Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mart Cart, Revisited

There is SO much vitriol directed toward "Mart Carts" (motorized scooters in stores) and their users, especially if those users happen to be fat. I wrote about it here, back in April 2007, but I wanted to revisit the subject, especially now that I have more experience with them, and because I have seen more and more nasty things being said on that topic.

The usual hate-speak is to complain that if the person would "get off their ass and walk", they wouldn't be so fat. That, and referring to the carts as "fat carts", accompanied by outrage at the very existence of those carts. Many of these people seem to think that the carts are an accommodation just for fat people, and complain that fat people are being mollycoddled because stores have them.

First of all, those carts aren't for "fat people", they are for disabled people. And while complainers frequently whine that they "only see fat people" using them, I have to wonder how they got their marvelous psychic skills to determine that those people aren't disabled. Yes, it IS possible for a fat person to be disabled. A fat disabled person can be (and usually is) disabled by conditions that are not caused by their fat--and, in fact, the reduced activity levels caused by the condition may result in weight gain.

Disabled people DO need accommodation, if we are going to allow them some dignity and independence. When they are accommodated, they are able to go out in public and do some things, such as shopping, that they would never be able to do otherwise. This makes those people more visible in the public eye, of course, when they would otherwise be stuck at home doing nothing. Most of our public non-work activities include shopping and dining, so yes, you're going to see a fat disabled person using a cart in a store to do those activities.

Now, the major point I want to make here is that, even though the carts are a benefit to disabled people, and they DO offer a greater level of freedom for disabled people, no one who's used them more than a couple of times would, in their right mind, choose those damn things over walking with a regular shopping cart anyway. They aren't a fun toy; they are a pain in the neck. Those who use them are doing so because, while it is not an ideal way to shop for an abled person, it may be the best available option for a disabled person.

The carts are slow and bulky. When using them, a person's reach is VERY limited--it's hard to get stuff off of top and bottom shelves, it's hard to open freezer cases, and it's hard to put things on the belt at the checkout stand--and god forbid the person should stand up for a second to do ANY of those things, because that's the moment where people will say, "LOOK! She can stand up, she has NO right to use a cart!" The carts are also often dirty and/or smelly, they run out of electricity, and they don't hold very much compared to a regular cart.

Additionally, they can be a challenge to maneuver if the user isn't feeling great. Those are the days when, if the disabled person has a partner to help, a wheelchair can be really helpful. Unfortunately, most store wheelchairs seem to be in disrepair, they're uncomfortable, and they're usually filthy as well.

So if you think that someone is using the cart because they are lazy, I challenge you to give the cart a try yourself. Go through the store without an assistant. Remember that you are NOT permitted to stand up for any reason. You want something off a top shelf? Too bad; you have to ask a store employee for help, or a fellow customer (and hope that neither of those folks sneer at you or makes a snide remark). You aren't allowed to stand up to get something out of a freezer, no matter how damned frustrating it is to have to reach and maneuver the cart so you can open the door, then try to get the door to stay open while you maneuver close enough to get the item you want. If the cart smells, too bad; use it anyway, because it might be the last one left for someone who doesn't have a choice. Give it a try, and then get back to me on how much "fun" it is, how much "easier" it is. We aren't using them because it is easier, we are using them because our bodies don't work right. If you have a problem with that, why don't you get over yourselves and be glad that you have the ability to shop normally, in a store that is clearly designed for able people?

Edited to add: This is not the place for you to post hate-speech, especially personal attacks on people in the FA movement. Also, just because someone can go into a store under their own power does not mean that they can comfortably do all of their shopping that way; the fact is, you don't know ANYTHING about that person's situation, and it's none of your business. If they feel that they are better able to do their business using a mobility aid, then that is entirely their decision. Using a cane, wheelchair, or motorized scooter is not some "fun" thing people do because they are lazy.


Jamie Fritz said...

I have used them of late, and it's a love-hate relationship. When I do use them, I tend to brandish my crutch very visually so nobody thinks I'm "just fat and lazy" and still the voices in my head won't shut up. Between being bound and determined to be independent, and the things I read about what people think about fat women using scooters, it's really exhausting.

Anonymous said...

dude, first off thank god that for now i am mobile. since i'm more likely to die of old age or illness than anything sudden in my youth it is VERY likely that i and most everyone will one day have some level of mobility problems.

the idea that someone would use a motorised cart in a supermarket out of laziness seems patently ridiculous. isn't it just obvious that if you have a condition that doesn't allow you to move around much you're more likely than the average person to put on more weight? are people just dumb? well, are they?

i know, i know, people are so blinded by their hatred of fat that they lose all reasoning capability. but i irrationally hate fat too- probably a lot more than most people- and it doesn't make me as callous to other human beings as those bozos!

Lindsay said...

A few years ago, i dislocated my ankle. I was hobbling around on crutches, and since i do most of the shopping, i got no small amount of experience with those damn carts.

Am i glad they exist for times like that? Hell yes. The alternative (and i did try it) was to walk on crutches and either try to carry a basket while holding a crutch (not a good idea) or push a cart while on crutches. Hop, hop, push. Hop, hop, push. Yeah, not so much.

So i finally gave in and used a cart. Still a pain in the ass, but a far more feasible (and less likely to make me slip and fall) pain in the ass.

Once or twice i tried to figure some way to take my crutches with me, mostly because i was afraid someone would steal them if i left them with the customer service desk. Luckily that never happened.

