We need to talk about Tesco.
Specifically the Tesco over the road from where I work on Tithebarn Street in Liverpool. Some months ago now I went over there with the lofty ambition of buying some lunch. I know, imagine. Even Richard Fucking Branson wouldn't try it. It has the worst levels of wheelchair access seen in Merseyside since I had to climb three flights of stairs in Crystals in 1995. Oddly there is a flight of stairs leading down to the shop floor from the street level in this particular Tesco. This may or may not have been avoidable when it was built, or it may just have been designed like that to inspire ranty blogs like this one. I couldn't say which, but no publicity is bad publicity even if only seven people read it.
To combat the stairs problem they have installed a lift just big enough for one wheelchair user. If I wanted to go in there with a group of mates from my old basketball club for we'd all have to book a week off work otherwise there just wouldn't be time to get us all in and out. It would be like the old riddle about the chicken, the fox and the bag of seeds. They can't all go across the river at once. But whatever you think of that it's access I suppose. A big fat rich company doing what it has to according to legislation, which will become a theme of this piece.
Back to the specifics then. The lift is located very close to a set of shelves upon which are usually stacked things like Terry's chocolate oranges and After Eights. These goods stick out from their shelves and on this occasion did so to the extent that they were actually blocking the lift from descending. I'm at the top of the stairs or, more specifically, somewhere between the top of the stairs and the shop floor where the lift has stopped. From that position I can't communicate with any members of staff to get any assistance. Not unless I have their mobile numbers. Nobody comes to help, so I am at this point relying on the good will of other customers to either alert the staff to the situation or to remove the obstacles. One unfortunate soul chooses the latter option and in so doing proceeds to knock several dozen boxes of the After Eights on to the shop floor. They are everywhere, like rats in a sewer in an Indiana Jones movie. He hates rats, you know?
I hate Tesco. Still, even with the floor strewn with minty after dinner chocolaty things, the staff fail to respond to the situation. Their apathy is only rivalled by that of Sky Sports for the Rugby League World Cup. What? You thought I would write an entire piece without getting a rugby league reference in? Aye, more chance of the Daily Mail neglecting to mention Brexit. The situation is becoming embarrassing. Through no fault of my own I have caused what can only be described as a scene. When I eventually get in I complain vociferously that it's not good enough and they, as they always do, assure me that they will not let it happen again. And then over the next few days and weeks it happens again, and again and again. Often when I turn up there are no minty obstacles to the lift but it just doesn't move. There are controls by the door at the top and bottom of the lift and if the staff so choose they can set it so that only they can operate it. Meaning that if you need to use it you need to ask for assistance. But you can't ask for assistance because you are sat at the top of the stairs and there are 750,000 people in there buying cheese sandwiches and fucking yoghurts. And anyway why should I have to ask for assistance? They have this rule at train stations. Apparently disabled people have no need to go anywhere urgently and on the spare of the moment by train and if they do well it is just too bad. And anyway why do Tesco find it so amusing to set up their lift so that it can't be manually operated by customers? Is it a game they play to relieve the boredom of shelf-stacking and serving hungry students?
Maybe, but the primary reason is because I hate Tesco, that's why. Today I went in there to find a new variant of the game. A new code if you like. Dotted around the store on any given day you will usually find large trolleys stacked either with goods to go on to the shelves or empty boxes which used to contain goods which are now on the shelves. No doubt blocking the lift. Today it was the latter which filled the trolley which they had handily placed INSIDE THE LIFT. Now remembering that in the first place there is barely enough room for Mini Me to swing Mini Mr Bigglesworth, trying to get in there with your wheelchair became a non-starter. It probably would not have moved anyway due to the sheer weight of the trolley. Again a customer has to alert the staff to this because the staff do absolutely nothing. All of which leads to more embarrassment, especially as on my way down I am again halted by the trolley, which they have placed next to the lift where the After Eights used to be so that it catches on the lift and stops it. Eventually a member of staff comes over and moves the trolley, but the lift has one more bit of defiance in it, catching again on something that has obviously been left lying around underneath it. Some After Eights perhaps or some far right literature explaining why disabled people shouldn't be allowed to go shopping in any case. Nelson Mandella escaped confinement quicker than I did today.
What I wanted to do at this point is tell the member of staff what an absolute fucking omnishambles all of this is. But because I know I am also going to need help to get the fruit that I need for my lunch which they have placed on the top shelf as if it is a copy of fucking Razzle, I have to be nice to them. Or as nice as my rapidly thinning patience will allow. Finally believing that I will escape this madness relatively unscathed I go back to the lift to leave the store only to find that it has stopped working altogether. On this occasion there are staff on hand to fiddle about with it pointlessly, but they don't seem to be all that well acquainted with what the fuck they are doing. It takes another five minutes to get the thing going so that I can get out, which may not seem like much but when you already feel like you have been in there for half of your life and you only get an hour for your lunch, is rather longer.
Here's the thing. They don't care. Despite my repeated complaints, out and out bollockings and even despite a strongly worded email or two from Emma they do nothing. The awful truth is that they can do without me. I go in there for my lunch two or three times a week and when I do I spend around £3.00. As far as they are concerned if some biff decides to spend his £6.00-£9.00 a week somewhere else then so be it. If everyone needed to use that lift to get into the store to spend their money it would be fixed overnight and we would never hear any more about it. The fact of the matter is that accessibility legislation doesn't go far enough. They have to provide access in some form but if it breaks down they can just stick the metaphorical vees up at you and in this case without even so much as an apology. It is the very definition of lip service. The best bit is that two of the three alternatives to this store for acquiring what might be described as lunch items are Tescos! This is capitalism in the 21st century! They are allowed three or four stores within a nat's chuff of each other, meanwhile anti-monopoly legislation means that I have to have 17 different broadcasting subscriptions to be able to choose freely what I want to watch on television. This is why Emma and I are the only people left in the UK who have never seen Peaky Blinders but that's another story. Tory Britain ladies and gentlemen, Tory Britain.
I recognise that I hardly have an enormous audience but if the seven or so people that will read this are made aware that this particular Tesco is utter shite and not worth their time I will have done my bit. I am not hopeful because no publicity is bad publicity as I've already said. I wouldn't be surprised to find the seven people that read this doing so on their mobile phones, shaking your head at the injustice of it all while idly reaching for £20 worth of crap from that very same Tesco to boost their coffers further. We're all very easy to offend and it doesn't take much to inspire outrage in us. But don't ask us to actually do anything about it.