GREENSBORO, N.C. — It’s not unusual for Dr. Anjail Ahmad to spend an hour or so shopping at Walmart on a Saturday. The store is convenient, and she can buy groceries and other household items at the same time.
“It makes it easy for me,” Dr. Ahmad said.
The ability to buy multiple items at one location is important for Dr. Ahmad to reduce the number of stores she needs to visit. Driving to several stores is a burden on most people. For Dr. Ahmad, who is blind, it means scheduling multiple trips through a transportation service.
“It is often not easy to get a ride at a certain time, so there is often some waiting around,” Dr. Ahmad said.
In most visits, the store will provide a personal shopper to assist her in picking out the items she needs. The employee will usually pull on the front of the cart while Dr. Ahmad holds on to the back and follows along.
During a recent visit, Dr. Ahmad was dropped off at the store and walked inside like she often does. She went to the customer service counter to ask for assistance shopping and then waited a few minutes.
“Out of the blue a worker comes up and she says, 'Ma’am, I’m not going to be able to help you shop in the store,'” Dr. Ahmad said.
Unsure what to say, Dr. Ahmad asked why and said she was told they didn’t have the resources and that it would possibly be this way moving forward.
“I felt it was wrong. I didn’t think that was the policy of Walmart to disrespect people,” Dr. Ahmad said.
A couple of days later, Dr. Ahmad would reach out to News 2 and the Walmart regional office. We did some investigating and learned that Walmart, or any store, is not required to provide a personal shopper. There are rules and regulations when it comes to handicap access that must be followed, but providing someone to assist a person disabled or blind is not required.
Dr. Ahmad says a regional director told her it was up to the individual manager as to how to handle that situation.
“I felt disrespected and dishonored,” Dr. Ahmad said.
A week later, we were able to reach someone in the corporate office. We explained the situation and asked for clarification about any policy as it related to a blind person asking for assistance to shop. The person we spoke with said Walmart would investigate the issue and get back to us.
A couple of days later, Dr. Ahmad told us someone from Walmart’s corporate office reached out to her to apologize and let her know that a personal shopper would be available moving forward. The person also offered Dr. Ahmad a $50 gift card for her troubles.
“I reached out to you (News 2) because if it was happening to me, (Walmart) was doing it to someone else who shops in the store,” Dr. Ahmad said.
Walmart sent us two statements related to the matter;
“We appreciate this being brought to our attention. We want all of our customers to have an enjoyable shopping experience and are looking into it.” A spokesperson said. “We’ve apologized to our customers about this misunderstanding and appreciate the feedback that was provided throughout our conversation.”
Dr. Ahmad told us she is satisfied with the apology and the decision by Walmart to aid moving forward. She is not sure, however, if she will be returning to the store.