Shopping at Tesco's on a Mobility Cart
The Weekly Shop
One of my weekly tasks is to drive a disabled lady and her daughter shopping. Taking this delightful 84-year-old out shopping or on a leisure outing is always a pleasure. Generally we shop at our local store - mainly because it provides a small friendly and helpful environment in which to shop. Her daughter pushes the shopping trolley ahead of us while I push her Mother behind in a wheelchair provided by the store. She does own one of her own, but on this occasion so we leave it behind fully expecting to have the use of a Tesco's wheelchair, using one gives her the opportunity to help select her goods. More importantly, it makes her feel that she is part of the action, even if she cannot always recall what she has in cupboards or fridge at home.
If for some reason her daughter is unavailable on the day, we will do it together. In this case, I will attach the wheelchair to a specially designed shopping trolley. The trolley once attached to the wheelchair becomes twice its length which makes shopping awkward and difficult.
Tesco's Saving Voucher
Recently her daughter received a Tesco's Savings Voucher in the mail. This entitled her to a saving of £6 if she spent £40 in-store. It was this voucher which made us alter our usual routine! In retrospect, we now realize that the amount offered was far too little for the challenge which shopping in Tesco's offered us.
A Dashing Duo!
Only Two Wheelchairs In-store!
Our first challenge was to get someone with limited mobility close enough to the store without a wheelchair! She does not have a disabled parking space disc because she can still walk, even if only for a short distance and at a slow pace. Her daughter goes ahead of us in order to procure a wheelchair before we can begin the shop.
Imagine our dismay when the lady on the help desk tells us that Tesco’s only have two in-store wheelchairs available at this store and both are currently in use. This for thousands of customers each week.
To Stay or Go!
Having made the long walk to the store we find that we now have three options left, we either leave immediately. Forget the discount offer - or make use of the available mobility cart.
The staff member who dealt with our request was pleasant, friendly and apologetic! Tesco’s she says, 'has only two wheelchairs available at this store and they are both in use. 'We do however have a mobility cart available, which you are welcome to use. 'I will fetch you the keys and let you have a demonstration'
The old lady looks apprehensively at us and expresses her own doubts as to her ability to handle the machine. We know that the allotted time for her shopping expedition is slowly drifting away!
Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Missing a Trick!
Could this perhaps be the reason why they have so few wheelchairs available for their in-store customers?
You would think that Tesco’s are perfectly placed to give customers an opportunity to test drive their range of wheelchairs in-store. I believe they are missing a great marketing idea - 'Try before you Buy’ - definitely missing a trick, here, so short-sighted not to make use of it!
Fresh and Easy
For those of you who don’t know it, Tesco’s first made their appearance in the States in around 2006 - after having conquered the British Market. They still pretty much dominate things here though their profits have recently fallen. It now appears that their American venture has also been a dismal failure.
Tesco's are apparently now looking to sell off their Fresh and Easy Stores in the USA. Many people here feel they should have been prevented from expanding so rapidly here in the UK.
They do say you can’t teach old dog new tricks but. in this case, we don’t have an old dog, we have a delightful old lady and we are about to let her loose on a mobility cart and she has no prior driving experience!–
Truth be told, there is not a lot to it. The cart goes forwards and it goes backwards and at the press of a button, but will she remember which way is forwards and which one is backwards?
After a little persuasion we help her onto the mobility cart and give her a short demonstration, then we set off. Her daughter pushes the shopping trolley, I walk alongside the Mobility Cart.
What neither of us had anticipated were the hurdles we were about to endure - all in the name of independence and shopping!
First, we discover that the turning circle on these vehicles is huge!
Next - we realize that Tesco’s have not been attentive to the needs of the disabled people who shop in their stores! It does not take long to realize that they have begun thinking more about the needs of their online customers, not the ones who actually shop in-store.
We are constantly faced with huge crates which are being filled by staff assistants for their online customers. .Perhaps online shopping does have its merits after all - even if you can never physically see the bargains or squeeze your own fruit!
