CruisinwithCricket & Georgie

My little red tether is my anchor in running with my friends. A beautiful guide dog has been my tether/anchor in mobility and independence for 17 years: 1. Pantera, 2. Cricket, recently retired, and now my beautiful 3. Georgina (Georgie). This blog is a place to celebrate the many ways we are Tethered with Resilience, Gratitude, Hope and Laughter.

The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it. CC Scott

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ann Taylor Journey

I'm reflecting on how to put an experience of yesterday into words.  I started my day with a low vision appointment.   If you haven't noticed, I am a little determined ... make that a lot determined :) to make sure I am utilizing any of the tools/skills that will help me lead an independent life as a woman who is blind.  I didn't really have any expectations on this appointment, but it turned into an awesome experience (for another post).  

After this appointment, Steve had picked me up and was on a conference call.  I whispered to him -- can we stop at the Ann Taylor store :). We were nearby City Creek and I have been wanting to visit the new Ann Taylor store.  There is an upcoming birthday girl that I was hoping to find a little something, and also just might find something fun for me to take on our trip.  Steve parked near the entrance to stay on his call while I walked into the store.  From a quick shopping excursion with Natalie I knew close to the proximity of where it was located.  Cricket and I navigated into the store.  I was so excited.  Unfortunately, I was greeted by a clerk with her first words indicating I needed to leave the store with my dog.  I politely explained that she was a guide dog and allowed to be here.   She indicated again dogs were not allowed and she would need to talk to her store manager.  I began to feel like my exciting find of the Ann Taylor store was not going so well.  Unfortunately, the manager also was not too helpful and indicated that dogs were not allowed.   I knew there were other people there as well, and I felt really alone.  No one stood up and said, this is a guide dog she can be in this store.  I again explained she was a guide dog and allowed to be here.  At this point, I found myself just wanting to leave and go to another store where I was welcome.  I turned and said, Cricket outside.  Its not been the easiest of past few weeks and I couldn't do anymore.  I walked out feeling pretty sad.  One of the clerks came out after me and said she was sorry, she liked dogs.  I explained that it isn't about whether one likes or doesn't like dogs.  Cricket is my guide dog and thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act she is allowed to enter Ann Taylor and any other public place that we want to go.  She is  my eyes.  I called Steve.  As so often is the case, I said where are you and he was walking toward me :).  He gave me a hug as I told him what had happened.  I began to cry.  I walked into Limited, and they were super friendly and helpful.  I found some really fun clothes for our upcoming trip.   Steve walked back to Ann Taylor and in his calm way educated them about a guide dog and also indicated they had also kicked out a very loyal, frequent shopper who had a closet full of their clothes!  Perhaps, because I was alone.  Perhaps, because I have been recovering from an injury.  Perhaps, because I was so excited to go to this store and then to have such a different experience -- it  left me pretty shaken.  It is a difficult experience to be treated so rudely and told to leave.   I am happy to educate -- not a big deal to explain she is a guide dog, even show identification if necessary but to explain, educate and then to still be told to leave in 2012 is thankfully very rare, however reminds me there is still education to be done.  I recall when this happened 15 years ago at a grocery store with my first guide and the police were called!  In the end it provided a wonderful opportunity to educate the managers of that store chain.  I would love to turn this difficult experience into an opportunity to educate those at Ann Taylor so this experience doesn't happen for anyone else.
               
In the end, I have had many more positive experiences at Ann Taylor than this discrimatory one.  However, I hope they will use this experience to educate their employees of the role of service animals.  They are not only welcome in their store but by law required to be allowed in their store.  If you have experienced this type of situation, you understand indeed what a traumatizing experience it is - and this time to be alone was even more challenging.

