Tesco has denied changing its support for assisted shopping at its main Peterborough store despite a message from one of its own members of staff stating it is under review.
The Peterborough Telegraph revealed earlier today that the supermarket giant has apologised to wheelchair-bound Sam Blunt from Whittlesey over an “isolated occasion” where she was not helped with her shopping at the Serpentine Green store.
In responding to the PT’s request for comment following Tuesday’s incident, which left the 42-year-old in tears, Tesco stated there had been no change in the store’ policy with assisted shopping despite Sam claiming to have been told otherwise by a member of staff.
However, Sam has now revealed a message a friend received from Tesco after contacting the firm on her behalf following the incident.
The message from a member of the customer care team states: “I’m very sorry this happened to you and I can only imagine the struggle. I’ve phoned the duty manager and passed on your comments. He was very sorry to learn of the experience you had.
“The reason that the store took a decision to review this service was due to there being more people that needed assisted (sic) compared to the amount of colleagues on the floor.
“While this is under review I asked that as a temporary measure if it would be possible for you to phone them in advance to let them know you’re coming, so they can provide some help.”
The message then includes phone numbers for Sam to ring.
After being sent a copy of the message from the PT and asked if it is true that the store is reviewing its assisted shopping policy, a Tesco spokesperson replied: “Just to confirm, there has not been a change to our assisted shopping policy.”
Sam has dystonia, a neurological condition which sees her hands contract into the palms of her hands and her toes curl into the soles of her feet.
She relies on Bugsy to grab items with his teeth to put in her basket, but she requires assistance with larger items or any behind a freezer.
She told the PT: “I always use Tesco. The last three-and-a-half years since I’ve had my canine partner he helps with most of the shopping, but I can’t get the bigger items so I ask for assistance.
“I’ve never had any issues before, but I was told on Tuesday the store manager has said staff can’t assist with anyone because a lady took advantage of assisted shopping.
“It was so humiliating to be told in the middle of the shopping aisle. A lady come up and said she would help me, but I said I will go elsewhere to get the rest of my shopping.
“I got in my vehicle and was in tears.”
Tesco said yesterday it was sorry Sam had not received assistance on this “isolated occasion” and that there had been no change in its policy of offering assisted shopping, with customers requested to ring ahead.
A spokesperson added: “Our colleagues are always happy to assist those with additional requirements during their shop and we’re very sorry that Ms Blunt did not receive the high level of service we expect. Our store manager would be keen to meet Ms Blunt and discuss her concerns to ensure we serve her well in the future.”
Steve Coulson, operations manager at Serpentine Green, said the shopping centre’s staff would help Sam if she returned to shop at Tesco.
He added: “We are unable to comment on individual store polices, but Serpentine Green is a Disability Friendly centre and have worked with various disability groups in the local area to make the centre assessable to all, and we would attempt to give any assistance to our shoppers where possible.”
Sam added: “Bugsy my canine partner has opened up the world to me again and given me my independence back.
“I can’t thank Canine Partners enough for him - they are an amazing charity training these amazing dogs.”