Disability 101: More shopping on wheels
June 6, 2010
Let’s continue our discussion on how grocery stores can attract customers with disabilities and their wallets. I have a couple of additional suggestions.
First of all, those mini shopping carts are a big attraction for people who use wheelchairs. There’s a stereotype that all people with disabilities will use the electric, scooter-type shopping carts. Not true. Shoppers who can walk some, but just can’t walk very far, like the electric shopping carts. Shoppers who use wheelchairs generally don’t like the electric shopping carts.
People who use wheelchairs are not going to transfer out of their wheelchair, and then leave their wheelchair, which cost thousands of dollars, unsupervised in the front of the store. People who use wheelchairs stay in their wheelchairs to shop. So how do they manage their groceries?
There is another stereotype that shoppers who use wheelchairs just need a basket for their groceries. That may work for some, but many shoppers who use wheelchairs are mothers and fathers and have families and there’s no way they can get all the groceries they need into that tiny, little basket. Provide them only a basket, they will purchase only what will fit in the basket. Provide them a mini shopping cart, they will purchase much more because now they have the means to manage it!
Many people who use wheelchairs are able to successfully push a mini shopping cart. Those are relatively easy to push. Only a few people who use wheelchairs are able to successfully push a full-sized shopping cart. I can do it but it exhausts me. Many can’t do it at all. Full-sized carts are heavy and bulky, and if a bad wheel is involved it’s a major pain.
Another thing I have noticed is that shoppers without disabilities like the mini shopping carts as well. Good customer service for people with disabilities is good customer service for everyone. Again, they are easier to push for most people and they reduce congestion in your aisles.
Next suggestion: when a person with a disability is checking out, go ahead and ask them if they want help taking their groceries to their car, just like you ask everyone else. But then please be prepared to accept their answer, no matter what it is. Some shoppers with disabilities will want help. Others will not want help.
If a shopper with a disability indicates they do not want help getting their groceries to their car, don’t try to talk them into it. None of this “Are you sure?” business. If I need and want help, I will answer yes the first time.
I don’t appreciate you trying to force me into it. I don’t need an argument at checkout. Please just accept that I am capable of more than you think.
Finally, please keep in mind that shoppers with disabilities don’t want to talk about their disability in the grocery store. I have multiple sclerosis, but when I just need to pick up some cat litter and shampoo, I don’t want to be put in a position that I feel obligated to discuss my medical history, give you a run down on every detail about MS, hear the story about the person you know who has MS, and hear about the things you think will cure me. Every time I go out in public, people always want to talk about my MS and frankly, I’m sick of discussing it.
Instead, I want to talk about the same things you talk about with other shoppers. Let’s talk about how sick we are of the rain, whether I can recommend the cat litter I am purchasing because you are thinking of switching brands, and whether the Rockies will win their game this evening.
If I go to a grocery store and there are no mini carts, the checker wants to talk about why I’m sitting in a wheelchair, and the bagger argues with me about helping me out to my car, I won’t be back to that store. But if a store has mini carts, respects the decisions I make about my need for help, and treats me like other shoppers, both myself and my wallet will be back.