A shopping tip for your next mall crawl


At the risk of publishing a post that reads suspiciously like a "what I did over Christmas vacation" essay, I wanted to pass along a tip that you may find useful next time you need to make a trip to the local mall.  It may be too late to benefit you now, but I’ll repost this next year in an effort to help you find a way to accomplish your holiday shopping if you are blind and in need of a holiday mall crawl. 

This year, I was all but overwhelmed by the task of getting orders filled and shipped for my Elegant Insights customers, so I did not begin my own holiday shopping until the Friday before Christmas.  As a person who is normally highly organized and efficient when it comes to planning and executing dinners, travel, decorating, shopping and so on, I found my procrastination appalling.  this was one of those years where everything I had planned in the way of transportation and assistance went horribly awry.  Every attempt I had made to leave the house was thwarted, every one of my employees were unavailable, friends had left town, and the commitment I had made to my own customers took up all my time and attention.  So, last minute it would have to be. 

Since I have not been living in this town very long, and do not normally spend a great deal of time in my local mall anyway, I was quite unfamiliar with the mall and it’s layout.  I had a short list of stores I needed to find, but I had no idea where in the mall they were located.  if I could get someone to guide me to the stores, I thought, I could easily dash inside, ask for assistance and quickly move on.  I knew exactly what I needed to buy, and thought I could blast through my list in relatively short order.  I could get to the mall on my own no problem.  But what to do once inside?  Here’s an idea that may help you next time you find yourself in a bind with a task at hand and no sighted guide, friend or employee to assist you. 

I called the main mall number, and asked to speak to a manager or supervisor in Guest Services.  In my local mall, the Guest Services folks provide directions, sell gift bags and gift cards, and work with mall security to keep shoppers safe.  I explained that I am blind, and have a short list of purchases to make, and that I needed a sighted guide to escort me from store to store while I did some holiday shopping.  To my surprise, the person with whom I spoke said they have never been asked for assistance of this sort before.  "Really?"  I asked.  "Seems to me this would be a great service to provide your disabled clientele.  We need to shop, too, and we don’t always have someone available to help."  I offered a number of suggestions as to how this might be accomplished, given that a mall is a busy place, and understandably, there might not always be enough staff available to devote any one person to the task of being a personal shopper.  Still, I insisted, they might consider making such a service available once a month, or just at holiday times, as a way to encourage people who need some extra help to come to the mall and patronize local businesses. 

The management was extremely receptive and gracious, and agreed to assign me a security guard (lacking another available employee at the time) to guide me where I needed to go that day.  I raced inside each store, made my purchases, and moved on to the next retailer.  I was done in an hour. 

While I admit my timing could have been better with respect to approaching the mall management with the idea, they were helpful, sincere and understanding in their desire to assist.  A well-timed follow-up with the Guest Services and security staff might make possible a dialogue about ongoing services for people with disabilities to enjoy an accessible shopping experience. 

Yes, of course I could have done all my shopping online, which most of us do these days, but remember, I had waited until the last minute, so I was extremely grateful, and enthusiastic in my expressions of appreciation for those who went out of their way for me.  You should be, too, if you try this at your local mall.  Mine was packed with holiday shoppers, and I’m sure it was not the most convenient thing in the world for them to spare a security person just for me, on short notice.  Now that the holidays are over, give your own local mall a call and see what you can do to implement some sort of shopping assistance program.  Perhaps they might consider hiring a volunteer or two to be available periodically on assigned days to provide this service.  Or, maybe it would be more feasible only at holiday times.  It’s worth a try.

This wraps up my final post of 2012.  I hope all of my readers have the happiest, healthiest, and most abundant of new years, and I sincerely thank you for your comments, tweets, words of praise or encouragement, feedback and friendship this year.  I will work even harder to make this blog a place for you to find tips, tools, and camaraderie that will bring together a community of individuals in need of support and information.  Please feel free to use the accessible contact form on this page to contact me with any ideas you may have for future topic ideas.  if you would like to be interviewed for an upcoming event or promotional campaign, drop me a note.  if there is any way I may be of service to you, it would be my pleasure.  Simply reach out, and I’ll be there.

Warmest wishes,

LL

Laura Legendary