB page without logging in, and when I do that I don’t see my post on their wall.

              • Mary says:

                A lot of businesses and facebook pages have the display set to “highlights” which means only the most popular/liked/commented on stories show.

                Quite often businesses get accused of deleting comments and links when actually it’s just that they’re hidden unless you select a different option at the top of the timeline to change it from “highlights” or “post by page.”

  13. cactus jack says:

    This sounds frustrating for both sides. I’ve dealt with guests trying to check in who I didn’t realize they were deaf until they wrote it down on their pad of paper, and from there communication was able to happen. It’s difficult to assume things about customers as you don’t want to offend anyone by treating them different. I’m sure they walked away from the desk after checking in thinking I was an idiot for not understanding when they said over and over they were deaf. It’s not something I deal with regularly and I simply didn’t understand what they were saying.

    I want to believe if they understood you were deaf that they would have grabbed a paper and pen and everything would have been OK.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Not sure there IS a way to ask this without sounding like a jerk: How in the world did you not hear this person say “I am deaf” and not catch on that…they were deaf? I’m really curious what was going on in your mind at the time. Just going through the motions, on autopilot, or….?

      • cactus jack says:

        You saying “I can’t hear, I am deaf” and a deaf person saying it sounds completely different.

        When I heard him I tried to figure out what he was trying to say then figure out if there was a problem as he was getting angry as he repeated himself. Eventually he grabbed his notepad and wrote it down and we had it figured out.

        I don’t think I did anything wrong and neither did he after I apologized for not being able to understand him. There was just a communication issue which was solved with a pen and paper.

  14. Hoss says:

    Apparently both employees were treating her nicely, offering to help and trying not to treat her as being different from any other customer. It’s surprising that an adult with a disability would not see things from their side and know they’re just human and wanting to be friendly. If this is such a sensitive issue for her in daily life, it might be helpful to purchase networking cards that say something like: “My name is Suzzy. I’m deaf and cannot read lips. Please write down your words if I don’t understand”

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Without knowing what they were saying, how can you come to that conclusion? We don’t even have a very good description of the workers’ actions, let alone words.

      What possible explanation do you have for that conclusion?

    • Weekilter says:

      Oh puhleez! She told them she was deaf. They chose to ignore what she said.

    • Jane_Gage says:

      Or get someone from the customer service kiosk to help her. These things are usually in malls, right? Also when you follow up with corporate you have an objective witness.

  15. chiieddy says:

    This in NO WAY excuses the staff, but I wonder if they didn’t understand what she was saying. She indicated one of the staff members looked Asian and deaf accents can often be difficult to understand by native English speakers. I know some deaf people who carry around cards so people can read and write on the back of them. This might have helped the situation (but probably not because just… wow)

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I would have yelled (in my deaf-speak). It just feels like the store owners were angry, and just not listening to her. If she might have said “Shut up and listen to me” or some other sudden outbust, they might have actually stopped for a moment and intently listened.

      Alternatively, SHE might have written down what she was trying to say, and that might have jogged their brain to actually “listen” to what this poor woman was trying to tell them.

    • silenthands says:

      That’s what I was thinking, that they couldn’t understand her. I’m deaf also and while some people find my speech easy enough to understand, I have had a few give me the “0.o-I-have-no-idea-what-you’re-saying” look. At that point, slowing down my speech and getting out the handy scribble pad fixes things, but… yeah. Why would you continue to talk to a customer that you couldn’t understand? I’m seeing a comedy sketch in this… both of them telling each other “I don’t understand you” over and over…

      I can understand why she didn’t reach for the scribble pad…sometimes when you’re stressed your mind doesn’t go for the obvious solutions. That, and some people (mostly the ones who are recently deaf or refuse to identify as deaf) don’t actually carry one, which I think is something akin to shooting yourself in the foot.

      • chiieddy says:

        Most of my deaf friend use their cellphone as a pad too. The text message screen is very useful and doesn’t require handwriting interpretation.

