A Public Inconvenience

The weekly shop is never relaxing, especially with kids in tow, but this morning’s trip to Aldi was more stressful than most…

I was aware that there are no customer toilets in the shop but, when faced with an emergency announcement from my three year old in store this morning, I ran straight to the nearest member of staff and asked if we could use their staff toilets. Explaining our situation quickly, with a sense of urgency in my voice and panic in my eyes, he looked me over and said “no”. I explained again, that it was really very urgent, it wasn’t for me, and that my son really urgently needed to ‘go’. 

I was stood there, with a full trolley, baby in the seat, and a three year old (dressed as Aladdin) jigging up and down next to me. My plight was pretty obvious.

With no empathy in his voice, he simply directed us to a public toilet on the high street. I abandoned my trolley, plucked the baby out of it and bundled him under one arm and the three year old under the other and we ran… 

If you can remember the toilet scene from Trainspotting, you’re really not far off: the smell hit us like a tonne of bricks as we walked in! Picture the scene: one child (still dressed as Aladdin) being dangled precariously over the loo and told to “Relax darling, I’ve got you. Just go as quickly as you can”, while the other sits and twists on my hip, trying to grab everything within reach and gradually slipping lower and lower. The two of them together weigh almost 6 stone. I have never felt more like a SuperMum in my entire life. This was clearly my moment.

Obviously, there was no toilet paper and no working taps. We were Bear Grylls-ing it with wet wipes and anti-bacterial spray. I operated the flush with my foot and completed a similar manoevre with the door handle to get us out as quickly as humanly possible, all the time directing both small children to keep their hands in their pockets and NOT TOUCH ANYTHING!!
We survived without any children being dropped down the loo, but I was left pretty baffled by the lack of help offered to a customer, who was clearly in a fix, with two small children under four in tow. I’m not asking for special treatment for myself, a grown adult, but as any parent knows, when small people need to go, they really need to go…

It’s not the first time this has happened to me either, (although we avoided the horrors of a public loo that time). The Co-op appears to operate a similarly unhelpful policy.  Having just reached the front of a very long, Christmas Post Office queue, my three year old announced that he needed a poo. The assistant’s helpful suggestion? “Just take him into the car park to do it!” We opted instead to go charging down the high street at full pelt, desperately searching for any shops that had a loo. Thankfully we found one just in time, but the cards never got posted.

It’s fast becoming a bug-bear of mine, but when shops that rely on mums of young children to make up a considerable proportion of their customer base, cannot bend the rules to help a young child reach a loo in time,  I wonder whether we should resort to taking our own facilities with us? Would the staff be happier to see a child crouched over a potty next to the frozen peas, than have them use their own staff toilets under parental supervision? I imagine not. Certainly, they would soon come to dread the announcement for a “clear up in aisle 4″…

2 responses to “A Public Inconvenience

  1. Hi Claire, I’m sorry to hear you weren’t properly assisted in your local Co-op. Whilst we’re restricted by regulation and insurance policies regarding our colleague toilet facilities, we do try to make exceptions for customers in desperate need, a policy which was communicated to all colleagues by our CEO of Co-op Food in 2015, but which may apparently need refreshing. I can understand more about your Co-op’s specific set-up and investigate this for you, if you’re able to reach out with more information? We’re on all social media or social@coop.co.uk. Thanks, Jordan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jordan, thank you so much for getting in touch. I will contact you separately – I really appreciate you looking into this for me and it’s great to know that there is already a policy in place for those in need.
      I wonder actually whether the lady in question may have been post office staff instead of Co-op, as the Post Office is located at the back of the branch in Warlingham.
      We love the store and have never encountered any other issues, as staff are always friendly, but this one occasion we were caught out and ended up being sent running to a local charity shop to use their facilities instead.
      Great to know that the Co-op recognises the issues that we face as parents. Thank you!


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