Coles shopper recounts harrowing experience: 'I couldn't breathe'

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·News Reporter
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A shopper has shared her disappointment after a harrowing experience at a Coles supermarket left her feeling helpless and alone.

The disappointed shopper, named Kateryn, recounted the distressing ordeal on Facebook which took place earlier this week at Coles Kelmscott, south-east of Perth.

Kateryn, who has been suffering from a chest infection, went into Coles to pick up cat litter.

However, when she reached the self-service checkout she burst into an uncontrollable coughing fit and was unable to breathe.

Coles sustainability signs at checkout in store. Source: Bloomberg via Getty Images
The harrowing experience at Coles left the customer feeling helpless and alone. Source: Bloomberg via Getty Images

“Long story short, I'm soon leaning on the machine, struggling to breathe. Huge racking coughs and being ignored by the guy working the self service checkout except to cancel my items when I gasp: 'I can't breathe!',” wrote Kateryn in her post.

Coles responded to the claim made by Kateryn, saying they have spoken to the customer and are working with the Kelmscott Store Manager to refresh staff on the proper processes for medical incidents.

Kateryn told Yahoo News Australia that she had used the wrong machine, so while she was gasping for air the Coles staffer proceeded to cancel the transaction, indicating to use one of two cash-only machines and walked away.

“People kept streaming past me. The other machines kept being occupied with other customers while the staff member seemed to ignore me trying to flag for help,” Kateryn told Yahoo News Australia.

Meanwhile, the struggling shopper attempted in vain to get the “attention of the men on either side” of her, who appeared to ignore her.

Two people sit outside Coles on a bench. Source: Getty Images
The Coles shopper sat on a bench outside the store to recover her breath. Source: Getty Images

"I staggered out to the bench outside the store and just tried to breathe. I attempted to call my partner and forced myself to calm down but my hands were tingly and I was dizzy, I was starting to black out,” she explained.

Eventually Kateryn composed herself enough to make it into the Wizard Pharmacy across the road, where an employee raced off to grab her an inhaler – which was paid for by a kindhearted stranger in the store.

“After a bit of charades, she brought me a puffer and I was able to get my airways open again.

"She let me stay there for a little while. I recovered my breathing and what shreds remained of my dignity,” she said.

Coles shopper wonders: ‘Why didn’t anyone help me?’

The distraught shopper explained that with the exception of the kind woman at the chemist, she was most disappointed in the people around her who failed to help.

“I thought I couldn't be any more disappointed than I had already been shown in humanity but I guess there is a new low. And that's what I'm still upset about,” Kateryn lamented in her post.

“Why didn't anyone help me?” she asked.

Kateryn suggested that perhaps Covid had something to do with people’s response, which led them to keep their distance as a means of self-preservation.

Coles trolley. Source: AAP
The Coles shopper suggested that perhaps Covid had something to do with people’s lack of response. Source: AAP

However, she said it was “incredibly selfish” for others to stand idly by while another person suffered in front of them.

The Perth shopper confirmed that she has since spoken to Coles and has a meeting planned with the store manager to discuss the incident and how to best handle situations like this in the future.

"I'm not angry at the individuals. I just want there to be some retraining or something. Staff need to be aware of a customer needing help like that. That sort of thing just shouldn't happen in Australia.”

Coles to refresh staff on 'proper process' for medical incidents

A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that after receiving the complaint from the customer they are working with the Store Manager to ensure all staff are properly prepared for medical incidents.

“We were concerned to receive this customer’s feedback and our Store Manager will be meeting with her to discuss her experience and what more we could’ve done to provide assistance," said the spokesperson.

"The store did have two team members with First Aid training working at the time, and we’ll take this opportunity to refresh all team members on the proper process for medical incidents.”

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