Observations from outside the Overton window

Are “zero-tolerance” signs are sign of inclusivity?

There’s a trend now in my home country of Australia for “zero-tolerance” signs to be displayed in all kind of retail settings. Signs like the one below:

I first noticed these signs appearing years ago in hospitals. I thought at the time that this was fair enough: there are plenty of scumbags visiting hospitals, and people who are stressing out over their health. They take out their issues on the staff, which is a natural result of their upbringing/condition.

These signs then started to appear at auxiliary health settings, like GP clinics and chiropractors.

The last couple of years, they have been appearing at supermarkets, fast food restaurants and other retail shops.

Again, this didn’t really strike me as too odd, just the typical Western message of “everyone be kind to each other”.

Then, over a few months, I noticed a pattern with these signs, starting with my local fast food chicken restaurant.

This particular franchise had been taken over by Indians about six months before. They were notoriously slow in getting orders out, the service was horrible and they were chronically understaffed.

Despite being a patient person, I lost my temper with them a few times as my orders were messed up or forgotten or delayed. I noticed I wasn’t the only customer getting upset.

Going about my daily errands now, I take my time to notice the demographics of the staff where these signs are hung. Invariably, the majority of staff are minorities: Southern Asians, Chinese or Middle-Easterners.

Thinking about front-line staff at health centres, they are also staffed with a quite a few minority Australians, especially the health support staff (e.g. nurses).

Why is it that these signs are mostly hung at shops with minority staff? I rarely see these signs at shops run by White Australians. And if this is the correlation, why is that?

One answer can be the lack of service and the state-sponsored message of an inclusive society.

Australia is proud of its “multiculturalism” policy. Any kind of dissent or criticism of this policy is quickly met with cancel culture or even prosecution.

To point-out the fact that minorities are generally poorer at providing customer service than White Australians goes against the message of inclusivity and must be shut down.

Appealing to the empathetic guilt of Caucasians through signage outlining “abusive behaviour will not be tolerated” is the first line of defence.

(“The message” being constantly blasted at Westerners may or may not become a theme of this blog.)

Of course, one could reason that minority Australians generally live in poorer parts of the city, where they are more likely to be abused by the less-than-civilised residents; that White-run shops are more likely to be in affluent suburbs with less crime.

However, this argument may be countered by at least two arguments.

First, minority Australians, especially Chinese and Indians are much more vocal in their complaints than White Australians. And where do they live? The same lower-income suburbs as the minority-run shops.

Second, anyone who has ever been in contact with rich boomers in Australia know that they don’t put up with bad service. Sure, they’re not as loud, but their vitriol is just as potent as those old Chinese ladies who line up for baby formula.

There are probably many other minor reasons why these signs are now becoming fashionable. Perhaps the smartphone revolution has shortened the fuse of the average consumer, for example.

I’m always up to learn more and hear from others on this subject, so please leave a reply if you can.