Market Force says: if someone doesn't speak English well...keep asking them questions!

I may have to think twice before I work for Market Force again after this one...their forms already irritate me considerably (one page at a time? really?) and now I was told I had to do something really, really dumb in the future.

I was doing a grocery shop for them where I had to ask questions to gauge the answers. I had three to ask. The person I approached was apparently a recent immigrant to the US. The first question went OK, I think because I was able to sign what I wanted as I asked. But the second question...the person got very confused, and it was clear they did not speak English well enough to fully understand what I asked. So they got a manager, who helped me. I didn't get to ask the third question, which had to be to an associate, not a manager.

So I asked MF....what do I do in a situation like this where it is clear there is a language barrier?

Their answer...ASK THE QUESTIONS ANYWAY!!

Really??????

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Actually it does work. On several occasions in grocery stores I have asked a question and the person could not answer but got another associate or manager. I kept looking at the associate I had asked the question of and that caused the associate or manager to serve as a translator rather than as the person answering the question. I have not run into this with MF but rather with other companies. If you look at the translator when you ask the question the translator will invariably answer without translating.
It works if the goal is indeed to get a manager, but the goal of MF's queries in this case was to test the knowledge of the associate without a manager's help. It didn't seem fair to do that when the associate was inevitably going to get a manager regardless of the question.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/2015 11:40PM by Documentarian.
You can't change what they want.

Mary Davis Nowell. Based close to Fort Worth. Shopping Interstate 20 east and west, Interstate 35 north and south.
My point is that if the associate gets someone to translate, treat them as a translator and ask the associate. Smile, give him/her room to be told what you are asking. Thank the translator for helping you communicate, thank the associate for the information.

"When will I know that this mango is ripe?" Translator is called over. Me: "Thank you for helping us. I was asking him/her about this mango." Look at the associate and repeat, "When will I know that this mango is ripe?" The translator SHOULD translate and then translate the associate's answer.

In my area we get a lot of Haitians and Hispanics and they know who in the store can help them out. Their translator is also interested in having them learn English so they eventually won't need a translator so these interactions can be beneficial to the employee in making progress in English as well as getting your job done.
Don't sweat it. Just give 'em what they want.

I don't think there are any Russians / And there ain't no Yanks
Just corporate criminals\ / Playin' with tanks
How you can tell they do not speak English: "Do you know where the running shoes are?" "Yes." Can you tell me what colors are available?" "Yes." "How many different kinds do you carry?" "Yes." smiling smiley
@SunnyDays2 wrote:

How you can tell they do not speak English: "Do you know where the running shoes are?" "Yes." Can you tell me what colors are available?" "Yes." "How many different kinds do you carry?" "Yes." smiling smiley

"What would you like to drink with that?"
"Yes."

"The future ain't what it used to be." --Yogi Berra
@Flash wrote:

My point is that if the associate gets someone to translate, treat them as a translator and ask the associate. Smile, give him/her room to be told what you are asking. Thank the translator for helping you communicate, thank the associate for the information.

"When will I know that this mango is ripe?" Translator is called over. Me: "Thank you for helping us. I was asking him/her about this mango." Look at the associate and repeat, "When will I know that this mango is ripe?" The translator SHOULD translate and then translate the associate's answer.

In my area we get a lot of Haitians and Hispanics and they know who in the store can help them out. Their translator is also interested in having them learn English so they eventually won't need a translator so these interactions can be beneficial to the employee in making progress in English as well as getting your job done.

Just curious -- do you mention in your reports that the assistance of a translator was needed for the associate to answer the questions? Is that a "Marketforce approved method" of communication with employees you are shopping? It seems pretty important that the store is made aware that certain employees are having issues communicating with customers (and are unable to assist them without assistance themselves).
The chain of stores I am specifically thinking about hires a limited number of non-English speakers if there are managers or other associates on staff who are willing to be translators. They also hire a reasonable number of higher functioning disabled where there is ample supervision available. In both cases my sense is that it is a hand up rather than meeting any required quotas or looking for the cheapest help.

When I was teaching special ed several of my students were able to get jobs with the chain. One at age 18 had letter recognition but could still not read. He was, however, able to go by logos and then figure out what was in the can or box or bottle to get things in the correct place on the shelves and his immediate supervisor worked closely checking on him to make sure there were no mistakes. He would come to class excited because every month or so he would get another nickel raise, which was the perfectly timed acknowledgement for him to keep trying his hardest.

So on a report I may mark that the associate answered the question with assistance if the translator jumped in and answered, but I give full credit if the translator just translated and the associate gave the answer. Evaluations with this chain are not of individuals by name but by department and penalizing a department for helping an employee learn English does not seem appropriate. I have been doing these long enough I have watched some ladies in Produce go from shy and confused to comfortably handling questions in English and even joking with other associates in English.
Thanks for your reply. It sounds like the chain is perfectly aware that they have employees who are working on their English skills, and are actually trying to help them learn and be successful. Sounds like a caring company. I always appreciate establishments who hire developmentally delayed workers. I have noticed that many of those folks seem to be more hardworking and passionate about their jobs than their higher-functioning colleagues!
They certainly don't load up their stores with employees who need a little extra attention, but if you look around closely, you will find probably one in every two or three stores here.
I have changed the order I shopped the departments to avoid a barely English literate person and waited until I could run into someone else after trying to ask a floral and a produce question and getting shrugs and broken sentences the last time I shopped that store.
I've never worried about shopping departments in any particular order. But where possible I will do my within 10' linger near someone I suspect can understand and respond in English.
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