Navigating a shopping trolley for an able-bodied person can be difficult at the best of times - for a disabled person it is a huge challenge, especially when they have first to get past those large crates!
That Turning Circle!
On the first awkward corner, the mobility cart becomes entangled in the edge of a display of Flat Screen TV’s; they are nicely balanced on a wooden pallet! Still getting used to the speed of the mobility cart, the old girl careers around the display dragging it along with her, A Television balanced precariously on the top of the display begins to shudder and shake. It almost topples over and then settles happily into a nice slow wobble. I breathe a sigh of relief and extricate the mobility cart from the wooden pallet! The old lady is oblivious to her close shave and is still concentrating hard on her driving skills!
The large turning circle of the Mobility Cart makes it difficult to get around the end of the isles... Often she will have to reverse a little to find enough space to get the vehicle around the corner. Whilst she adjusts to learning this new skill, she forgets to look behind her to avoid hitting any customers coming up from the rear!
The isles are filled with shoppers and their trolleys! So now, we begin to play the waiting game! That is; we wait for other customers to complete a section of the row before we dare enter the space. Then we discover that someone else had nicked it before we can get there! At times, the other shoppers seem oblivious of us or of our need to shop. It does seem at times that we don’t exist at all. In fact, it seems we are invisible!
It turns out though, that the reverse gear on a mobility cart works exceedingly well! My dear old lady, God bless her cotton socks - when she puts that thing in reverse, you should see her fly! There is no stopping her! The shoppers seemed oblivious of her lack of motoring skills - but of course. that is because we are invisible, perhaps! As long as we don’t interfere with their shopping, all is well.
Had they realized that their safety depended on the old lady behind the steering wheel, they might have given her a wide berth.
As we make our way around the Supermarket, I find myself smiling a lot at complete strangers. I do a lot of apologizing! I want her to feel proud of her first test drive! A few kind people tease her about her need for L plates and I am grateful to them for helping to make her experience memorable even if was not enjoyable.
One woman has spread her trolley across one of the isles near the fridges - making it impossible for us to pass. I gently touch her trolley and asked her if she would mind if I move it, just a little so that we can get past? She reacts angrily, snatches her shopping trolley from my hand and say - ‘Yes, I do mind’. My sweet disposition evaporates and I explode into anger. I point at my charge and say, ‘would you like to be in that thing – go on, you have a go, you get on there and see how difficult it is to shop when there are shopping trolleys parked every which way. She mutters under her breath, more like something to do with me being a ‘foreigner’ rather than me wanting to move her trolley. I forgive her; perhaps she is having a bad hair day!
My old duck gives me a big smile and says – ‘you always stick up for me, don’t you? You’re damned right I say, stupid selfish women, she should have a go and then we will see how she gets on!
Three Kinds of People
After about an hour’s of driving and walking around the supermarket, I can tell that the old lady is tiring and I know that her concentration has all but gone. We call a halt to our shopping experience and head for the check-out till.
Once having navigated the Till and packed the items, she has now to manoeuvre the Mobility Cart past the till, The armrest gets caught on the underside of the checkout counter and she is stuck fast. t takes brute strength to extricate her. Again, no-one appears to notice our plight!
The shopping trip takes about twice as long whilst using a Mobility Cart as compared to our usual wheelchair, mainly because of the lack of available shopping space to move in. The so-called convenience of using a Mobility Cart is far outweighed by the inconvenience of having to try to navigate obstacles, trolley’s and people. Even the idea of being able to choose items above the height of a pair of outstretched arms is impossible for a Mobility Cart user on their own. Forget the idea of ever buying anything off a top shelf!
I have learned that you can put shoppers into three categories; the ones who simply don’t see disabled people - because they are invisible! The ones who are careful, kind and considerate and those who are just deliberately selfish and who don’t care about anything as long as nothing gets in the way of their own shopping!
Would we do it again – never, not on your Nelly!
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© 2013 Sally Gulbrandsen