8/2013 Update:  Over the past year I have had many opportunities to educate further about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  In January, I had the wonderful experience to return to Ann Taylor and meet with all their employees.  I am grateful for this experience and the people that I have met in this journey.  Ann Taylor extended their hand and even generously supported a Guide Dogs for the Blind event.  I shop at this store frequently again and am grateful for their wonderful customer service.  The lemonade of this experience is perhaps that many more people are aware of the ADA, Guide Dogs for the Blind and perhaps even that a blind woman can enjoy shopping :).  

52 comments:

Mimi and CC Cabana said...

Oh Becky, I'm so sorry that happened to you. I'm dismayed that the staff at Ann Taylor were so woefully uneducated. It is sad and ridiculous. I think they definitely NEED to be educated!

Here is a link to contact their corporate office. There is a space to write a message. I would encourage other readers to send them a kind note, reminding them of the ADA. I'm going to write my note right now.

http://www.anntaylor.com/ann/custserv/contactus.jsp

Karen said...

Oh Becky I am sorry that they were so thoughtless and uneducated about not only the law but the care and treatment of a fine person. I am glad that Steve went back and talked to them. What a shame they have employed such people as their representatives.

Karen said...

good idea!! I wrote them also and it would be great for them to get many comments about their lack of education and decency.

Reddunappy said...

So sorry that happened to you.

We get a lot of that when we are raising puppies for GDB.

You can press that issue, but we can not, as raisers.

I hope you dont have to deal with that ignorance again.

If I am out

Reddunappy said...

Posted its self!! LOL

If I am out in public and see this happening, be rest assured I would give some education!!

Lisa and pups said...

Even though disappointment and discrimination you show such grace. Such an inspiration! So sorry this happened to you. Thanks for the link Mimi - a not to Ann Taylor is definitely in order.

Myrna R. said...

I'm so sorry for the ignorance of some. You have such a kind heart. Someone else would have gotten angry and even threatened a law suit. I for one am thankful for the education I've received from you. It actually helped me with my Mom, who went blind shortly before she died a few months ago.

Stay well.

Lacey said...

I am feeling so sad for you and Cricket! I was actually at City Creek yesterday too and saw Ann Taylor and thought of you. I wish I had seen your post when I was there. I would have gone in and told them what I thought! Such a bummer that they ruined such a fun outing for you...especially because we get so excited for these kinds of outings. I ended up doing quite a bit of shopping in The Limited....such fun clothes in there!
I hope you're having a better day today. Love you!

MAXMOM IN SOUTH AFRICA said...

Dear Becky,
I am so sorry that this had to happen to you.
Please would you consider sending this blogpost to them - perhaps they can be 'educated' by reading this post and the effects their behaviour has had on you (and potentially other blind folk).
Be brave, my friend...it is only through our courageous spirit - of speaking about these things that the world is able to change.
Sending lots of love to you, to Cricket and to Steve.
MAXMOM IN SOUTH AFRICA

Katja said...

It's so...disappointing...that in this day and age there's anyone who still doesn't understand that guide dogs are allowed in stores. It's right up there with encountering business that want YET MORE TIME to comply with the ADA, as if 22 years isn't long enough. I'm sorry you had this experience.

Lydia Criss Mays said...

Becky, first, I'm sorry. It is horrible to read this happened to you, and the fact it happened is even more disappointing and sad. In your ever-see-beautiful-spirit, you flipped a disappointing situation into one that can be used to educate others and expand understanding - something that is somethings lost in my patience in it being over a decade into the 21st century. I appreciate Mimi and CC Cabana's comment and link, and with your permission, I would like to share my professional and personal thoughts with Ann Taylor as well. I am so grateful for the myriad ways you have made my life a more beautiful place and I look forward to many others being touched by your beauty (and Cricket's - of course) as well.

Lucent Imagery said...

Ah my friend, it is sad that these things happen still and that I can say I know exactly of these situations too. Sometimes no matter how much we try to be kind and educate them there are some who just don't want to listen. I feel for you my friend. And I'm warmed to see your USA friends doing what mine do here - jumping to your defence to help you and all others who have been subjected to this treatment. How lucky we are to have such friends.

