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The voice of the brand strategy consultancy, The Portnoy Group Inc.

The Brand Man Speaks is a dialogue about the consuming world in which we live and a guide to successfully navigating it. The goal is to educate people and companies about branding, the most powerful yet misunderstood business tool.

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Whole Foods under fire for "English-only" requirement by employees on the clock

Whole Foods, the high end specialty grocer, has come under fire for an incident that occurred in one of their New Mexico stores over the speaking of Spanish vs. English on store time. Two employees were fired for speaking Spanish among themselves while on the clock, or so says several non Whole Foods accounts of the situation.

The actual circumstances may be different than what social media and the press picked up on (Whole Foods says the employees were behaving disrespectfully and rudely while dealing with the management feedback on the matter), however, the outrage is prompting a national ban to not shop at the store by Latin groups.

This event prompts for me a much bigger issue about what language should be primarily used in any business environment that caters to multi-language speaking consumers. I believe fluent English should be required of all retail store personnel in any store that clearly does not cater only to customers who speak a language other than English.

In the case of Whole Foods, all staffers who deal with consumers in anyway should be able to converse in English and if the customer requests another language be used the staffer can if able use the other requested language while on the clock. I do object to the fact that for example, in my Publix supermarket in Miami that caters to English and Spanish speaking customers, many times I cannot find anyone who can speak English well enough to serve my needs. And, to counter-act Publix slogan "Where shopping is a pleasure", it is many times not a pleasure. This is still an English speaking country and sometimes I think certain elements of society forget that.

I reviewed Whole Foods policy as outlined by their managment in several news articles and find it sound. I believe social media and certain Latin groups took advantage of the situation and are not being totally fair about how they are reacting. I do not have a problem with staffers talking to themselves in whatever language they are comfortable with AS LONG AS they are immediately able to address English speaking consumers without any difficulty.

In the case of my local Publix, I have filed a complaint with corporate management but have yet to hear back from them.

What do you think? Let me know.

Watching out for you everyday.



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