Bobby Walker followed another Walmart customer to the parking lot Friday morning. The customer was done with her shopping for the day and he needed the motorized cart for his trip around the store.
“Seniors come out here to the parking lot all the time to get a cart,” Walker said.
Walker has shopped at the Walmart on Loop 288 since it opened in 1996. But in recent months, he’s noticed a shortage of motorized carts at the store.
“Come here in the afternoon, and you’ll see seniors waiting on the bench,” Walker said of the shoppers who come by the busload from nearby assisted living centers. “They have no choice but to wait.”
Walker has heart failure. He nearly died eight years ago, but a small, powerful machine at his side keeps his blood pumping now. While he can walk and get around fine, he gets tired shopping at big-box stores like Walmart.
“It’s at least 500 yards to the back of the store and 1,000 from one end to the other,” Walker said. “If you go a complete circle, it will wear you out.”
Yet, nine times out of 10 when he comes into the store on the loop, he must walk for the lack of carts, he said.
He’s not the only customer who’s noticed the shortage, nor the only customer who has complained to no avail. Dulane Wellborn came in Friday morning to pick up his prescription along with a few other grocery items. He’s complained to managers, too.
“I’ve been on them for a month,” Wellborn said.
He and his wife have started going to the other Walmart in Denton because the lack of carts has become such a problem, even though they don’t like shopping at the University Drive location.
“The other store is so crowded, and we move slower,” Wellborn said, adding that even though it’s crowded, he can always get a motorized cart at that store or other big grocery stores in town.
The Walmart on the loop is better for seniors, Wellborn added.
Another customer, who would only identify herself as Mrs. Hall, said that she, too, must wait for a Walmart employee to find and bring back a motorized cart for her shopping trips.
“Once I sat here for 45 minutes waiting for a cart,” she said. “I gave up and went to another store.
“You’d think they’d get the message.”
Walmart is always looking for ways to make things better for its customers, according to company spokesman Casey Staheli.
“We are continuously looking for ways to enhance our customers’ shopping experience and ensuring carts are ready and reliable for use is just one example,” Staheli wrote in an email. “Our stores strive to keep our carts in working condition and to quickly address any barriers to an exceptional customer experience.”
Many people are familiar with at least some of the required accommodations in the Americans with Disabilities Act, such as dedicated parking spaces, wider restroom stalls and water fountains. But businesses aren’t required to accommodate customers with motorized carts, which are expensive to buy and require charging and other maintenance.
“There’s no specific requirement for carts, but it’s a good business practice,” said Kenneth Shiotani, spokesman for the National Disability Rights Network, a national nonprofit advocacy group.
However, federal law does require that a business help a shopper who asks for it.
“They do need to assist,” Shiotani said.
Store employees don’t have to spend an hour going up and down the aisles for a customer, he said, but they have a somewhat limited obligation under the law if a customer points out that they would like to shop themselves and there are no carts available.
“If the customer says, ‘All I want is two or three things,’ they might have to send someone,” Shiotani said.
At that point, the business might want to ask themselves which costs more.
“They either have to get more carts or have the staff doing that,” Shiotani said.