Miri said...

You don't know me at all, I subscribe to your blog. I'm sorry about what happened to you. I have emailed Ann Taylor corporate. I hope you get an apology.

Miri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erin said...

Becky I am FLOORED that you had that experience! I am also so sorry that you felt sad. I wish I could give you a hug! Makes me want to never shop at Ann Taylor again! You would think that after explaining that Cricket is a guide dog they would have apologized and welcomed you with open arms. I sincerely hope you never experience anything like this again!

xoxo,

Erin

Retired Duo said...

Wow. This long after ADA was passed and still we have people who think you're bringing a pet into their store. I, too, will email Ann Taylor and I hope their store managers will receive guidance from corporate headquarters. I've learned so much from your posts - I would have jumped to your defense had I been there, because I know all about ADA now! You're still recovering from your concussion, so the AT employees got you at a low period. Hang in there. Things will get better. I'll bet next time you go to AT, they greet you with smiles!
Pat in Ohio

3 labs 4 me said...

Oh my dear friend, I am so sorry to hear of this unfortunate incidence. Of course, I will send an e-mail to Ann Taylor's corporate office. Thanks to Mimi for the link.
Hugs to you my friend.

Raiser Erin said...

Oh gosh, I'm so sorry that that happened to you. It is such a disappointment when large stores like that do not educate their employees. :(

Anonymous said...

Made me cry thinking of your being treated that way!! So very sorry that happened to you, even in this day and age. I will certainly write to Ann Taylor and express my disappointment in the education of their employees. Love you, Loye

Fran said...

I am so very sad to read this post (and it makes me mad!!). No one should ever be treated so disrespectfully. I added my comments to many others on their website. Perhaps they can educate their sales staff about human kindness, not to mention the Americans with Disabilities Act.

megan l said...

Becky,

I read about your terrible experience on the consumerist site. I'm very sorry to hear about this and I understand your frustration. My father has RP and uses a guide dog and we have experienced situations like this. It's amazing how many people are still not educated about the ADA and service animals.

I think the hardest part is not knowing when to expect to have to educate store or restaurant staff, so we will just be going about our business, happy to be out shopping or going to a new restaurant, and boom- we are told "no dogs." Then we have to start in on the explanation and much of the time that jogs their memory that service animals are allowed, or lets them know that it is a service animal. But every once in a while, you get one who just completely doesn't understand or is fully ignorant. Those are tough situations to deal with. After trying to explain the law several times and still getting resistance, they are not going to change their mind. Usually it is so stressful and disappointing that we don't push it to the police point (although they have been known to kick out service animals as well), and just decide to take our business elsewhere and do the "education" through other channels, like the corporate office, chamber of commerce, etc.

Good for you for taking the high road and getting your story out there. The silver lining is that I have found your blog now and look forward to reading through your adventures with Cricket. Guide dogs are fantastic animals and I feel fortunate to have known the four fabulous guide dogs who have been my father's eyes.

Deb Davis/Paws With A Cause said...

Becky~ I am sorry for your experience. I have not had the pleasure of meeting you, but saw your post via a Facebook post on the International Assistance Dog Week's Facebook page. Access denials should not be a part of your life, or anyone else's who uses an Assistance Dog for greater mobility.

Thank you to whomever posted the link ~ I sent Ann Taylor a strongly worded comment as well, suggesting that they embrace this opportunity to educate their employees nationwide, before a denied access situation results in a lawsuit for them.

By the way, your blog caught my eye because my Demonstration Dog's name is Krickit, too!

Happy trails and tails to you and Cricket! Keep moving forward~

Deb Davis
Paws With A Cause~

Tif said...

