Flower shop staff with special needs left 'rattled and confused' after complaint, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Flower shop staff with special needs left 'rattled and confused' after complaint

The store, which is also a social enterprise for those with special needs, urges patrons to be more understanding

A social enterprise that focuses on differently-abled individuals has urged the public to exercise more patience and kindness to staff with special needs. 

Mustard Tree, an art handcraft store at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, whose Facebook page shines the spotlight on autism in Singapore, shared a recent incident between a customer and a staff member. 

The customer had picked out some daisies and asked an employee to help with a "simple" flower wrapping.

Realising that the customer's request was more complicated than usual (placing the flowers in a standard floral wrap), the staff said they could not fulfil the request. 

Unhappy with the service, the customer dropped the owner of Mustard Tree a text message saying the staff had a bad attitude. 

"Turns out when the staff said 'cannot do it', they meant 'I do not know how to do it'," the social enterprise explained.

But it also said the customer's frustration was understandable as she was “in a shop that sold flowers", adding it was a "matter of perspective and semantics". 

The misunderstanding was eventually cleared up, said Mustard Tree, but the staff was left "rattled and confused" over the incident. 

According to AsiaOne, Mustard Tree was started back in 2016 by Soek Ying for her son Ryan, who has autism.

One of the goals was to help her son carve out a self-sufficient career out of art, which is his main interest.  

In the same post, Mustard Tree recounted how Ryan was sweeping the floor one day when a customer asked him a question. 

"He was very focused on his sweeping, and the customer felt 'ignored'," read the post. 

Later on, the store received feedback that Ryan had been "rude".

"So much to teach, so many different permutations of scenarios, which oftentimes we too fail to anticipate or even find ourselves at a loss over how to handle them," said Mustard Tree.

While the social enterprise tries to simplify ways to help its staff understand things, sometimes, they simply cannot process the complexities of regular social norms, quirks and cues.  "They are just wired differently," Mustard Tree explained.

The post urged the public to be more patient and understanding towards those with special needs. 

KINDNESSautismSOCIAL ENTERPRISESNg Teng Fong General Hospital