Disabled shopper’s paradise

Disabled shopper’s paradise

Zielinski, Karen J

National and local stores offer shoppers in-store electric carts.

I needed a pork roast, stamps, a cantaloupe, and shampoo. So I got in my car and drove to my local Meijer’s store. At the store, I told the greeter I wanted to use an electric shopping cart.

Energy conservation

Since I get up pretty early, I often make it to the store by 8 a.m. I’ve been lucky-I always get an electric cart. The baskets are a good size, the carts are easy to drive, and the store even lets me take the cart outside to my car. I usually tell the clerks where I’m parked, and they help me unpack my groceries before driving the cart back to recharge in the store for another customer to use later.

What’s great about the electric cart is that it conserves my energy for the day: For me, Saturday usually means housecleaning and some cooking. Because of my multiple sclerosis (MS), I find I have to conserve the energy in my legs. If I get too tired from walking around a grocery store, I’m drained for the day. The stores that provide these special shopping carts not only help me conserve energy, but also lessen my anxiety.

How did it all start?

I called Tom Ivan, the store director at the Meijer’s Store in Sylvania Township, Ohio, where I shop, to ask him about the carts.

“We have eight Amigo Shoppers in our store-four each at the east and west entrances,” he said. “Having eight Shoppers shows that we’re customer-friendly. We try to be inclusive and address the needs of all our shoppers. These [carts] help our customers who might have trouble getting out to do various errands. Besides telling our greeters to be cheerful and helpful, we instruct them to never refuse an Amigo Shopper to anyone who asks for one,” Ivan said.

I wondered why Meijer’s offered their customers so many electric carts. John Zimmerman, director of communications at Meijer’s Stores corporate headquarters, Grand Rapids, Mich., said the Dutch founder of Meijer’s Stores, Hendrik Meijer, was sensitive to those with disabilities. His wife, Gezina, became disabled later in her life, and the store has a tradition of being accommodating to the special needs of persons with disabilities.

Many national stores are offering persons with walking disabilities the chance to shop in comfort and safety. The following are just three of the merchants who have made such accommodations.

Wal-Mart Stores

On the front window of every Wal-Mart store is the corporate creed: Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed. “That creed means a lot more than simply offering quality merchandise at low prices,” says Bryan Holmberg, spokesperson for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., in Bentonville, Ark. “It means we try to meet all the needs of our customers.”

Holmberg says that in all its stores across the United States, Wal-Mart offers electric carts or wheelchairs, but the number available varies from store to store. “It depends on the location and population each store serves. Also, if a customer needs help getting her car brought to the front of the store, or some help with carrying packages, we would do that for her, too.”

Target Stores

I often shop at the Dearborn, Mich., Target store near my parents” home. I’ve used the electric shopping carts there a few times. The last two times I went, however, the carts were broken and I didn’t even shop in the store. I filled out a “Guest Commentator” card at the store and asked if the electric shopping carts could be repaired. I received a friendly note in the mail from Cindy Hudson, the store team leader. She wrote, “…concerning the electric cart, we have had it fixed. We are not insensitive to the individual needs of our guests and we are aware of their [need for] independence in shopping.”

Denise Workcuff, spokesperson for Target Stores, Inc., based in Minneapolis, Minn., says, “Nearly all of our 824 stores in 40 states have MartCarts, our electric shopping carts. We offer these for the convenience of our guests, so that they can be comfortable and secure while shopping.” Target started offering electric shopping carts in its stores in July 1990.

Kmart Stores

Stephen Pagnani, media specialist /spokesperson for Kmart, based in Troy, Mich., said that there is some type of wheelchair or electric shopping cart at each of the 2,100 Kmart stores across the United States. “The Super Kmart stores [which began in 1991] all have electric shoppers, because they are newer and much larger stores. With over 2,000 stores, equipment can vary from store to store.” Kmart provides wheelchairs and electric shopping carts at its stores so that “every customer need we can anticipate is taken care of.”

People helping people

Because these three national stores say the availability of electric carts varies from store to store, it’s a good idea to call your local store first. Ask if there is any time of the day when the carts are more readily available and what type of equipment is offered.

Thousands of disabled shoppers are helped by local stores offering their shoppers reasonable accommodations. Thanks, national and local stores, for being friendly to all shoppers!

Karen will regularly address the questions of readers

Please write toher c/o Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis, 1111 Bethlehem Pike, P.O. Box 908, Springhouse, PA 194770908; or E-mail her at Zielinski2@aol.com.

Copyright Springhouse Corporation Mar 1999

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