Becky, I do not know you but I am an avid lover of dogs and all that they can do from just the everyday house dog to those who provide therapy from vets to service dogs, they truly are amazing creatures. I am so very sorry to hear of what happened. I have been a loyal customer of Ann Taylor/The Loft for over 15 years now. I was extremely disappointed and saddened to read this. I have emailed them expressing my disappointment. Here is a copy of my letter.

I have been an avid and loyal customer of both The Loft and Ann Taylor since my early 20's (which has been about 15 years now) I was appalled and saddened to learn that Becky and Cricket-a service dog - were turned away from one of your stores!

Not just anyone can get a guide/service dog. They have to meet special requirements and/or criteria in order to obtain the service dog. In addition, the service dog must go through rigorous training (this is usually started while the pup is only a couple of months old)

I believe that each of the store's managers and staff should have to read a copy of the ADA. This is 2012, people should know better, especially corporations such as yourself. The Americans With Disabilities Act states:

Section 36.302(c) of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public accommodations generally to modify policies, practices, and procedures to permit people who are blind or disabled to be accompanied by working dogs anywhere.

Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.

Places of public accommodation mean facilities, operated by a private entity, whose operations affect commerce and fall within at least one of the following categories:

Places of lodging
Establishments serving food or drink
Places of exhibition or entertainment
Places of public gathering
Sales or rental establishments
Service establishments
Stations used for specified public transportation
Places of public display or collection
Places of recreation
Places of education
Social service center establishments
Places of exercise or recreation

Furthermore ON YOUR WEBSITE, the link RESPONSIBLY ANN states:
We Act responsibly. The Ann Signature stands for more that just fashion and style. It signals our commitment to operating our business responsibly and thoughtfully......And it means making meaningful contributions to our communities. Simply put, it means PUTTING OUR BEST SELVES FORWARD EVERYDAY.

I think you missed the mark when it came to this customer.

http://www.responsiblyann.com/images/weActCopy.png

A & D said...

We at For the Love of the Dog posted the Consumerist article and your Blog on our Facebook page. *Access Denied* to service animals is one of the things that raises our hackles. Good Luck Becky and Cricket!

Anonymous said...

Hello Becky,

My name is Kimberly Nelson and I'm a reporter with ABC 4 News. We heard about your disappointing experience with Ann Taylor and we'd like to talk with you about it.

Could you please give me a call or email so we could schedule a time to sit down and chat.

Thanks,

Kimberly Nelson
951-310-2531
kimberlylynnnelson@hotmail.com

Miri said...

This is the response I received from Ann Taylor:

Subject
---------------------------------------------------------------
Birch, Miriam - Store Experience Feedback 4.121.1167 (City Creek ATS)


Discussion Thread
---------------------------------------------------------------
Response (Kathryn Jurkovich (MCO)) - 06/19/2012 02:53 PM
Dear Ms. Birch:


Thank you for taking the time to contact us. We truly love to hear from our clients and appreciate your efforts to email us directly.

Please know that all service animals, including guide dogs, are welcome in all our stores at any time. The situation you are referring to was a misunderstanding that occurred when a customer entered the store with an unharnessed guide dog. In accordance with the mall regulations, dogs should be leashed or inside a carrier at all times. When the customer entered the store with an unharnessed dog, the associate did not realize it was a guide dog, but upon realizing her error, she apologized and told the customer the guide dog could stay in the store.

Again, we appreciate the efforts you have made to share your feedback with us. At Ann Taylor, we want to help women put their best selves forward every day and we will continue to strive to make your shopping experience the best it can be.


Sincerely,

ANN INC.
Corporate Client Contact


:(
Um, under ADA, the dog does not have to be harnessed.

Anonymous said...

Becky,

I am sorry this happened to you and Cricket. I emailed Ann Taylor today and they sent a quick reply. However, their version of the incident is different than what you stated. They are saying that Cricket was unleashed which prompted the employee's reaction. They go on to say that once the employee quickly understood that Cricket was a service dog, an apology was issued and both of you were asked to stay.

