Over the road from where I work, an institution which dare not speak its name on these pages, is a new branch of Tesco. The shop floor is below street level but, this being 2017 and all, they have installed a lift to allow access for those of us who still somehow baulk at the prospect of a flight of stairs.
It’s one of those self-operated lifts with room for only one wheelchair user. It has a simple set of controls which even a UKIP voter could understand. An arrow pointing down to take you down to store level, and an arrow pointing up to take you back up to street level. Simple. The only thing left to negotiate is the narrow aisles between goods but it is only a small store, and to make it totally and easily accessible for wheelchair users you would probably have to evacuate everyone else. It’s a bit of a scrap to get around but that’s ok because at least there is a lift. That’s all I ask. I don’t want it to be evacuated. I’m not the Queen.
Except the lift doesn’t work and they don’t care. I haven’t been counting but I would estimate that on each of the last 10 occasions that I have tried to shop there for my lunch (and who doesn’t want to eat Tescos strawberries and grapes instead of a bacon butty at the cafe down the road?) the lift has been broken. I’ve managed to get in every time. The staff eventually notice me fruitlessly pressing the down arrow but going nowhere like Brian Potter on his stairlift. Never mind that smell, I’ve been stuck up here all night… When they finally notice me they rally round trying to fix the useless fecking thing and eventually, after some knob-twiddling, they manage it, all apologies and we’ll-get-someone-out-to-its.
So because I always eventually get into the store for my strawberries and grapes, and the Magnums that I often buy for my colleagues in the summer (ah, you think it is a problem now, don’t you?) I have managed to say nothing to the management beyond a polite suggestion that they should really get someone out to it to fix the problem once and for all. But yesterday they couldn’t get it to work. There were four of them milling around it fiddling with knobs and switches, opening and closing the gate like Ace Ventura in that scene where he is trying to prove that the balcony door is soundproof. Eventually I gave up on it and, I’m afraid to say, slightly lost my shit with the manager.
I’ll summarise it for you without the haughtiness. Basically I told him that if everyone who uses the store needed the lift to gain access to it then they would fix the problem overnight. The reason that they haven’t is that the people like me who need to use it are in the overwhelming minority. Who cares if I don’t go in there and spend my three or four quid twice a week? Extrapolated, capitalist scum like Tesco don’t give a flying shit about the purple pound, that is the money poured into the economy by disabled people. It’s not significant enough for their all-conquering business to take even half a hit, so why should they bother their arse spending money on piffling things like maintaining a working accessible lift? It’s another example of first rate lip service to disability access. They are bound by law to provide a lift but not, it seems, to maintain it. So what is the fucking point? It’s like giving me a Magnum and then cutting my fucking tongue out.
Their apathy is further encouraged by the fact that the nearest accessible supermarket is……a bloody Tesco!! This is what comes of allowing one company to open up 746 stores within a two mile radius of each other. Even if you protest by refusing to enter the guilty store you end up spending your money with the same company anyway just for your own convenience. Tesco have us all by the balls, especially those of us with mobility issues. Also, there is a whacking great hill between the office and that other Tesco and frankly I am not at home to it. And it slopes upwards on the way back, not on the way there. You can't imagine the level of demotivation I have for pushing up a steep hill for the privilege of going back to the office for the afternoon.
Emma has already written a far more reasoned and less huffy complaint letter than you are currently ‘enjoying’. She’s pointed out that it has happened on several occasions, that not only does the lift not work but that it is also regularly blocked off by empty shopping trolleys (an interesting variation on the pub classic of shoving everything you have no room for into the disabled toilet), and that all of this shows a total and complete lack of respect to customers with access needs. And do you know what they did in response? They sent it to the wrong fucking branch, didn’t they? There hasn’t been this level of absolute apathy to disabled people since I turned over live coverage of the Paralympic sitting volleyball because I didn’t want to miss Eggheads.
We await further response from Tesco who have at least assured us that the complaint has now gone to the correct store, but it is a fair bet that whatever they do I won’t be able to go in there for a good while yet. And they won't give a flying shite.