Tesco employee vows not to speak to any customers for three months

A Tesco worker has promised not to speak to a single customer in work for three months.

It’s not just shoppers getting the silent treatment from Lee Clark, who works at the Southchurch Road branch of Tesco in Southend-on-Sea.

Lee will also be staying silent with his colleagues, and says he will continue to do so for months.

But it’s all for a good cause.

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The usually “noisy and chatty” Tesco worker, from down South is part way through a three-month sponsored silence whenever he’s on shift to raise money for Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK.

The father-of-five, 40, started his annual fundraiser at the beginning of last month and will finish on April 10. His only form of communication at the moment is through flashcards, pens and paper.

Speaking while not at work, Lee said: “It could be quite draining because you try not to slip up and try to focus.

“It can be a horrible experience but, again, I’m lucky I can put myself in that position to help someone else and I’ll happily do that every single time.”

“That’s what gets me through, it is usually every time because the sponsor silence is a very lonely place. I feel very lonely, it is quite isolated in a sense.”

This will be Lee’s 15th straight year taking part in his sponsored silence.

The Tesco customer assistant of 16 years decided to stay closedmouthed during a nine-hour shift that year as he said he was known as the “singing man on the tills”.

In his first nine-hour silent shift all those years ago, he managed to raise approximately £800 for the Lennox Lewis Cancer Fund.

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Tesco worker Lee Clark has vowed to remain silent for three months
Tesco worker Lee Clark has vowed to remain silent for three months

“It was phenomenal because I’ve never done anything like that in my life before, so it really got me,” he said.

“It gave me the bug for fundraising as well. I just saw the response as well as the love and support it brought.

“People were coming in to see me just to donate in the bucket, not necessarily buying anything though, just getting involved and it meant a lot to me personally that I brought the community together for this fundraiser. It was a brilliant experience.

“I saw the difference it makes to people and that’s what I never experienced before. You’re helping someone and they’re helping you, there is no better feeling than that.

“I love giving, I give what I can or where I can, supporting and helping. It’s like Christmas, you get more enjoyment out of gifting presents rather than receiving them and I get that by doing a fundraiser.”

Since 2007, Lee has either organized or participated in 108 charity events – raising a whopping £178,000 for 32 different charities.

“There are some that think I’m being rude”

Lee decides to increase the time period of the silence every year by a day.

His employer, Tesco, has recognized his hard work over the years, supporting him on its social media platforms.

He also said he saw the fun and laughter it brought to shoppers and his colleagues, to a point where they start to “miss his voice” after a while.

Read has a board around his neck with an A4 piece of paper explaining what he is doing and who is he raising money for as well as flashcards to help with FAQs. The most common question according to Lee are questions about club cards and fuel.

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“It’s just an amazing community we live in. Regular customers, my colleagues and the support that I get from everyone is phenomenal.

“It’s my 15th one, so it’s quite an achievement in that sense and no one gets bored of it. They love me being quiet.

“If I’m not talking to them, they are like ‘you’re the quiet one again?’

“There are some that think I’m being rude and they see the sign and realize that I’m not.”

Lee considers this fundraising event as his “worst one” as he often gets frustrated when he wants to talk to colleagues or customers but can’t even make a sound, says Essex Live.

He also revealed that doing the sponsored silence in 2020 was the hardest year, even though he raised £4000 for Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK.

Strict COVID restrictions implemented in retail and supermarket stores made it hard for the Tesco worker because people struggled to lip-read what he was mouthing as he wore a mask during his shift.

“One of the hardest things I found is when my colleagues are having a chat and I can’t even join in. I switch off, I try to zone out of conversations because otherwise, I get frustrated I want to talk.

“It is the worst thing in the world when you just want to blurt out and join in their conversation.”

But he also said he feels relieved after his shift because he loves talking.

To cope during the three months, Lee has a countdown calendar to cope with the silence.

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“It is like when you go swimming and you go underwater, hold your breath and then you come back up. That is how I feel every time I finish my silence.

“Swimming all day long and I just come on top of the water to breathe again.

“I marked off for a couple of days, so when I’m feeling low I can mark off a couple of days and it is quite a relief because then I can see I’m getting to the bottom of my calendar, which is where I want to be.

“Just like I do in December, I try not to eat all my chocolates. I try and save it for a few days, then eaten and that’s what I’ve done with my little calendar.”

“Anything you raise is something more than you had yesterday”

Lee plans to do the sponsor silence next year for three months and one day.

Lee’s enthusiasm for fundraisers has rubbed off on his five daughters as they are getting involved and recognized through school and community awards.

The passionate father said he really hopes and would love that his legacy of fundraising and attitude of helping people carries on through his children.

As Lee hopes to do more fundraisers this year, including running the London Marathon and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, he wants to achieve and inspire people to feel they can make a difference.

“Anything you raise is something more than you had yesterday, so it doesn’t matter what you raise.”


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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