A while back I had to stop using home delivery for my food shopping and, after much consideration, decided to shop in my local Co-op.
There were some plus points: I receive 5% cashback on Co-op branded items; I could walk (or cycle) to the store; I could visit the store easily timewise; it should not be too busy.
I did not think there would be any negatives (apart from the bright lights). I was wrong.
The store insists on playing music on a Co-op owned radio station. I thought people were there to shop, not listen to "music". But I was wrong. All to often the music is the thump-thump-thump-thump variety and is too loud. And the sound equipment is not particularly good quality.
Asking staff members for the radio to be turned down (or off) got me nowhere. The Co-op runs a 'Your Store Your Say' website for feedback. That website got me nowhere despite my mentioning the fact people with autism etc. were being discriminated against. Calls to the Co-op's customer care team got me nowhere (although one person added £5 to my cashback).
Yesterday, after months of complaining via the Your Store Your Say website and a call to a helpful person in the customer care team, I received an e-mail from the store manager to meet him to discuss the issue.
Following the meeting, I am shattered but thought it worthwhile sharing some of the discussion. First of all, the store manager had to obtain special permission to contact me via e-mail as a result of my repeated feedback on the 'Your Store Your Say' website. The store manager turned off the music for a short time but, apparently, people complained as it made the store more dreary! I am also expected to believe that when the volume was turned down people complained the music was too low.
The manager wanted to know why I found the music irritating. I had already told I have autism and sensory issues and he still used the word "irritating". I tried to explain about sensory issues. I also asked about an Autism Hour but that, apparently, will only happen if there are sufficient complaints (similar to mine) across a significant number of stores.
I nearly forgot. When the music was turned off and people asked why, the manager/staff explained about my complaint of discrimination; to which the people said they were being discriminated against by the music being turned off. There are times when neurotypical REALLY annoy and sadden me and this is one of those times. Too many are not satisfied that the whole world is geared around them and if there is some small thing which helps, for example, people with autism then that is not fair!
The manager made two suggestions: shop between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. when there is no music, the lights are low, etc. or ask the person on the checkout to turn off the music whilst I am shopping. The first suggestion sounds okay but part of my medication includes a sedative and so, practically, I will not be able to get up on time. The second suggestion is fine, providing the staff (who, he said, he will inform of our agreement) actually do it. We shall see.
It was good that he asked to meet with you but a shame he wasn't more understanding of autism. I'm surprised with other supermarkets doing an autism hour that they weren't more aware. I don't mind a bit of music whilst I shop. I've never found it to be that loud but we are all different. I'd never think to complain if the music was turned off though. I find that a little strange.
Why don't you get those noise cancelling headphones so that the sound/music doesn't bother you? As far as I'm concerned, you can't expect an entire store to adjust to you, but you yourself can make a few adjustments and make it more bearable to go shopping.
I understand your problems - I have difficulties in some shops (Hollisters is a nightmare). When you start throwing the discrimination word around people get very defensive and will often cause a block to what you're trying to achieve - the other person will retreat to their legal obligations and company policies to protect themselves so it stops any possible compromise.
I can see why these places become the way they are - the staff a bored teenagers just wanting to minimise the tedium of working.
Maybe you could suggest what they do is the same as other places (like Vue cinemas and some other supermarkets) where they actively try to encourage people with sensory problems to their shop at certain times - maybe a whole morning where things are quieter - so they can be seen to be reaching out to the community - make it into a huge positive for them rather than a threat.
Yes, i find this a nightmare too. I dont shop at my local coop anymore because of it. I walk a bit further and go elsewhere (im lucky to live in a city and have that option though). Small coops are definately the worst supermarkets from this point of view for some reason. Maybe other chains do have policies - most others do do autism hour so maybe have more understanding of autism. I have found though that wearing ear defenders in the shop really helps if it gets unbearable.
Would also advise against using the word discrimination though unless you really have to. Been on the other side of this and seen reactions from colleagues. It does tend to just make people defensive.
Blank said:As far as I'm concerned, you can't expect an entire store to adjust to you
Yes, I can in this case because I am not asking for something which is essential to the store. Society has spent more time shopping in stores WITHOUT music being played than with music being played. Furthermore, store adjustments for physical disabilities are now commonplace so hidden disabilities should not be treated as less important. Even the Co-op admits the music should be BACKGROUND music, which, all too often, it is not. The type of music being played also makes a difference: melody based music is far easier to deal with (if you must play music in store) than rhythm based music.
Hidden disabilities have been the poorer relation for far too long and it has to stop.
This situation has been going on for months and I tried - and failed - to engage the Co-op in constructive criticism and constructive suggestions. I was ignored time after time.
I tired the suggestion in your final paragraph and was repeatedly ignored. Even during my meeting with the store manager, he made it clear that he cannot doing anything like you suggest without corporate approval and that has to be for all stores.
I find the whole situation very disappointing.
If you've used the discrimination word to him and head office, he may be terrified of dealing with you because anything he does may cost him his job. His only available action is sticking rigidly to the rules.
Zomted said:I dont shop at my local coop anymore because of it.
I found the Co-op's ignorance of Autism Hour astounding for an organisation which is meant to be different from other supermarkets.
I could wear ear defenders but, really, society needs to change and it needs pushing to make the necessary changes. As I mentioned above, the playing of music in stores is not essential and so all it takes is for a store to have some understanding and a willingness not to follow the herd. I find that I have to wear ear defenders (or noise-cancelling headphones) too often.
Re using the word 'discrimination', please see my reply to Plastic.
Is there a Morrison’s near you? As I do believe they are the first supermarket to have a permanent weekly ‘autism hour’
Funny you should mention Morrison's. A couple of hours ago I saw one of my neighbours and she told me about Morrison's. She had mentioned Morrison's before but I could not remember the time and could find nothing on the website this morning. For my local store the Autism Hour is from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays.
The drawback with Morrison's is that I cannot walk or cycle to the store as it is too far. Still, I might give it a try soon.