Friday, May 8, 2009

If you want my business, don't overcrowd your store.

I guess this goes with wheelchairs are a pain, but I was in a store today, and it was so crammed with merchandise that I couldn't get around. I expect that at Christmas time, you don't want merchandise in the back room, you want it on the floor where people will buy it. I don't bother going to most stores near Christmas because it's just too frustrating. But it's May for crying out loud.

Several years ago, I think during Christmas time, I was in a small boutique-type store whose name I won't mention because I'm nicer than that. I had selected several items to purchase, and found that I could not get to the register. The store had so many point-of-purchase displays that it was impossible to get to the check-out counter. I held out my credit card and asked the gal behind the register if she could just come and get it from me, and she said no. She said NO! I was shocked. I explained the problem, and she explained that she wasn't allowed to leave the counter. I wasn't asking her to join me in the next county, she could still see her register from the grand 10 foot distance that I was asking her to walk. But she refused. I put my purchases down on top of her displays and I left the store.

Center Aisle Displays are the worst. Think about that - center aisle - as in, in the middle of the aisle. How am I supposed to get my wheelchair past that? And department stores go even further: they put their center aisle display on a table with a floor-length tablecloth over it, so that they can store the item that's on display under the table. Do you know how many times I have gotten those tablecloths caught in my wheels and nearly pulled the old magician's trick of yanking the tablecloth out from under the stuff on the table? Well, no, you wouldn't know how many, and I haven't counted, but it's a lot. And I'm not a great magician, store displays go flying, items are breaking, children are crying ..... okay, I go too far, but it's really a pain! If you want my business, no center aisle displays!

And it's not just wheelchairs, I imagine folks with strollers have trouble too. I understand in some states (California in particular) there are laws about how much clearance there has to be in aisles. Apparently those laws have not found their way to Texas. And these aren't even expensive modifications. I understand that making older buildings handicapped accessible can be expensive. Heck, most of Queens and Brooklyn, NY weren't accessible to me last time I was there. But store merchandise is easy to move. It's embarrassing, at least for me, to have to ask the people who work in the store to move things for me. I suppose they would rather move things than lose a customer, but I don't like asking.

I sure would like people to spend one full day in a wheelchair just to see what it's like. You'll never take walking for granted again. It just makes everything more difficult. And doctors should have to spend 24 hours in a hospital just to see what that's like: no privacy, people in and out at all hours, strangers poking and prodding at me, and people getting personal enough with me that they really ought to at least buy me dinner! But that's a rant (ahem, I mean post) for another day.


  1. Trying to plan my 40th B-Day and taking your wheelchair into account was a real eye-opener - I had no idea how much I took for granted being perfectly mobile when it came to going out and doing stuff. Now I don't want to go places that aren't wheelchair accessible, which, as you said, is their loss since my money is going somewhere else.

  2. Judy's mom here again. I remember a party we all had for my other daughter's 10th anniversary in a rather posh Dallas restaurant. Since I'm in NY and they are in TX, Judy and her sister made all the plans. They carefully and frequently specified that there would be someone ina wheelchair and asked repeatedly whether the area for the gathering would be wheel chair accessible. Of course, they agreed.
    Okay, you can gather the rest. HANDICAPPED???? OH!!!! WHEELCHAIR???? WE NEVER THOUGHT???? Right! The area they had staked out for us was up several steps and no way to get to the ladies room without going back down them, then up again. They agreed to have several waiters carry the chair. What an embarrassement for Judy.
    Well, they gave us a free chocolate cake, but still. No ears? No understanding?
    Like much of the rest of the world.

  3. I even called that day to remind them!

    I remember being really embarrassed at the time. Everyone kept telling me that the restaurant should be embarrassed, not me. And yet, here I was having to be lifted in my wheelchair up and down stairs. I was a spectacle!! It was a nice restaurant, we were celebrating Elizabeth's anniversary, I didn't want to be the center of attention. Everyone was staring. It was horrible.

    Why didn't I write a letter to them afterward? I guess I was still embarrassed about my wheelchair. I still think I look awful in it; yet I never think anyone else looks bad in theirs.

    Food for thought though, and thank you mom. Even when you specifically plan for wheelchair accessibility, it doesn't mean you will get it. And it just doesn't seem that hard. That restaurant had plenty of other seating. They just didn't bother to listen or to try.