    • Portlandia says:

      This is exactly what I said. She kept asking to write things down but why the hell didn’t she take the initiative and pull out some paper and just do it?

      I’m 100% for reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities but it seems like this entire incident could have been diffused before it turned into her breaking down in tears. It makes her seem kind of unstable to me. I know frustration can illicit different reactions from different people but there seemed like there was poor communication on both sides of this story.

      • msbaskx2 says:

        I’m actually more surprised that she stood there and continued trying to talk with either of them. If you’re not getting through, just get out.

  16. jessjj347 says:

    Sounds like a big communication problem between the 2 parties involved. Just a thought, but perhaps the Teavana worker couldn’t write English, but could only speak it – effectively leaving no room for communication. And then even if the manager came in, the worker wouldn’t want to admit to the manager that s/he can’t write in English.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I’m getting the feel of something like this, too. It feels like the workers themselves were being put in a tough spot and didn’t know how to handle it like adults.

      • silenthands says:

        I thought so too… but there are ways to convey a failure of communication – usually with an apologetic smile, spread of your hands and a shrug, and then start trying to pantomime things. If neither one understood each other enough to communicate, this should have been a fallback but it’s not mentioned that either party tried to do this. Small bit of blame for both.

  17. dandydan says:

    I happen to work in the same building as teavana’s corporate headquarters. Every few weeks you see them bus in the group of dyed-hair hipsters that were hired to be managers based on almost assuredy image alone. They all come to Atlanta for several days of corporate training and attempted hookups with other shallow douchebags with tattoos.

    From the discussions i’ve had with these folks when they wander around the building on their breaks, all of the training is about the hard sell. I’m sure that Rosalie’s problem could be handled by training, but that would take away time from teaching the finer techniques of selling cast iron teapots.

  18. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Some people literally can’t listen. Sometimes they are deaf, and sometimes they are complete douchenozzles. We saw both today.

    Based on experiences my sister told me about in China, it wouldn’t surprise me if she was Asian and just didn’t listen. (insert flame response on my bigotry here).

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I don’t think it’s bigotry. I have similar dumbfounding experiences with my mother, who has lived in the US for several decades. Our conversations frequently go in circles. She’ll call and ask me what I’m doing, and I’ll tell her I’m driving home, and she’ll ask me whether I’m home.

      I don’t know whether my words and how I say them (I don’t have an accent) are taking longer to reach her mind and translate, or if she just doesn’t understand what I’m saying.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        I assume your mother is Asian, or this might not explain why I’m not a bigot : – )

      • chizu says:

        My dad is exactly like that. Sometimes you’d have to tell him something over and over and over again and then maybe it’ll finally register with him. I think a big part of it is just him being stubborn and old so he “refuses” to listen — but we were worried that it could be some sort of cognitive degeneration that he might be experiencing. (The doctor cleared him though.) I feel like the older Asians have this attitude of “I’m talking to you why aren’t you listening to ME”, but they don’t quite follow that themselves…

    • Portlandia says:

      I’m surprised at you, you flamed all over Jenny Q Public for her ignorant comments about men and her assertion that they can’t be trusted with children yet you come here and you display just as equally offensive a stereotype and try to waive it off with “Insert flame response”.

      Even being half-assedly apologetic for your comments your words are no better than hers during that ugly posting.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Fair enough. But know that there is a difference between “it wouldn’t surprise me” and “I would expect and go into the situation believing this will occur.”

        My sister spent several years in China, and what she told me she learned about their culture was very disheartening. So while I’m not going to assume all Asians will act the way the ones she met will act, I simply said it wouldn’t surprise me. I still wouldn’t blame you for considering that a bigotted or biased remark.

        • Portlandia says:

          You’re splitting hairs. Regardless of any qualifiers you put before a racist statement it’s still racist. You don’t get a free ride just because you were genteel in the way you disparaged a race by saying they don’t listen.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            And what if there is a cultural or societal tendency to do something. Is it racist if you point it out?

