I Love…Like…Tolerate a Parade

Actually, traditional parades do not appeal to me. They are loud and crowded and frighten Opal. (We accidentally wandered into the Pride parade last year and she was blasted with silly string and streamers. The whistles and loud music didn’t help either.)  A parade we do enjoy, or at least tolerate, is the monthly shopping expedition at our local grocery store. Shopping for groceries when you unable to read labels or locate items, can be hard. It is even more complicated, when you have a guide dog.  I like to rest Opal after 40 minutes in harness. It’s only fair.  Here’s how food shopping works for us. I call ahead and ask the manager if someone will be available to help us shop. I always chose a quiet weekday morning. We arrive on time and present ourselves to customer service. The manager normally has booked Dewayne, the produce manager to help us through the bulk of the shopping. Dewayne pulls the shopping cart from the front. I hold the cart handle and follow. Opal is in harness, and I have only her leash in hand, with the handle down. She is on my left side as we meander around, looking very much like a little parade.  Opal obediently keeps up, and I am cognizant of any attempts to dive for food items on the floor. Dewayne tries to use the wider spaces in the Quinpool Road Superstore and tells me if we are going left or right. We wait in place in quiet spots while he goes off to collect a few items. I thwart off the customers who want to impede the flow of the parade (looking to pat Opal or run over her).  Fortunately, most of my shopping is done within the perimeter of the store. That’s where the produce, bakery, and dairy are located in all grocery stores. (We bypass the meat department aka. ‘dead animals’ also located in the perimeter.) In the interior aisles, we avoid the crap over- packaged and processed food, and find our tea, and the odd package of pasta or rice. When efficient Dewayne is unavailable to lead the parade,  grocery shopping can become a long and arduous ordeal.  If the clerk does not know where items are located, we are in for a rough ride. I have been known to abandon a clerk and cart, when I feel that the Odyssey has been too much for Opal. “Sorry, but we’re not wandering around like Bedouins anymore. It’s not fair to my dog…we’ll be back when she’s rested, and you find someone who can get us out of here in a timely manner”. Here’s the way to re-enforce good service for customers who are blind or have similar shopping needs: If the clerk does a good job, make a point of speaking to the manager of the store, preferably at the cash, in front of him or her and praise them up. I point out, that if I am dropping $150.00 in their store, I enjoy and appreciate doing it quickly. I also point out shortcomings; poor choice of produce, too much time spent wandering around, etc.  I make use of the customer service 1-800 number that most food chains have and report good and bad service. I make suggestions about accessible on line flyers, and anything else I think they should be aware of.  I  do my bit, by being prepared when I go to shop, knowing what I want to buy, and the sequence it will be picked up…natural food sections, produce, bread, sundries, groceries, dairy, frozen food. Get familiar with a store and the manager and staff. It is the only way you can hope to have consistent and reasonably acceptable service when shopping if you are blind.  If you are fortunate enough to have a friend or family member help you shop instead of requiring assistance by store employees, be sure to respect their time and effort by being prepared. 

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