I tended to get more weird looks when i didn't try to take the crutches with me. I suppose then it was less obvious WHY i was using the cart at all.

In any case, trying to maneuver that damn thing was a huge PITA. Freezer cases were obnoxious. Reaching things on high shelves also irritated. It's not possible to be lazy while using them. It's still work, just a different kind. :P

vesta44 said...

Amen! I used to be able to walk through Wal-Mart to do my shopping, and then my fibro got worse, and my arthritis got worse, and my back really got worse. Then they made all the Wal-Marts into SuperWal-Marts, which made them even bigger, so now I can no longer walk through the store, even with the nice little bench seats that Wal-Mart so thoughtfully provides throughout their stores (usually because a group of people are sitting there, chatting, and there's no room for me to sit down). So I use the go-cart (as I call it) to do my shopping. If DH comes along, shopping is easy because he pushes the regular cart and can get things off the high shelves and out of the freezers for me. But if I have to go alone, I can't get everything on my list because it won't all fit in the go-cart's basket (ever tried driving one of those things AND pulling a regular shopping cart behind you? I have, and it's a royal PITA). I've been pretty lucky though, because if someone has seen me struggling to get something off a high shelf, they've offered to help (it's not easy to get on and off those carts either, they aren't really made for fat people, especially if the fat person also happens to be tall).
I've never had anyone say anything to me about me using the go-carts, but if they did, I would tell them that if they want me to walk through the store to shop, they had damn well better be prepared to come with a forklift to pick me up off the floor when I collapse because my back cramped up and my legs went numb (no way in hell is any one person going to be able lift my 375 lb body up off the floor, and if I've collapsed because my legs are numb, I'm not going to be able to get up on my own, nor will I be of much help to anyone trying to get me up off the floor). I'm mouthy like that when people act stupid, and it is stupidity to look at someone who is fat and on one of those carts and say that the only reason they're using it is because they're fat and lazy.

Karen said...

There is no protected class of person to be using those carts. The ridicule if for the inability to be like everyone else. Being thin, tiny, and having a newborn (like 2 days old) is a PITA in those carts, and you still get a share of sneers. People wonder why skinny little you is using one because they're the "fat carts," you can't actually relax because you have to lean so far forward just to reach the controls, and there's nowhere to put the baby. I had to go shopping a few days after my first baby was born, and my doctor had told me that I wasn't supposed to do anything remotely strenuous for two weeks. Those carts are a nightmare. They need adjustability, regular charging, and a help button at the very least. It isn't like Wal-mart overstocks employees. Given my own situation, a place to put a child too small to walk wouldn't hurt either.

And yes, people are just that dumb. And the crutch probably doesn't help, because, since fat causes everything, if you weren't fat you wouldn't need the crutch.

Morte said...

And you didn't even mention how many stores have layouts that make manouvering the carts nigh impossible! I sprained my ankle badly a few years back and used the carts at a few stores and it was AWFUL.

Apparently mobility impaired people don't need clothes, underwear or shoes because i couldn't navigate those areas of two major chains in a cart!

Jamie Fritz said...

Karen, HA, yes, when they give me the old hairy eyeball in spite of the crutch, I just flash the 18 inch scar down the side of my mangled leg at 'em. Works a treat!

And Vesta, I'm tall as well and you are SO right. Those things are a royal PAIN for tall folks and also folks with a non-bendy leg. Very tough to get in and out so no, no getting up to reach.

Anonymous said...

I had a problem with the electric vehicles in Disneyworld, in regards to this issue. You would think of all places, Disneyworld employees would be trained not to be prejudiced towards people of different abilities. Nope!

I was humilated by not being able to steer the car into the line rails, they make you pilot the car through the line with other people. Not only could this endanger "abled" people, it's virtually impossible to turn. I even found it that much more frustrating, cause I've been a video gamer since I was six. I couldn't even manuver the car, let alone someone without eye-hand cordinnation training.

I used the car to get into Mission Space, and was treated poorly because apperantly if I can ride a thrill ride, I must not be disabled enough to use the car. Or I'm just being a lazy fat person or whatever.

My sister returned the car, and told me the person working there, said to her "Sorry you can't get the money back." Like you get part of what you paid to rent the car back, if you return it by sometime before closing. Then after my sister looked sad, the employee said "Ha, I just wanted to see the look on your face! Just kidding!"

I can't tell you, aside from that it was my little sister told off by this person, how much I wanted to tell the employee off. I mean, it's emotional manipulation on a sadistic level. It's like saying, "Ha, I just wanted to see you sad, because seeing fat people upset makes me happy!" I can't understand how someone can behave in that manner, and not be seen as psychologically disturbed.

I e-mailed Disney. I explained it said right on their site, that if people need to they can use the cars to get around, so that it's easier for them to stand in line. That there should be no discrimination from employees based on who they think should be able to use the electric vehicles.

I also said, perhaps they should get rid of the electric vehicles and use wheelchairs only. So that it would be less easy for the employees to pass judgement, and discriminate. Which was more to make a point, rather than seriously suggest it.

I mean Disneyworld. Can you imagine someone's plus-sized mother using those cars, and one of the employees says something to the mom, and makes her child cry? I doubt that would pass as appropriate behaviour.

Furthermore don't go to I discussed this on their boards, and they proved themselves to be extremely size prejudiced. I hope they enjoy that as their reputation.