Daily Indignities: laundry detergent hubris

I would like to suggest that the event described below is unusual, but in fact similar events happen to me on an almost weekly basis, hence, the tag category on this blog entitled “daily indignities.”   I would also like to clarify that the “other customer”  who helped me, was in fact my teenage son, Leon. who was forced to witness this humiliation. Please feel free to call the Baldwin Park store (626-851-9404) and let Reggie and Bryant know that this treatment of disabled people is not acceptable.  These are hard fought for human rights.  Had someone posted “whites only” above the door of the restroom, it would also be an outrage had an employee lectured the guest complaining, on the appropriate tone of voice.
Peace with Justice, _from Aztlan,
Emma Rosenthal_PO Box 1664_Baldwin Park, CA 91706_818-404-5784
Gilbert Diaz, Store Manager_Baldwin Park Target_3100 Baldwin Park Blvd_Baldwin Park, CA 91706-4703_April 27, 2006_626-851-9404
Dear Mr. Diaz,
This evening as I was attempting to shop for essential items I suffered an especially humiliating experience in your store at the hands of ”Target Team Members.”  I am a sick, disabled woman and find large stores especially difficult.  If not for the mechanical scooters you provide it would often be impossible for me to spend my money in your store.  I trust the money from a middle aged, disabled woman is as good as anybody’s and I would hope that my continued business, as well as the well being of disabled customers  (you call customers, “guests”) in general, is important to you.  To that end, in addition to the time it took to purchase a few items, I am taking the time to alert you to the oversights in your staff development and sensitivity programs.
When I got to the store, one of the wheelchair scooters was broken.  The other one was in use.  I desperately needed a few items.  I had been very ill all week.  Lacking laundry detergent,  I had been unable to wash any clothing and this evening presented the first opportunity all week when I had both the time and some energy to complete the task of purchasing this and other essential items.
I  did what shopping I could on foot while waiting for the other scooter to become available in order to finish my shopping.  Part way through my shopping, the scooter broke down because your staff had not seen to the task of keeping the machine charged during the day, when it was not in use.  I was stuck, unable to walk great distances, sick and in a lot of pain, in the middle of the isle.  It was quite humiliating.  I sat there trying to figure out what to do.   At least three of your employees were in the isle but none of them noticed that I was stuck.  It would be very difficult for me with my limited strength to walk to the register and stand in line and wait to pay for my purchases.  Unable to move towards your employees in the broken scooter,  I called to them to please get a manager. While I had been waiting, another customer had kindly brought me a shopping cart and had transferred my groceries into it.   The manager, Reggie, finally arrived, but showed more concerned for the tone of my voice than with the fact that I was a “guest” trying hard to spend my money in his store and that I was undergoing an especially humiliating experience, stuck in the middle of the isle. I explained to Reggie the situation and requested that someone bring me a chair, so that I could sit at the check out isle while I checked out my merchandise. I had already ascertained that I could not stand up very well and would have to walk to the register. But that standing in line would be especially difficult.   He instructed an employee named Bryant, to bring me a chair and told me to wait a minute.  Ten minutes passed and no one came to help me. Your store sells chairs and a walk to the chair isle and back should have taken less than two minutes.  I would further imagine that there is  probably  (or should be) a manual wheelchair in the store for emergencies.   I saw Bryant turning the isle and called to him to get me the manager again, then I  noticed that he had a chair. In a mocking tone, he asked me if I wanted the manager or if I wanted the chair.  I said, “ Just bring me the damn chair.”  I do understand that this tone didn’t help the situation, but the absolute lack of concern for the disabled, demonstrated by one broken and one uncharged scooter, the lack of accommodation to my situation as I sat for over ten minutes in the middle of your isle, the pain I was in and the discomfort of chronic illness contributed greatly to my own frustration.  At that point Bryant refused to bring me the chair and he stood 20 yards from me, in the isle, doing absolutely nothing.  Finally the manager approached.  I asked him to imagine that I was his grandmother, sick, disabled and trying to shop. I asked him to appreciate the humiliation I was experiencing.   Again, he was more concerned with the tone of my voice than with my rights as a disabled person or my experience as a “guest” in your store.  When I complained that the scooter should have been charged, he told me, “You’re not the only one that uses it.” (As if that weren’t obvious, as if I were simply ungrateful, as if I had no right to my indignation at this indignity.). Finally he waved Bryant to bring me the chair. At that point Bryant said, quite smugly, “Now I’ll bring the chair!”  -confident that his rude and inhospitable treatment of a disabled “guest,” trying desperately to obtain reasonable accommodation so as to be able to access your establishment, would be acceptable to his boss.
