Tuesday, December 2, 2008
All Shoppers Welcome? Doesn't Seem So.
Even though I knew shopping on Black Friday would be difficult for Ashley in her wheelchair, I thought it would be because of the crowds of people. However, it wasn’t the crowds (the sagging economy seems to have played a major role in keeping folks from shopping), it was the stores themselves that made the task more than a little difficult.
At Circuit City, our first stop, getting into the store was a piece of cake – nice wide wheelchair ramps, an associate standing at the door to open it for us, and an entry area that easily accommodated both wheelchairs and lots of people. But things changed as we tried to make our way through the store. The aisles at Circuit City are wide making wheelchair travel easy except on days when extra kiosks of products are placed right in the middle of the aisles. Having worked in retail many moons ago, I know the point of the intrusive kiosks is to attract attention of shoppers. What it meant for Ashley was that she couldn’t go down the aisle unless I moved the kiosk out of the way. Some I could move, and some I couldn’t. Overall, our experience in this store was not terrible. We were able to find and procure everything we wanted with just a little bit of inconvenience.
Our second stop was World Market. The shopping experience there was much, much worse than Circuit City. First, the curb cut designed to allow wheelchair access to the store had a large, square brick post right in front of it on the sidewalk. There was no way for a chair to go up the ramp and do anything but hit the post. Since I had my two sons with me, we were able to lift Ashley’s chair over the curb. Inside the store was not much better. Again, there were kiosks blocking most aisles, and the aisles themselves were so packed full of merchandise that there was no way a wheelchair could safely maneuver. I waited at the front of the store and sent my sons in search of the two items I wanted.
Best Buy was a lot like Circuit City but with more people. Target was the most accessible store with wide aisles unobstructed with extra merchandise. The associates at Target were also very helpful and willing to provide whatever assistance might be needed. And, their bathroom was the most handicapped accessible.
Finally, we went to Petco and 5 and Below. Petco wasn’t too bad, just laid out in a really strange way. We had to keep Ashley’s chair on the tile aisles and away from the carpeted areas, and getting to the cash register was not easy either. 5 and Below, as I expected, was almost as difficult as World Market. Lots and lots of merchandise were stacked in the store and the aisles, even without the extra merchandise, would have been very difficult to maneuver. But, one of the strangest things was that the cash register and attendant were on a raised platform. I was able to reach them, but had Ashley or anyone else in a wheelchair been trying to pay, I don’t believe the would have been able to reach the cashier. The staff at this store, seemingly seasonal high schoolers, was not the least bit helpful or accommodating.
These are tough economic times our nation is facing. I would think that stores would want to make sure anyone that wanted to shop would be able to shop. Rather, some stores like World Market and 5 and Below, are excluding 5% of the population just because no one has paid attention to details.