A Canadian woman is taking a stand after she was banned from her local grocery store for failing to pack her groceries fast enough.
After her voice box was removed due to cancer, Linda Rolston lives with mobility issues and requires a prosthesis to speak. That’s left the Alberta resident with several mobility issues, including limited movement in her shoulders and arms.
Rolston was a frequent patron of the No Frills in Whitecourt, Alta., a grocery store which requires customers to bag their own groceries, which according to CBC Go Public, helps keep prices at a low cost. On several occasions, Rolston says she would “beg and plead” with staff to assist her bag her groceries, but was often denied.
In January of this year, Rolston complained to the No Frills franchise an umbrella company of Loblaws, and says she was assured by the Whitecourt location’s franchise owner that the issue would be taken care of.
A few weeks later, Rolston says she was doing her best to bag her groceries as a line formed behind her when she was approached by the owner who said unless she could bring someone to pack items for her, she should not return to the store.
“I was stunned,” Rolston told the CBC. “I said, ‘Are you telling me because I’m disabled I can’t shop here?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I don’t have anyone to help me and I have my prescriptions here.’ He said, ‘Well, you’re just going to have to go somewhere else.”
When Rolston complained to the head office, she was offered $100 by Loblaw only on condition that she sign a a release promising not take action against the company – or speak out about the incident.
“They can keep the $100. I’m going to tell anybody and continue with my human rights action,” Rolston told Go Public.
According to Rolston, customer service apologized and advised her to continue shopping at the Whitecourt location, so long as she called ahead to ensure someone on staff was available to assist her at check-out.
The suggestion and offering in exchange for her silence was upsetting. As she explained, “I’m an adult. I’m not going to phone to get permission to go shopping.”
When contacted, Loblaw issued a general statement to CBC that says the company took “immediate action” upon hearing about the incident and contacted the store owner.
Karen Grumbs, a spokesperson for Loblaw also told CBC that the company is “working with the store’s management to ensure staff at the store receive additional training” regarding the company’s accessibility policy.
Grumbs also noted, that the customer service policy to provide “equal access” for persons with disabilities applies only to “corporate grocery stores” and not No Frills franchises across Canada.
Rolston is currently in the process of filing a human rights complaint against No Frills, and says she has yet to receive an apology from the No Frills Whitecourt franchise owner.