Monday, April 12, 2010

Practicality and Diversity: Accessibility's Genteel Cousins

I pulled my chair to a halt. I had a decision to make. I've resisted making it because I don't like being an whiner or complainer, but I also don't like being a wuss or feeling like a victim. Here's the situation, I have one of those wonderful big bookstores right in my neighbourhood, it's an Indigo bookstore, part of the Chapters chain. I shop there a lot. Both Joe and I love to read, it's a perfect place to pick up gifts, it's a wonderful place to wander around.

Over the last several months they've been rearranging the store thus that it's getting more and more difficult to get in. They have this great, huge, octagonal table that sits at the head of the entrance way. When I first moved here I could get by on either side, no problem. But now it's impossible to pass by. To get in I have to go around a narrow passageway behind a table laden with art books. There's always people standing looking at the books, I always have to ask them to move. They all do with greater and lesser degrees of grace.

Today I didn't want to have to ask someone to move, I didn't want to do anything but get into the store to pick up a couple of books. But I had to ask, the woman moved, and now I'm parked thinking about what to do, what to do. As I was near the head of the escalator and as a staff was getting off the moving staircase, I took the bull by the horns and asked her if I could speak to a manager. She said sure, stepped over to a store phone and called Chris.

A few seconds later Chris was getting off the elevator and heading over to the woman who'd called. I addressed him by name, 'Um, Chris, it was me who asked to speak to you.' I began by telling him that I loved the store and that I was a good customer (I don't know why I always do that, even if I was a customer coming in for the first time, I should be able to have access) then I told him of the problem. At first he thought that I was talking about a new display, I turned my chair and took him over to show him where the problem was. He saw that it was the octagonal table.

As we were talking a fellow making his way through that space overheard the conversation and simply entered in saying to the manager, 'If you moved this table over a foot and a half, there would be plenty of room in the passageway.' The manager looked to me and asked if that would work and, though I had a different solution in my mind, I nodded and said it would work.

The manager then explained to me that they had 'people' who came in and designed the look of the store, changing the design every week or so. He said that he would note that they had to be reminded of practicality and diversity. He also said that he would email all stores in the chain asking them to remember customers in wheelchairs and the need for space in entering and exiting the store.

Then he said he'd get someone and make the change now. I told him that I didn't mean for them to do it right now, I just wanted them to think about it and make the adjustments for chairs. He said, 'I'm aware of the problem now, why wouldn't I fix it now? I want you to be comfortable in the store and I want you to be able to get out easily when you are done with your shopping.'

About twenty minutes later I sailed out of the store, lots of room on either side. Thank heaven's I took a moment to speak up.

Here's a Shout Out to Chris at Chapters Indigo at Bay and Bloor ... Thanks Man! That's customer service for you.


Anonymous said...

Were I closer I'd shop at that store for all my books!

We shop at an excellent old fashioned Butchers Shop.

Usually we give them a box of Beer for their help through the year.

This time I gave them, somewhat in trepidation, two paintings of the shop which I had made. Not expecting the continuing expressions of gratitude which they now give us every time we go there.

Seems its the small things which make life worth while, a smile and a helpful ear and solution without malice or rejection.

Kate said...

That's wonderful! I just love when you speak up and people actually listen to you! It's a rare person who does that.

Heather said...

. . and that is just exactly how a comment about access SHOULD be recieved (but unfortunately is not often enough).
Yay for Chris
If I am ever in Toronto (or Canada) I'll shop there.

Andrea S. said...

I agree with OhWheely -- this is how access SHOULD be done but too frequently isn't.

If someone requests a change that takes a large amount of time or money to implement, then I can accept that it will take a certain amount of time to happen even if people are genuinely committed and pushing hard to move it forward quickly. For example, if you had needed for stairs to be torn down and replaced with a ramp, then it would be reasonable for them to take a few days or weeks to do that. But if the problem is both obvious and also has a really simple solution that only takes a few minutes of staff time to resolve, then why shouldn't it be done right away?

I'm particularly impressed that this guy saw the big picture: he realized that this is not just a one-time issue that needs to be solved today, for this particular design/floor plan at this particular store. He understood right away that this is something that needs to be accounted for in all future display arrangements throughout the entire store chain. That kind of vision is at least as rare as the attitude he displays of "let's fix this now." To find both this positive attitude and also this level of vision in the same person is even rarer.

FridaWrites said...

Sometimes people can very honestly forget if they don't do it while they're thinking about it--better to do it immediately if it's possible.

This is why I love independent bookstores. They're the best.

MoonDog said...

gotta love great customer service. I have been trying to get mcDs to have high chairs that are not enclosed at the top because children with orthopedic problems cant get into a high chair that is so confining. the bar up between the legs is fine but there is also a bar across the top which makes it impossible for many children to use it. booster seats would be an easy answer but alas nothing. so I have to hold my child in my lap, which is difficult or put her on a chair that puts her at risk and them at risk. but no one hears me.

moplans said...

wow! I am so glad you had such a good experience. our indigo is further north at the yonge eglinton centre and the entire mall really needs someone to deal with issues of accessibility.

Cynthia F. said...

Woo hoo, love it!

Kristin said...

Wow...that is what customer service is suppose to be like!

Glee said...