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Woman says she was kicked out of a Vodafone store for speaking Samoan

Vodafone sign

Porirua, NEW ZEALAND — The former deputy mayor of Porirua says she's complained to Vodafone after she was kicked out of their store for speaking Samoan.

Litea Ah Hoi said she was leaving North City Mall in Porirua after a store staff member had refused to serve her when she stopped and spoke in Samoan to a women she knew.

She said the worker, who had earlier been to rude to her, abruptly told her to stop speaking Samoan and to get out.

Ms Ah Hoi said she speaks Samoan, Tokalaun, Chinese and Māori and Porirua is a multi-cultural community and there does not have to be a specific circumstance for her to speak in another language.

"I'm not going to speak English to them if they feel much more comfortable and can have a better conversation in their own mother language."

Prior to asking her to leave for speaking Samoan, the man had refused to talk to her when she asked him about a promotional deal that he knew nothing about, she said. She admits that she was "cheeky" and spoke slowly to the employee when explaining to him what she wanted.

She said after that he would not serve or talk to her after that.

"I was pretty dumb-founded, because I've walked into Vodafone stores on numerous occasions in different locations around New Zealand and I've never had somebody just refuse to serve you - so it came as a shock."

Ms Ah Hoi said no one should have to put up with being ordered out of a shop because they are speaking another language.

She said Vodafone called her the next day and said that the employee had thought that she was talking about him in Samoan.

"He said to his boss that he felt that I was offending him in my language or talking about him, or being rude towards him in my language, which was why he stood up and made that comment."

Ms Ah Hoi said that is not what she was doing.

"Everybody in this country has a right to speak whatever language that they want, it doesn't matter what the situation is without having to be told that they cannot speak, whether it is offensive or not."

In a statement Vodafone says it is taking the complaint very seriously and the employee was immediately suspended pending a thorough investigation into the incident.
Vodafone said it is in close contact with Li-tea Ah Hoi and prides itself on its customer interactions, the statement said.