I've posted the emails on my reply post on the Consumerist Blog. Best wishes to you and Cricket. I hope this is resolved appropriately by Ann Taylor and City Creek.

Anonymous said...

How can you shop for clothes if you're blind? Doesn't the act of picking out clothes require the usage of your eyes? o.O

Anonymous said...

Read your story on consumerist...you have really handled this with class. :) -Ryan in TN

Ro said...

Becky,

*Hugs* The story came up on Twitter and as soon as I read the headline, I thought of you because I know how much you love Anne Taylor. I hoped it wasn't you, but it was and my heart sank.

I haven't been in touch in forever and lost your email address. Thank goodness for Blogger comments.

I too, hope your story will be an example and keep this from happening to others, but I'm still a little shocked that the example is still even needed today.

L^2 said...

Hi Becky,

After reading this post on Saturday I was both angered and saddened for you, knowing how much you love Anne Taylor. I wrote them a note - thanks to Mimi's link - but they seem to be spinning a bit different version of events in an attempt to make themselves look better. :(

I am now seeing your story being shared all over Facebook, Twitter and blogs, so I hope people will sit up and take notice. The ADA has been in place for over 20 years, and guide dogs have been around for more than 80 years. How can people STILL not know about them?!

*hugs* to you and Cricket

Anonymous said...

Hi Becky,

I just ready your article and I could not be more disappointed in Ann Taylor and in our society. I am seriously considering not shopping there any more and am so sorry for the way you were treated. No one deserves that! And if I ever saw it happen to someone else I would absolutely say something!

Katie

Pup Fan said...

Oh, I'm so sorry to hear this happened to you and I'm extremely disappointed in Ann Taylor.

Zhoen said...

A lot of women's shelters could use your old AT clothes, as good interview clothes are often in short supply.

Wow, they really are telling a story that makes no sense just to cover their own bums. Pretty obvious they are taking no responsibility.

Moose said...

To the anon person who said a blind person couldn't pick out clothes... I am not visually impaired but as I understand it many people who use guide dogs are not 100% blind they certainly could not get around safely on their own but they can feel clothes, try them on and likely see colors at least. Furthermore, this is what I thought the customer service people were there to do. Assist customers! Even without any recognized disability I might not be able to reach things and the sales associate should help me. I might be fashion challenged and want their opinion. You know how they ask "How can I help you"? That is supposed to be a sincere offer of help no matter what the shopper requires. Before AT official response it seemed clear that this is s case of not one but two ignorant employees rather than an AT policy of discrimination. However their response was pathetic. It should have said something to the effect of we welcome everyone and we regret that we did not do enough to train our employees to interpret the store regulations. We have implemented addition training immediately to ensure all customers will feel like the valued customers they are." instead they chose to blame the victim and lie about their response. Those two employees were ignorant but probably sincerely believed they were following the rules. Not that it is ok, but I would fire the PR person and educate the employees. Regardless, ridiculous that not one but TWO people could be so clueless in this day and age. How much of their reaction was caused by their discomfort of being around a blind person and they likely also believed a blind person can't shop so she doesn't need to be here. Sad.

Anonymous said...

This made me really upset... not just at the discrimination you faced (however unwitting) but that no one else in the store stood up to say something. This is my first time reading your blog, and you sound like an amazing woman so I know this won't keep you down for long; I just wish I had been there, too, so I could have taken your side. I've been working with people with special needs since high school and now carry around a pocket-sized fact sheet with information about the ADA to help educate the many who don't understand its importance or know of its requirements.

I really hope Ann Taylor makes this into a positive by educating their staff on ADA requirements and how to best help (or not!) customers with special needs - and that they stop misrepresenting the facts!

Funny, I was headed into Ann Taylor Loft later today to buy a dress, but really don't feel like it now... I think I'll stop at Anthropolgie instead. :)

With warmest regards,
Jane in Austin, Texas

Anonymous said...

