Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Attention Walmart Shoppers...

After slowly acquiring an eclectic list of household and personal items that needed replacement yesterday, I knew I would hie off to the nearest discounter in pursuit of all things in one trip. That meant Walmart, a store I loathe for its business practices, and visit only rarely.

The next issue was whether to leave my folding manual at home and risk looking for an in-store scooter. Opting for the scooter because the manual chair, dubbed Bertha Butt, is a bit heavy to lift in and out of an average trunk, my adventures Walmartesque began with an employee on an apparent smoking break outside the store. When asked whether a scooter was available, he rolled his eyes and shuffled off, stubbed cig in hand, returning several minutes later with a specimen that looked as though it had been left in a ditch to die.

Undaunted, I climbed aboard and slowly made my way in, not because the scooter lacked speed but due to the crowds of shoppers coming in and out and the fact that most of those on two legs took no notice of the rather square, squat, motorized vehicle driven by yours truly. Had I a horn of any kind, it would have certainly expired from over use.

After only a short distance, I was stopped by an older gentleman in the traditional blue to-die-for Walmart vest, who requested that I go sit in the nearby snack bar while my scooter was put on a charger. When I explained that the scooter was in fact charged, he asked why I was stopping and starting. I gesticulated towards the throngs of two-legged humanity swelling the isles and exits with nary a glance at me. He then scratched his head, shrugged his shoulders and turned his back, signaling that our less than fruitful conversation was over.

Winding my way through the increasingly cluttered and disorganized sections of the store took about for times longer than it does when walking. Why??? Stuff is everywhere and when one isn't dodging people with no sense, displays and stacks of items, many of which are disarrayed or unreachable, loom large, threatening passageways. The lines to pay and leave were no better, and had a friend who accompanied me not directed traffic in the parking lot, we both might have been creamed by a woman on a cell phone driving an SUV.

This less than leisurely experience consumed two hours of my day, minus travel time, and sadly, is not uncommon, as other bloggers including my friend FridaWrites, have pointed out. It is also unfortunately not as safe as it might otherwise be.

In this instance, the retailer could do several things:

-Widen isles and organize merchandise so that it can not topple over.
-Hire and train more help to keep lanes clear and lines moving smoothly.
-Utilize a paging system announcing that shoppers should clear lanes for motorized scooters.
-Ask that local police or security patrol the parking areas for unsafe drivers and provide marked crosswalks and signage so that auto users understand that individuals in other wheeled conveyences have as much right to cross the parking areas as drivers do.
-Provide better customer service training to employees, including such things as making eye contact when speaking, whether or not they are speaking to a TAB or a disabled person, responding politely, and encouraging their walking customers to be aware of carts, scooters and wheelchairs.

Do I think these things are likely to occur??? Not without a lot of pressure, and even then, not likely. Being persistent and an advocate (read agitator often) I will not give up as I do not like risking life and limb in pursuit of toilet paper.


  1. Walmart is the worst big box store ever for people with disabilities. Every single one of them I've ever been in has 1950s-style flickering flourescent lights, huge columns in the middle of aisles, narrow aisles, and those huge display blocks that create bottlenecks of shoppers throughout the store. And then there are the really terrible shoppercarts, as you point out.

    I really like that now, with the remodeling that many Walmarts have been through, that the outside sign now has a big yellow-orange asterik next the store name. It's a great invitation to play the Walmart Legal Caveat Disclosure game. Walmart* (*=disgruntled employees working off the clock). Walmart*(*=handicapped changing room used for storage). Walmart* (*=lighting designed to induce seizure in susceptible individuals inside 10 minutes).

  2. You've described the world I live in well! What's interesting is that a lot of people think we have it easier sitting down in stores. Not so! Our local WalMart piles items in the aisles so wide that a scooter can often not navigate through at all--Mondays in particular (restocking). Plus, as my husband's pointed out, the stacks are so high and precarious even when there are fewer of them as to make it really dangerous for someone sitting down and for small children.

    Some people have countered this tendency in others to walk around us and then stop in front of us (forcing us to stop) by driving more aggressively just to make it through. I understand why, though I haven't done so (plus I use my own scooter, which I don't want damaged).

  3. I've nominated you for a blog award. Please come on over and pick it up when you can!