Finally Reggie brought the chair to the check out, and I made my way by foot to the register.  He placed the chair away from the line, and eight feet from the register.  He made me wait in line, after having left me waiting in the isle.  He did not ask me if I needed help with my groceries nor did he explain the situation to the cashier.  I managed to get my merchandise onto the conveyor belt with the help of a customer and waiting in the chair, had to explain to the cashier, from a distance of eight feet, the situation and my needs.  The cashier, to his credit,  helped me move the chair and helped me make my way to the register. When I stumbled getting up, he asked me if I was all right.  He lowered the credit card charger so I could reach it and was very kind and helpful.  His name is Michael.  I thanked him for his kindness.
I hope in relaying to you Michael’s courteousness, I am not putting him in a difficult situation, as it would seem by the behavior of your manager, Reggie, and his employee, Bryant, that this rampant disrespect and disregard for the rights and dignity of the disabled is of little importance to your corporation.  Not once did Bryant or Reggie apologize to me or display any concern for or sense of responsibility to me as both a “guest” and a disabled person.    Not once did anyone take any responsibility for the fact that the scooter did not have sufficient electricity for a “guest” to safely navigate your establishment.   I was reprimanded and scolded as if I were simply a difficult child, not a woman old enough to be their mother, not as if I were a “guest”  simply trying to make a few humble purchases, asking for help because of insufficient planning and accommodation on their part.
Should I assume that disabled people are not welcome in your store in the evening, when the scooters, if left uncharged all day, are likely not to be useful? Should I assume that accommodation of the disabled is a favor you perform on our behalf at your discretion and not as a matter of human rights and human decency? Does this mean that had I been stranded in the back of the store, I would have been left on my own to figure out how to get out of the store and to my car safely?  Should I assume that Target pays little heed to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the rights of disabled people to shop in your store free from humiliation and ridicule at the hands of your ”Team Members?”
Might I suggest that you require that all of your employees, especially your managers, attempt to do their jobs for as little as one half of a workday from one of the scooters.  Perhaps then they will be more sensitive to the nuances of these machines, their need for electricity.  Perhaps then they will also take note of obstacles within the store that limit accessibility: the closeness of racks prohibiting “guests” in wheel chairs from shopping for clothing, as well as shopping carts and merchandise left in the aisles by “guests” and “Team Members” alike, that block access, the sole disabled bathroom stall that when filthy essentially means that disabled “guests” have no access to your facilities, as they can’t simply choose another clean stall, like able bodied customers can.
This was a horrid and humiliating experience. It threatened my health and well being by putting my already fragile system under undue stress.  You do understand that within a mile of my home are several other establishments at which I can shop, some closer than the store in which I was treated so discourteously.
Your web page boasts a commendable policy towards diversity of your employees, apparently somewhat successful, evidenced by the diversity of those subjecting me to this humiliation.  But I have never seen a disabled person working within any of your stores.   And none of the company statements or brochures on line indicates any policy regarding accommodations of the disabled and the assurance to employees and customers alike that the experience of disabled “guests” or their buying power are of any importance to your institution.
In response to this letter, please clarify for me your policy regarding reasonable accommodations and the desired relationship you wish to have with disabled “guests.”  If the behavior of these two “Team Members” is not in accordance with your policy, please take steps to assure that disabled “guests” are not treated so discourteously in the future.  Additionally I would appreciate an apology by both the store manager, Reggie and “Target Team Member, ” Bryant.  Please extend to “Target Team Member” Michael, my gratitude for his kindness and assistance for taking the time to help a frustrated and irate disabled woman finish what to most people is a simple task, but for me can be a daunting experience even under the best of situations.
Emma Rosenthal_818-404-5784
CC:     The San Gabriel Valley Tribune_    Mayor Manuel Lozano, Baldwin Park_    David Olivas,  Esq. Councilmember, Baldwin Park_    San Gabriel Valley Neighbors for Peace and Justice_    Randy Howard, Logistics, Baldwin Park Target_    Bob Ulrich, CEO, Target Corporation    _    Gregg Steinhafel, President, Target Corporation_    Bart Butzer, Executive Vice President of Stores, Target Corporation_    Jodeen A. Koziak, Senior Vice President, Human Relations, Target Corporation_    Laysha Ward, Vice President, Community Relations, Target Corporation    _    Sonali Kolhatkar, Producer, Uprising: KPFK

One response to “Daily Indignities: laundry detergent hubris

  1. Pingback: The silence of the left: When is police brutality an acceptable reality? « ¡Cafe Intifada! -Uniting Art With Critical Consciousness

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