Railways apologizes to woman after inspector decribed her as ‘fat’ when fining for expired ticket
For 28-year-old Natasha Kaur, it was going to be just another day of train travel. But little did she know that a small logistical error would end in her insecurities being dredged up.
When traveling from her home in Southampton to work in London on February 23, 2021, Kaur could not produce a proper ticket as she had an expired season ticket. This led South Western Railway to fine her. This inspector reportedly also described her as "fat build".
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As per a report in DailyMail, South Western Railway (SWR) has now been forced to apologize to the size 18 woman. The firm admitted that the use of the word "fat" to describe Kaur was derogatory. It was after she made a formal complaint following the row over not having a valid ticket that SWR took responsibility.
The worker reportedly called Kaur, a health insurance adviser who commutes to London on weekdays, a woman of "fat build" in a written description when she could not produce a correct ticket. She said that it wasn't until she got to London Waterloo that she realized her mistake because the barriers at Southampton Airport Parkway were open and there was no guard. She asked for an attendant for help when her ticket would not work in the capital. He then told her her ticket had run out three weeks before.
When Kaur offered to pay for the ticket for the journey there and then, the attendant wouldn't have any of it. They demanded her details and then sent her a fine of $179.55 (£130).
As soon as she received the fine, Kaur emailed SWR. She asked if she could challenge it because she thought it was unfair that she was not being allowed to pay the fare at the time. But the company reportedly sent her another demand for $220.98 (£160) in addition to the threat of being sent to court. The company sent her "evidence" - in the attendant's description, she was described as a "white female, about 5ft 6ins tall, fat build, long black hair".
South Western Railways later apologized and admitted that the language was "derogatory." However, Kaur says that the damage is done.
"I felt so upset, I burst straight into tears. I said to my mum 'How dare someone call me that? You can't just call someone that,'" she said. Kaur, as per the report, suffers from the hormonal disorder Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which makes it difficult for her to lose weight. Due to hormonal imbalances caused by the syndrome, those living with it often have a high BMI.
"I couldn't get my head around why someone would say that about me, so I made a complaint," she said. Kaur has struggled with her weight but said she had put more on during the pandemic. She also added that she thinks about her size every day and that she had spent her life trying out different diets. She said the comment "really triggered my anxiety". And added, "I now feel like when I'm on a train everyone is looking at me. The word fat is not acceptable."
Recent studies have claimed that fat-shaming can actually be damaging to people who are overweight. She told that publication that before the incident, she had visited her GP to ask whether she might be able to see a nutritionist on the NHS.
A spokesman for South Western Railways said that the staff member had been spoken to. "At SWR, we take a zero tolerance approach to derogatory or abusive language of any kind," he reportedly said. "The phrasing used in this statement was unacceptable and not in keeping with our training on the use of respectful language. We have already apologized to the customer, and would like to do so again today. We have investigated this matter fully and taken the appropriate action."