The Acme Experience

Shopping while blind presents several obstacles. The idiot dorks at independent living centers tell blind people that they must behave like sighted people at all times, applying standards which in some cases do not apply. In the case of shopping, this means firstly finding a way there, then standing around for half an hour at the service counter until someone notices a blind person with no purchases obviously in need of assistance. It then means telling the person what you want while they go and get it. Some of the more extremist counselors will even tell you to memorize the store’s layout yourself, since they consider asking anyone for help verboten. As anyone who has shopped at a store for more than a week will attest, the layout can change radically over night. After getting groceries, it then means finding the way back to your place, and let me assure you that carrying a bunch of bags while wielding a white cane presents many issues. Try it some time.

Usually, we order food from the local co-op. We email in a list, then they call and we settle any differences or ambiguities. It works well, as they just reside across the street. They do have somewhat high prices, and only deliver on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though the nice lady said we could call in on weekdays if we just needed something little.

Recently, someone suggested that we use Acme, a store with an accessible web site. Firstly, it took some rankling to get the URL in the first place, as going to the main domain just yields “index.html” and nothing else. This should have tipped us off to what would eventually happen.

After getting the address for the accessible version, which we could have never found on our own, we began shopping. Immediately, we noticed problems. Searching would sometimes tell us that “The URL could not be found.” This even happened in some cases when trying to go to aisles, or “Ailes” as the site displays. This seemed sporadic. Once in a while, we would even get a site error. This worried us, but we kept on shopping, adding things to our cart.

Suddenly, it logged us out, and we had to go back in. My girlfriend had a user ID of longer than ten characters, and she didn’t realize that it only lets you have a ten character maximum until going back to the new user form. After logging back in, she realized that it saved some items to a list and not to the cart. She moved them over, and it looked like we had an order. By this time, we had such a time that she forgot to add ice cream, the one thing she really wanted, but whatever. Upon checking out, it gave us a glorious Microsoft Visual BASIC Run-time Error. It always makes me nervous when it pauses or gives errors when entering credit card information, and we wondered if the order even went through, or if we would receive a run-time error as part of our order! The order arrived today on schedule. We noticed that it didn’t seem complete as we put away the food. We went upstairs to check, and she received a receipt via email. We noticed three problems.

  • Some items in the cart did not even show

    up in the initial confirmation email. </p>

    • Other items did show up in the confirmation, but not in the receipt.
      • Still other items did show up in the receipt, but with a total of $0.00. </ul> Given that we hadn’t eaten, we started getting pissed off, and my girlfriend decided to call them. “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn.” so I figured we’d get some answers. We didn’t. Basically, they just gave her the runaround, and told her that the problems probably came from using the accessible version of the site. We doubt this somewhat, because at one point she did try using the regular inaccessible version, and still saw the items in her cart. On the checkout page, it says to indicate if they should call if they need to make any substitutions. On the phone, they told my girlfriend that “They probably wouldn’t have called, because they work late at night.” “Good,” she responded, “We’re awake.” They told us to put it, then did not even honor it!

        Once again, the blind get screwed, and now we have no food for the weekend. I don’t think we will shop there again, unless at the utmost of need. Perhaps for average crap it will work, but we have special needs, like actually wanting to eat healthily. Oh well, live and learn. I hope this blog entry will benefit the blind community as a whole. By the way, this once again also demonstrates why nobody over the age of twelve uses BASIC for any serious work.

        Next, we will try Genuardi’s! We still love the good old co-op!