            A lot of other cultures aren’t as obsessed with being on time as those in the U.S.; In the U.S. it’s considered rude. If I said that French people are routinely late to events, would I be racist, or pointing out a cultural truth?

            • nybiker says:

              I would say you are pointing out a cultural truth. Granted, I have never been to France, so I don’t have any personal experience with them there. And my experience with them here in the US, is minimal. But w/r/t your example of punctuality, yeah, my middle name is ‘punctual’, so I freely admit to be one US citizen who is obsessed with being on time.

        • whylime says:

          Asian ≠ Chinese

          I think it’s kinda racist to make a judgement on an entire continent of people based on your sister’s experience in one country out of dozens.

    • missminimonster says:

      This happened to me while I was in China too. It’s probably cultural.

  19. Press1forDialTone says:

    Okie dokey, time for firings and ginormous lawsuit.
    You just can’t get away with this stuff anymore with people with disabilities
    and THAT is a good thing. Look out Teavana, you’re going to come crashing
    down out of that nirvana really fast.

    • cactus jack says:

      Ok, what provisions do the ADA demand retail stores have available for deaf persons? What exactly in this story requires a lawsuit? I’m really finding it hard to understand the issue beyond a simple communication breakdown.

      • Jane_Gage says:

        I don’t think she wants to sue them. Stores have an obligation to make a reasonable accommodation. Having someone who sits browsing the Internet until they are asked to sign is unreasonable, but grabbing a piece of scrap paper certainly isn’t.

  20. Portlandia says:

    Before we jump all over the store, is it possible they they didn’t understand the OP and kept talking because they didn’t know what else to do?

    If you’re deaf, I’m assuming you have a pad an paper handy for just this kind of thing. Why can’t you take charge of the situation and pull it out and write down. If you had stopped everything, wrote down your request this could have possibly turned out differently.

    • madrigal says:

      This was my guess as well.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I agree, I think she should have written down what she was saying, at the very least to create a non-verbal indication SHE didn’t understand what they were saying to her.

      Someone did point out, however, that perhaps the employees didn’t write anything down because they themselves did not have a solid grasp of written English.

      • Portlandia says:

        I agree, I think communication was poor on both sides here. I understand people’s desire to stand behind the OP but it appears there were ways both sides could have handled this better.

  21. Rosalie says:

    A few things.

    I normally do bring a note pad, but I forgot it this time.

    I do lipread, but people think that if you lipread you automatically understand what the person is saying. In a controlled environment in an audiologist’s booth, understanding 30% of speech by lipreading alone is considered good. Out of the booth people move their heads, they have lips that don’t actually move much at all when they speak, they often put their tongue in unusual positions for making sounds, all sorts of things come in to play to make lipreading in real time extremely difficult.

    I should have added that I thought the Asian woman might have thought I couldn’t understand her when she spoke like a hearing person might not understand her, due to her having an accent. Her lip and tongue movement wasn’t what you typically see from someone who had English as a first language. That’s where my assumption that she had an accent came from. However, that doesn’t explain why she kept talking to me, and why she didn’t get the manager right off the bat. I would think that if even a hearing person couldn’t understand her, she’d get her co-worker to help in the situation.
    I do have a noticeable deaf accent.

    They also were aware that I was deaf. I abbreviated the story for clarity, but I did specifically tell them that I cannot hear them instead of just not understanding them. The Asian woman, right before I paid my bill, started to do the “body patting/hand motions” that a lot of people do with deaf people when there is a communication breakdown. It’s like they pat the deaf person to say it’s ok, and then they try to communicate something with hand motions. There is absolutely no way that either of these women would think I could hear.

    I wasn’t embarrassed about breaking the cup, I just figured it was my responsibility since I broke it.

    I did use the classic “write it down” or “sign this” motion that even hearing people use when I asked them to write it down the first few times. I didn’t think to write it in the story because it’s done so automatically that I honestly forgot I did it.

    It shouldn’t matter if I used sign with them or not. People are allowed to communicate the way that they are comfortable with, including people with disabilities. What if the next deaf person who comes in cannot sign and forgot their notebook too? This is why I suggested in my mail to Teavana that they do disability awareness training.

