My letter to Sainsbury’s…

Back in November, my family visited a Sainsbury’s store in Penzance, Cornwall.

Only our experience fell well short of what a family would usually expect.

To keep it dignified, and to keep it light, I shared our experience online using our Christmas Elf, Alfie, and explaining the feelings, the harm and the difficulties from Alfie’s perspective instead of my son’s. We shared it in a post titled ‘It Shouldn’t Happen To An Elf’ and we hoped that they would read it and understand.

Dear Manager,
Sainsbury’s Penzance,

My family visited your store a few days ago and my son had an unpleasant experience, which I am sure does not fit within the values of Sainsbury’s.

You have some amazing toilet facilities for men, women, babies and those who need a bit more room. Sainsbury’s obviously thinks that toilet facilities are really important as you have them upstairs as well as downstairs. Yet there are no facilities for people who require a hoist to lift them from their wheelchair to an adult sized changing table to sort clothes and switch to a toileting sling before being hoisted to the toilet.

Disabled people are are people too, but my son felt less than human in your store.

The facilities I am describing are not new, nor is the need for disabled people to use the toilet. Yet people with needs similar to my son have been ignored for too long. Your baby changing facility is huge and could easily be transformed into a toilet with a hoist and adult changing table. That would tell my son that Sainsbury’s cares and values him. Sainsbury’s in Redhill have recently opened such a facility and I am asking you to give my son the best Christmas gift possible – the ability to visit your store with his grandparents, with dignity.

The Penzance store is a brilliant store. The aisles are wide and the staff are really lovely. But, without access to a toilet, my son is devastated.

I shared a blog post online about our experience. Only I wrote it about an Elf. The Elf represents my son, Adam, who is 11 years old, but enables me to share his story whilst sparing his dignity. I have enclosed a paper copy of the blog post, but you can also read it online on my blog if you are interested.
Can you imagine being 11 years old and sitting in your own waste because a major supermarket values able-bodied people but not you? Can you imagine how hurt this child is? Or how my heart aches?

Please don’t tell me that you will log this. Please don’t tell my son that you understand.

Please tell him that you are horrified that this happened in your store. Please tell him that you will make an immediate commitment to getting the necessary facilities installed in your store. Please tell him that he will be able to visit and keep his dignity within three months.

After all, if your tills were broken you would fix them immediately. Without a Changing Places style toilet facility, your toilets are broken. Surely that also deserves immediate fixing?

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,


Mrs Rachel George

Four months have now gone by. The store manager had initially responded positively and we had felt listened to. The store manager telephoned me and he is clearly a compassionate and decent man. We felt positive. We felt that Sainsbury’s cared.

We know that they looked into it, giving consideration to the design options and the costs. We also know that they have managed to build an Argos concession inside the store in this time frame.

But not a toilet that my son and other disabled people who also need a hoist or changing table can use.

Four months on, I asked them again.

Take a moment. Imagine receiving a letter like this telling you that a child has had a hideous experience in your store…

What would the correct response be?

Feel free to give suggestions for Sainsbury’s.

I will share their response shortly, when I have calmed down!

13 thoughts on “My letter to Sainsbury’s…

  1. If I was Sainsbury’s my response would roughly be…’Its 2018 so of course ALL persons should have access tkntoulet facilities so will of course build a changing places facility in this store within the next 3 months. We will also discuss this with the company big wigs to look in rolling this out in ALL stores within a year’. Any other response is just plain wrong x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I was thinking along similar lines to you. Especially as they are being told that a disabled child had a traumatic and horrible experience in their store.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Firstly, fantastic letter and I loved reading about your disabled elf!
    Sainsbury’s need to up their game (as do most other places). Enough is enough, now that they know the problem they need to fix it. I hope their response is positive. They should be outlining a plan to rollout in all of their stores, but In have a feeling this wasn’t what they said…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What I wish it says ‘Once again we are horrified this could happen in our store and are currently making plans to solve this and put provisions in place within the next 12 weeks. We would love for us to be able to show you our design and layout to see if you feel it will meet the needs of those whos needs are not met by our current toilet provisions. We will be delighted to welcome you to our cafe on the day of these opening and offer you a safe space for your son to shop and eat. look forward to future contact with you working together for this cause’ What was more likely ‘ Hello, we understand how your son felt about the toilet provisions, but we are here for the many not the few’ (I seriously hope not) I am still furious for you and the stores (and other places) need to be upping their facilities to accommodate everyone.


    1. I wish you worked in the Executive Office of Sainsbury’s and had responsibility for responding to letters like mine.

      Somehow, they have managed to not just upset me with their nonsense, but also to compound it with their stupidity.


  4. Thank you so much for your letter. We are so sorry that this was the experience your child had in our store. We hadn’t considered that these facilities were needed but can now clearly see that they are and we are now working to put this right. We will shortly be in touch with our plans to get these facilities installed.

    Thanks again for highlighting this issue and we look forward to working with you to remove barriers to disabled people in our store.


    1. I wish you worked in the Sainsbury’s Executive Office. My heart aches at their lack of compassion. I have just shared their actual response and it hurts.


  5. Sadly, I can imagine the response in their head would be that opening the Argos concession makes them money whereas installing a Changing Places facility wouldn’t… I’m guessing they didn’t actually put that in their response to you. It’s very short sighted as having facilities for everyone would be something that attracts great media attention and therefore more customers… :/


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