A BLIND Marks and Spencer shopper says she is being “pushed out” by the retailer after they removed all staffed tills at her local branch and replaced them with “silent” automated checkouts.
Inger Stokke, 51, says she was unable to find an audio feature on the self-scan tills at her local store, forcing her to rely on staff members for assistance.
Inger says she noticed the switch at the Earls Court store in London while shopping on 13 December.
Ordinarily she would be able to use audio to help her shop, but Inger claims this feature had been “skipped” by M&S’ tills.
However, M&S have maintained their self-service checkouts has an audio feature on each till, and insisted that a member of staff is always present to provide assistance.
The move towards self-service checkouts comes after other supermarkets have introduced similar systems in a bid to cut costs.
A furious Inger took to social media to complain to the retailer.
She posted a photo of herself with guide dog Billie with the caption: “This is my guide guide dog and I at our local M&S where we been doing our shopping for the past 10 years.
“But today all tills were gone! So I can’t see. Fact. Your self service system is not universally designed for the blind – ergo I can’t use them.
“No synthetic speech on them – believe me I tried! I spent three hours calling M&S yesterday [Dec 13]. I really don’t know how many people I spoke to.
“Is M&S within the law by having only self service? Or are some groups discriminated? Because I can’t continue to shop here. Which is sad!
“I would love to speak to someone about this, sadly that seemed impossible when I tried my best to get in touch on Friday [Dec 13].
“Ergo:I have to contact you here. Because I will not be pushed out!”
Her post sparked outrage among social media users.
Victoria Shabbir wrote: “I agree, this is terrible. Profit over customers as always.”
Kevin Pateman added: “Stores are supposed to make reasonable adjustments for disabled customers. In this instance they appear to have done exactly the opposite.”
And Claire Green said: “This is so so important for all customers to be included. Not sure how M&S can justify this.
“Please don’t drop your standards. Can you tell us how many other of your shops are like this please?”
Inger also stated that she had experienced similar problems at M&S Heathrow branch.
Inger said: “It makes me angry of course. They just have not thought about it and that is really annoying. It’s extremely arrogant. I don’t want to ask for help, because how degrading is that?
“I have to go around shouting for help, I’m not that kind of person. You feel like you are mental. I use my guide dog and he helps me do everything myself.
“With ATMs you have got this thing you can put your headset into, but with the M&S tills the sound does not work, they skipped it.
“We have the technology there, this is about money. The staff do try to their best to help me and it’s not their fault but this needs to go up the chain.
“Sometimes someone will come up to you and hold your hand and then I get really angry. You just feel like a little s***.
“I’m a normal person, I do normal work, I just can’t see. And I have friends who can’t read and write so what about them? It can happen to anyone that is disabled and it happens all the time.”
Marks and Spencer are not the only retailer using entirely automated checkouts.
In April, Sainsbury’s introduced a staff-less system at its store in High Holborn, London.
Shoppers simply scan their items as they shop before paying via machine.
Tesco and ASDA have also introduced similar measures and it was estimated there would be around 325,000 self-service checkouts in place by the end of 2019.
M&S have refuted Inger’s claims and say audio is available at their checkouts.
An M&S spokesman said: “We’re committed to being an accessible retailer where all customers can feel comfortable and confident when shopping with us.
“All of our self-checkout machines are fully audio-enabled and we always have a colleague on-hand to offer assistance to any customer.”
However, Inger hit back at M&S’ explanation. Speaking today, she said: “Well I did try to use it and if it is there then why didn’t anyone help me?
“I think what they are talking about is a system for the visually impaired, not the blind because we need a screen that talks to you when you touch it.
“I think they are hiding behind that. If it is there then M&S staff don’t know about it.”