    • Rosalie says:

      Also, people are blaming me for not having something to write on. I normally do. My cab was early that day (I have other disabilities and I cannot drive) and I ran out, forgetting my notepad.

      Only one of the employees might have had a difficult grasp of English, the other one was able to talk quickly and easily to the other client that came in while this was going on. I think her English was just fine, and as I’ve said my speech is clear, thanks to many years of speech therapy while growing up. I have that flat quality to the sound of my voice that deaf people often have, but my words are clear.

      And again, I had to talk to 5 other shopkeepers before Teavana, and two after. This was the only one who had an issue with writing it down for me.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Thanks for chiming on your experience, Rosalie.

        For my own clarification, you indicate they clearly understood you were deaf, but chose not to move the conversation to a notepad or piece of paper? Any idea why they might have chosen not to do this? I realize that requires to make an educated guess at their motivations.

        • Rosalie says:

          Sometimes people think if they say it enough times, repeat it enough times, the message will go through, and that’s easier on their part than getting a piece of paper and writing it down. That’s the only thing I could think of. My extended family, that I don’t see that often, does this, even with a notepad and pen sitting in front of them.

          Maybe the manager didn’t feel like going to the back room and getting a piece of paper. I didn’t say this because I didn’t think it would add to anything, but at one point when I said you need to write it down so I can know what you’re saying, she stopped and turned around and made a movement to the office, then stopped a second, and turned back. She had obviously changed her mind, but I don’t know what she was thinking before or after she changed her mind.

          You know, while I am upset at how things went down at Teavana, now I’m just angry at the corporate level’s refusal to have a dialogue over this. I recently got shitty treatment at Lane Bryant, and the story below tells you what happened.

          I recently had a problem with my local Lane Bryant, i use relay to make calls which can confuse people. A woman answered, and didn’t listen to the relay operator’s explanation. She then didn’t listen to “I”m deaf, I just want to know when you close” explanation I gave and repeated to her. She hung up on me after saying something like “I don’t want to deal with this”. When I called again, she refused to pick up the line. I sent the transcript to headquarters using the email on their website, and the issue was fixed! The staff got training and have always been more than nice when I go in to get my bras. The staff understands I’m deaf when I tell them, and I can manage to get a bra fitting with a ton of respect. Now they understand how to handle a relay phone call. THAT is how you deal with this kind of situation. I don’t bitch and moan about my treatment to corporate, I simply tell them that they have a breakdown in their system and some disability awareness training would be ideal.

          • jsibelius says:

            I’m a former relay agent. Sometimes, it’s easier to just tell the agent to start the call without making the announcement. Pizza Hut is the absolute WORST at handling relay calls…or was, until I read this. So sorry you have to deal with kind of ignorance.

          • PupJet says:

            Just thought I would chime in here.

            I have several friends that are deaf. I have for many years, so I took it upon myself to actually learn ASL (I took 2 years of it, the rest was taught to me by others). I’ve even done a social experiment where I went into a bar as a deaf person during a time when it wasn’t busy and music wasn’t blaring (most of the bars around me are fairly small and crowds are usually reasonable). Needless to say I was shocked.

            Compared to your experience, mine was a breeze. Out of all the people I dealt with (I will guess in the range of 20+ including bartenders), only ONE person was rude about it and stated “Why is a deaf person here at a bar? Isn’t that just stupid?” Mind you having to be in ‘form’, I held back from slapping the person.

            Needless to say, all the rest were VERY understanding and when I gave the basic sign for “Do you have something to write with and on? (pen and paper movements basically)” all except that ONE person understood it CLEARLY.

            Even though you had a bad experience in this case, I am sorry it caused you to cry, but just remember, there is ALWAYS one bad apple!

      • Portlandia says:

        To be fair, I wasn’t “blaming you” I did point out that there could have been better communication on both sides of this story. It appears that a language barrier may have further complicated the situation.

