Deaf Trader Joe’s employee gets ‘tremendous’ gift from coworkers

A deaf grocery store worker is going viral after revealing the heartwarming way his coworkers helped him through a difficult time.

Matthew Simmons works part-time at a Trader Joe’s in Vancouver, Wash., where he’s usually able to manage by reading customers’ lips. But amid the current global health crisis, the increased prevalence of face masks has stifled that solution.

“People thought I was ignoring them or being rude, but I simply didn’t know they were speaking to me because I can’t see their mouth,” Simmons told Good Morning America. “It made me upset because I couldn’t help it and left me feeling defeated.”

Simmons’ coworkers couldn’t let that carry on, so they worked with him on a solution. That turned into three gifts that, according to Simmons, have made his job much easier.

“I’ve been struggling to work because of the masks being worn by the customers and coworkers,” Simmons wrote in a thank you post on Facebook, which has since been shared more than 1,800 times. “Things are going to be better!!”

As a solution, one coworker found an “I am deaf” T-shirt online, which Simmons has started wearing to warn customers that he needs to read their lips. The shirt’s even been styled with Trader Joe’s branding, just for good measure.

Simmons also now uses a whiteboard in the checkout line, and customers can use it to ask questions he might not be able to otherwise understand.

“The first customer at my register read it and wrote down on the small whiteboard, ‘It must be hard with everyone wearing masks! Thank you for your help,'” Simmons told Good Morning America. “People finally understood it was such a relief.”

Lastly, the store’s employees wrote a message on the plexiglass window in front of Simmons’ checkout lane informing customers that he’s deaf. All three measures together left Simmons feeling inspired and thankful for his teammates.

“Working together towards a common goal, breaking down barriers, showing compassion to one another instead of prejudices. That’s the best part,” he told Good Morning America.

Commenters on Simmons’ Facebook post seemed to agree, sharing kind words and calling the store’s actions “tremendous.”

“This got me so choked up. You’re so loved!” one wrote.

“You rock Matthew, your positive attitude and resourcefulness are what the world needs right now! People like you are part of why I love this community so much!!” another added.

If you liked this story, check out In The Know’s article on the teenage grocery store employee who made a major impact on an elderly customer.

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