Telstra store. Picture: file photo.
Telstra store. Picture: file photo.

Elderly woman ‘rounded up like cattle’, told to leave store

A GLENWOOD man shocked by how his elderly mother was treated at Gympie Telstra said she was denied a seat to wait on and that they were "rounded up like cattle" and told to leave the store.

Last Friday, Shawn Perren and his 83-year-old mother made the drive from Glenwood to Gympie Central, to sort out problems they were having with her Telstra landline.

Mr Perren's mother, Rosemary, said Messagebank, a voicemail service which incurs extra charges, was activated by Telstra staff on her new phone without permission and they could not deactivate it.

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"They [customers] were standing up to leave but when we went to step up the manager came up spread his arms around us and said 'You can't be in here' and to wait outside the door," Mr Perren said.

"I said 'Can mum sit on a seat, she's already been standing for some time', and he said 'No we can't bring a seat outside, we've got new rules and you can't sit outside the store.'

"I understand there's COVID, but there was a lack of human decency to round us up like cattle and get us out of the store so we weren't his problem.

"Instead of saying 'I'm really sorry, my hands are tied', he wasn't polite and was raving about a $10,000 fine he could face if he bought the seat out."

Mrs Perren said they asked how long the wait would be or if they could make an appointment, and were told they could wait at least 20 minutes, or could not be booked in until the following Wednesday.

"Realistically she had no choice," he said.

Having driven down from Glenwood two days in a row, the pair decided to wait, and Mrs Perren was forced to walk the length of the shopping centre and make a food purchase in order to find a seat while waiting.

"I get where they're coming from but we're all still human, and particularly if elderly people ask for a seat you should give them a seat.

"There was a lack of foresight on Telstra's behalf.

"He turned away a 35-year customer, he [the manager] didn't know she was, I get that, but she's still an elderly person.

"The banks and chemists all find seats for customers to wait so why can't Telstra have a few extras?"

After the incident Mr Perren posted to a Gympie community Facebook page, explaining the situation and how his mother was treated by staff, and it appears he is not the only resident who has had a bad experience.

More than 100 people commented on the post, many saying they had seen elderly people mistreated or experienced poor customer service at the Gympie Telstra store.

One commenter said: "...it's an embarrassment of a store and you can see why the staff act like this. I'd be travelling to another Telstra store even if I had to drive an hour. It's so upsetting. Hasn't been good for about 10 years.

"How difficult is it to allow an elderly lady a seat. One of the staff could have stood up and allowed her their seat, no need to bring into shop another seat. Inconsiderate lazy individuals," said another.

"This has been happening at this store long before COVID. Never was enough seats and an extremely long wait for a simple request ... This shop is disgusting. Never went there again. I put in a complaint, all I got was that they will talk to the manager," said one woman.

"They did the same to my mum, she has had a stroke and cannot stand for long before she needs to sit down," another woman replied.

Telstra Gympie have not yet responded to a request for comment from The Gympie Times.