    • January says:

      I went to their facebook and stuck up for you, Rosalie. Unfortunately, they are deleting comments about this article people are posting. Sounds like a letter to corporate is in order. If they don’t answer me – fine. But at least they would read it.

    • acw123 says:

      Rosalie – I’m not sure that training will do the job. If they can’t figure out that they need to do somthing other than speak to a deaf person…it is a level of stupidity that simply can’t be overcome.

    • TeavanaCorp says:


      We are deeply sorry to learn about your shopping experience. At Teavana, we value our customers and their satisfaction is essential to our mission. We would like to learn more about your experience in our store. Please contact us by sending an email with your contact information and store location to shop@teavana.com or call 877-TEAVANA Monday through Saturday, 8am – 8pm.


    • Extended-Warranty says:

      I’m sorry if I come off harsh, but a few things bothered me here.

      You expect them to understand you because they are at a retail store. Yet, you can’t be expected to understand them because they are Asian. That’s a bit hypocritical.

      Forgetting the notepad is an honest mistake. However, you can’t blame others for that mistake. It would be a different story if you had it and the employees refused to read it. You can’t mistake inability to understand as a refusal to accomodate.

      Before everyone attacks me, consider this. You are attempting to communicate with a deaf person of a different accent who has no notepad. How do you communicate? Do you accept that if you can’t, you aren’t being accomodating?

    • Heron says:

      Rosalie, maybe it’s time to give up on Teavana. Some corporate cultures just aren’t responsive to customers’ complaints.

      I don’t buy tea from Teavana, because when I visited a store, they didn’t store their tea leaves properly. (Tea leaves shouldn’t be in clear containers.) I order tea from Rishi Tea’s website, and I’ve been pleased with their products.

  22. dush says:

    They obviously couldn’t understand her, she should have written it down.

  23. SecretAgentWoman says:

    Totally NOT blaming the OP, but…does she carrry around a pad and pen for this purpose? Saying it is one thing, thrusting the tools to fulfill the request into their hands might get the message across easier. Humans are dumb.

    • SecretAgentWoman says:

      Oops, missed the reply above me. Carry on.

      OP, totally in your court, and hope your holiday shopping in the near future goes off without a hitch!

  24. acw123 says:

    Teavana – the one store that I will avoid to the point that if I’m walking with a group of people and they want to go there I’ll actually leave the group not to go in. That place enrages me. Does the world really need high pressure tea sales? I was told by a salesgirl there that we NEEDED to buy two cast iron tea pots (at $100+ each) because we drink 2 types of tea and the pot would take on the flavor of the tea… Yeh… Ended up buying two cast iron tea pots. About $30/each on amazon and very similar to the ones in the store – but I think the whole “taking on the flavor” thing is total BS. If you must buy from these tools atleast order your tea from their website. It seems to cost less – probably because you are not paying for the high pressure sales situation.

    • missminimonster says:

      I have actually heard that but not about cast iron tea sets. It was for the clay tea sets that I got while I was in China, and clay absorbing flavors makes a lot more sense than cast iron absorbing flavors.

      I haven’t been in that store but I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

  25. OttersArePlentiful says:

    I don’t understand why people refuse to do something simple to help accomodate someone else. I had a deaf friend in college, and he carried around a pad and paper with him everywhere (he’d been deaf all his life, so he couldn’t speak). He hated shopping, especially if he wanted to go out to eat, because when waiters would try to offer him something other than what he wanted, he’d always have to write for people, “I’m deaf and cannot lip read, please write down what you are saying.” Instead of writing anything down, people would just speak slower and louder, as if that would help. He’d point to “I cannot lip read” and they’d just keep talking. He told me he thinks people do it because they don’t believe you when you say you can’t lip read, and think that you’re just being lazy, and that by talking slower and articulating their words, you’ll magically understand.

    • jsibelius says:

      No…it’s that they JUST DON’T GET IT. They’ve never been around anyone who was deaf and can’t comprehend that what they’re being told isn’t just a metaphor for something else. Or a practical joke on them.

