Westfield shopper fumes after being 'verbally attacked' by salesperson over checkout 'demand'

It's incidents like this one that have reminded this Sydney shopper of why she prefers to buy online.

A Sydney shopper who said she was
A Sydney shopper said she was "abused" by a staffer at a store owned by the Cotton On Group after she declined to donate to charity. Source: TikTok

A shopper has shared her frustration after a sales assistant "got annoyed" and "lectured" her at the checkout when she declined to donate to charity at a popular Aussie retail store.

The woman's disappointing experience, at Westfield Bondi Junction in Sydney, has reignited the debate about whether big businesses should be asking for charity donations in general during the cost of living crisis, with the shopper admitting "the interaction I had makes me nervous to go back".

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, the woman, who did not wish to be named, said the retail store in question was part of the Cotton On Group — which owns Supré, Typo, Factorie and Rubi — but to protect the privacy of the staffer, refrained from revealing which particular store.

She said that since she's spoken out about her encounter, "many others" have reached out to her revealing they'd "experienced the same".

"I went to the checkout with my items and before the sales assistant processed them I was asked in a very long spiel if I would like to donate to a women's mental health charity," the shopper told Yahoo.

"It took her several minutes to get out the question as she went into detail about the charity and what they do. She was talking for quite some time, and I did say at one point, before she had finished, 'oh um, no, no thanks, I won't today I just want to grab those items please.'

"She then got annoyed and started lecturing me on why I should be donating and questioning whether or not I understood the purpose of that charity. She snatched the items off me, processed them and then pushed them aggressively at me across the counter and commenced talking about me to her co-worker as I left the store."

Shocked, the shopper said the ordeal reminded her of her preference to buy clothes online. Big retailers are "absolutely 100 per cent not the place" for staff to be asking for cash donations from Aussies, she added.

"More often than not, it adds stress to the retail assistant and the customer," the shopper said. "I also feel upset when I think about the interaction that I had and it makes me nervous to go back to that particular store but also to any of their chain as this could happen again."

She explained she's a "very, very regular customer [at the store]" and has "always really hated being asked to donate".

"I didn't [complain], I just left very quickly and I also do really hate the idea of getting someone in trouble at work as I don't know their circumstances and I don't like the idea of someone losing their job," she explained. "That said, I was super pissed off and wanted to let some steam off. I probably [won't go back] to that specific one for a while."

Speaking to Yahoo News, a spokesperson for Cotton On Group apologised "if this or any customer has had a bad experience with us."

"Our Foundation gives us the opportunity to partner with our team and customers to support causes they are passionate about," the spokesperson said.

"We work closely with our retail team on how best to share the work of our Foundation with our customers, and we apologise if this or any customer has had a bad experience with us. We are committed to listening and learning from this feedback as we review the matter with our team."

Whether or not Australians should be encouraged to donate to charities via businesses has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, as many households battle to keep the lights on.

In December, a Woolworths customer took aim at the supermarket giant for what was described as an "absolutely" disgusting" request. The shopper blasted Woolies after noticing a food donation trolley at the front of a store, asking people to donate to their charity partner OzHarvest ahead of Christmas.

The supermarket, which recorded a $1.62 billion profit in the last financial year and has been accused of price gouging, "needs a stern talking to" according to the customer, who said the company should "be forced to donate themselves" as many shoppers are "struggling to put food on the table".

"We are in one of the worst cost-of-living crisis' in Australian history, and Woolworths, a multi-billion dollar company, is currently being accused of price hiking during the crisis", the shopper recently fumed on social media.

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