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Shopping at Tesco's on a Mobility Cart

Sally has been a prolific writer of wet felting tutorials for several years with the occasional foray into literature and much more...

Tesco extra  Supermarket

Tesco extra Supermarket

The Weekly Shop

One of my weekly tasks is to drive a disabled lady and her daughter so they can do their shopping. Taking this delightful 84-year-old out shopping, or on a leisurely 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 have one of her own, but on this occasion we left 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 her 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 has two in-store wheelchairs available at this store, and both were currently in use. This was 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 around 2006 after having conquered the British Market. They still dominate things here, though their profits have recently fallen. It now appears that their American venture has also been a dismal failure.

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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.

New Tricks!

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 helped 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!

Online 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 careens 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. It 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!

Do you shop online for Groceries?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Sally Gulbrandsen


Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on March 25, 2014:

old albion

Definitely a good shout for all of the disabled the world over. I am a champion of anyone who I think has been disadvantaged by circumstances not of their making so I am delighted to hear that this Hub meets with your approval.

I very much appreciate your feedback and comment.

Thank you for the follow


Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on March 25, 2014:

Hi Sally. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I am an electric wheelchair and scooter user, everything you say is o so true. I was annoyed here and laughing there! The best advice is to use an electric wheelchair it turns in its own circle. Secondly use a three wheeled scooter it also turns in its own circle. Your first photo shows a chap using a 'Quingo' model of scooter, if you look closely you can see it has three wheels at the front. This makes kerbs etc ..much easier, much more stable overall. Well done a good shout for the disabled.

voted up and all and following.


Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on November 28, 2013:

Hi Randi,

So glad that you were able to relate to my experience of how people sometimes treat the physically or mentally impaired in our Society. I will not be repeating the experience - we now frequent supermarkets which truly care about their customers. Thank you so much for the Up++ and the share. I very much appreciate your visit and your comment.

Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on November 28, 2013:

Wow! This brought back so many memories. When I broke my foot last year, I had the opportunity to experience the world and how it treats you from a different point of view. It wasn't pretty! Great hub, Sally! Shame on any place that cannot be accomdating! Up++ and shared! Randi

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on October 19, 2013:

I sympathize with you regarding your grandmother. Unfortunately it does appear that some of our old folk are not getting the support they need, neither in the supermarket or elsewhere. I sometimes wish I were able to do more. Thank you for your visit and your comment. I appreciate them.

CraftytotheCore on October 19, 2013:

When my grandmother was alive, she had chronic health problems and needed to ride in one of those motorized carts at the supermarket or Walmart. I remember it was painful going with her. People were so mean to her. She was always very considerate, not trying to be in anyone's way. I commend you Sally for taking on such a huge help to your friends.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on July 15, 2013:

I think there is a little saying which teaches us. that to experience it - is to believe it - in this case I have to say it was an experience I would not like to repeat anytime soon. I very much appreciate your visit to my pages today DDE Thank you.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 15, 2013:

A great hub and so much to think about here thnaks

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on June 13, 2013:

Thank you very much Lurana, I appreciate your taking time to comment.

MrsBrownsParlour on June 13, 2013:

Your compassion and attention to an under-served part of the population is commendable. ~Lurana

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on June 11, 2013:

Understanding the needs of disabled persons is perhaps not the priority of everyone but for those who love, live and work with them it can be very trying to realize that things could be improved if there were a will.

I don't think it is a solution to keep our disabled persons at home - shopping from computers! Interaction with people in the outside world is always so much better for the people involved. It can be a very lonely life at home for those who find it difficult to get out and about. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and to comment billybuc, your visits are always very much appreciated.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 11, 2013:

I have no doubt there are similar problems here in the States. The handicapped are forever meeting challenges that the rest of us have no concept of. Why big stores cannot go the extra mile to accommodate them is beyond me....oops, no it isn''s all about the profit line now isn't it?

Well done Sally!

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