      • Mr_Magoo says:

        I think deaf people should carry a small air horn with them, with a custom made label on it that says “I CAN’T HEAR THIS!”.

        When a deaf person runs into a person like this who just doesn’t get the concept of deafness, he pulls out the air horn, shows the person the label, and then pulls the trigger.

        Maybe then, the dense person would understand the the person is deaf and CAN’T HEAR!

  26. HMFIC says:

    I call fault on both parties. The Teavana people are clearly idiots and probably have never met or known a deaf person. On the other hand, if the woman’s speaking was not clear, (the two deaf people I have known have problems with annunciation) then why did she not have a scratch pad? Simply write them a note telling she is deaf, and to write out what they are saying? I still would put the larger fault on Teavana, for not having the sense to understand what was going on.

    • jsibelius says:

      I don’t. This is why we have ADA law. The business is required to make a reasonable accommodation when asked. The simple fact is…they didn’t. It sounds to me like our OP did everything she is supposed to do to communicate what she needs for an accommodation.

    • jennybens says:

      I think people are missing the point somewhat, based on what the OP clarified. She’s not upset anymore about what went down in the store, but rather that Corporate refuses to even acknowledge the situation. The point is, there was a communication breakdown that the employees would have been able to handle had they been trained for the situation. That’s what the OP wants to see happen going forward. But her calls/messages have not been answered.

      • Rosalie says:

        This is exactly it. But they haven’t bothered to respond, of course, and at this point the company is not worth my effort or the price of a stamp to send them paper mail.

        For those who keep on asking, my speech is very clear. I taught college classes for three years without a single person needing to have me repeat myself, it’s my primary form of communication, and I honestly can’t remember the last time someone didn’t understand me when I spoke to them. I really highly doubt the women at Teavana couldn’t understand my speech because of my deafness

        And lastly, why I expected them to have paper and pen when I didn’t? I have yet to go into a store that doesn’t have a pen and paper somewhere behind the counter. Wish I could have used my phone, but that was a reason I was at the mall, to get a new cord for my dead phone, which I was able to get after being directed to Radio Shack by T-Mobile with the use of pen and paper they had behind the counter.

  27. Rohit says:

    This is really sad this kind of behavior is going to lose sale as well as trust

  28. Sleestak says:

    Happens constantly with my wife. Tell people she can’t hear them and they just continue on. They’ve even gotten angry about it, getting cross with me when I explain she is deaf.

  29. wwwww says:

    Maybe the employee and the manager are both deaf as well…

    OP: Please write on paper.

    Employee: I don’t understand you, write on paper please.

    OP: OMG!? What!?

    Manager: What!? I can’t hear you, write on paper please.

    OP: !?!?!?!?

  30. mitchykun says:

    First of all, let me say that I really feel for you. No one should be treated that way. I had a similarly embarrassing and infuriating experience at a Teavana about three weeks ago. (I’ve shopped at that Teavana for YEARS, by the way.) I have an obvious physical disability. I was looking at the cups (those damn cups, gosh) and an employee came up to me and literally *scolded* me like I was some kind of child. She said “DON’T TOUCH THE CUPS!” I just stared at her until she left me alone. I cannot believe I was treated like that. I’m really sorry this happened to you… I dunno. After reading your comment, I think I’m pretty much done with Teavana. To all the people that think this story is ‘made up’ or ‘only tells one side of the story’.. think again. People with disabilities get treated like this a LOT. It’s getting better, but this story is very real.

    • Rosalie says:

      Oh, guess what? I was catching up on responses, and apparently Teavana respond on the 1st. With a request to email, which I already have done so presumably they have my contact information through that, or to call, which I’ve tried twice to do and I could not get through using relay. Very nice, Teavana!

      • mitchykun says:

        Wow, again? That’s crazy! It’s strange, ’cause I e-mailed them on Friday and got a response first thing this morning! I sent them a link to this post–maybe that’s something you should link them to as well. They were very apologetic. I hope they get you taken care of quickly! Keep fighting! :)