Families that include handicapped family members know that even the simplest tasks – like getting groceries – can be a struggle. Even without issues like limited mobility, gaining some perspective and understanding from the outside world is no easy feat. Brian Myres – father to a disabled son and friend of UCP– shares a recent story of one company that missed the opportunity to be helpful to his family:
I know that you’re a big chain and have a lot going on, but a recent missed opportunity at one of your stores could be a great learning experience not just for you, but for everyone.
Recently, my sons pulled into an icy Costco parking lot to do their shopping. Typically, we don’t use the handicap placard we have for my son, who has a disability. We only use it if the parking lot is full or the weather is bad. Since the parking lot was covered in ice, they decided to use it. As soon as they pulled into the handicap spot, a female Costco employee ran towards them, asking why they were parking there. She was yelling at my oldest son, telling him he couldn’t park there. He opened the passenger door and motioned to his younger brother, thereby providing the proof she seemed to be demanding. Once she saw my youngest son and understood he had a disability, she simply walked away, making no attempt to apologize.
I don’t want to complain about what happened, I just want to point out that this was a missed opportunity and could have been handled very differently. To assume that my sons were guilty in their actions and then to do nothing to correct your wrong is not the brand image your company strives for. It would’ve been a great learning opportunity and chance to build your brand if this employee had apologized for her actions and asked if there was something she could do to help. In my view, if this employee would have apologized for her actions and explained that she just wanted to ensure that the parking spot was available to people with disabilities, this encounter would have been positive. The special needs community is a small one and word spreads quickly when things like this occur.
This is an opportunity to advocate for the rights of those with special needs, not to jump to conclusions without knowing the whole story. We hope that you realize this and will jump at the opportunity to work with your employees to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect, regardless of initial appearances.
As I am well-immersed in the world of social media, I immediately posted a review on that Costco’s Facebook page. Here is the review:
‘Today my 21-year-old son and 15-year-old son parked in a handicapped parking spot at the Costco in Baxter and before they could get our disabled son out of the car, an employee of Costco accused them of parking in the spot with someone else’s handicapped parking permit. Once the employee was made aware of our son with disabilities, she made no apology and walked off. This is terrible customer service and very disrespectful of a family with a child with a disability. Is this really the kind of image Costco wants to portray?’
This was posted on December 27, 2016, and there has been no response to my review, as of January 31. Costco, this was your second mistake. It’s good business to immediately respond to negative reviews. I recommend a short training program for all of your employees so that they have a better understanding of how to respectfully to communicate with people with disabilities.