I never knew that people who were blind could jog or shop. This is a neat blog, and I wouldn't have found it if this bad thing didn't happen.

The thing that made me mad was the story that was made up about the dog not being in the harness. I'm not a fan of capitalism these days, because that response is exactly the cover-your-rear-end and circle-the-wagons actions that I see in the news all the time. Back in the old days, the customer was right.

Anonymous said...

Wow this is horrible I have worked in Retail for my whole working life... over 24 yrs, and never heard of such a thing! Shameful!

23 years ago when I worked at JC Penny we had a customer that would come in with her dog, she became a loyal customer and would just stop in to say Hi because I always took the time to make suggestions, describe the colors and guide her hand to the feel the shapes of outline quilting on the comforters. and applique's on guest towels.

She redecorated 3 rooms from top to bottom with us because we never steered her wrong and took the time not only to hear what she wanted but to "show" her things that fit her needs and describe what things looked like. THAT is what customer service is all about, and it sickens me to know how far away from that people have gotten. :(

Fran said...

FYI - Becky

Dear Ms. Booker:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us. We truly love to hear from our clients and appreciate your efforts to email us directly.

Please know that all service animals, including guide dogs, are welcome in all our stores at any time. The situation you are referring to was a misunderstanding that occurred when a customer entered the store with an unharnessed guide dog. In accordance with the mall regulations, dogs should be leashed or inside a carrier at all times. When the customer entered the store with an unharnessed dog, the associate did not realize it was a guide dog, but upon realizing her error, she apologized and told the customer the guide dog could stay in the store.

Again, we appreciate the efforts you have made to share your feedback with us. At Ann Taylor, we want to help women put their best selves forward every day and we will continue to strive to make your shopping experience the best it can be.

Sincerely,

ANN INC.
Corporate Client Contact

Name: Fran Booker
Message: I have a dear friend who happens to be blind. It seems she
came in to the Ann Taylor store in City Creek in Salt Lake City and
WAS ASKED TO LEAVE because she was accompanied by her guide dog. I am
appalled that anyone would be treated so disrespectfully. What a
shame. Are you aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act? I am not alone when I say that I will never shop in your store again. I can say that most confidently since hundreds of people read about this incident and are as disappointed as I am. It's time to educate retail sales people. My business will go elsewhere.

Michelle Jeffs said...

Becky - How sad that there are people in this world today with no common sense. I'm very sorry that you were treated so badly. I have also written to Ann Taylor. I will paste a copy of my letter below. I truly hope they take my advice.

****** Copy of letter to Ann Taylor ******

I just read the story of Becky & Cricket and the incident at the City Creek store in Salt Lake City, UT. I am appalled that we live in the 21st century yet there are people that are uneducated about the Americans with Disabilities Act, As appalled as I am at what happened in the store I'm even more appalled at how Ann Taylor HQ has handled the situation, by placing blame on the individual/paying/loyal customer! Shame on you!!

One can only hope that Ann Taylor customers take notice and spend their hard earned money at the store next door. I know I, myself, will never step foot in an Ann Taylor store again.

Ann Taylor HQ should tuck their tail between their legs and issue a new statement with their apologies to Becky & Cricket and donate a percentage of their sales from one day to go towards a seervice animal training center of Becky's choice.


Sincerely,
Michelle Jeffs
Salt Lake City, UT

Anonymous said...

God bless u and cricket! People can be so heartless. I work at Ihop in Mississippi and waited on a woman and her precious guide dog about a month ago. We serve food and did not hesitate to let these wonderful people in! Hope this helps in some of the education Ann Taylor needs !!

Ruby's Raiser said...

Becky, I saw the story in my news feed and was shocked to see that this had happened to you and Cricket. I am so sorry for the treatment you received at Ann Taylor. No matter how much we try to educate the public, many people still just do not understand the difference between service animals and pets.

Here in Colorado, I am very thankful that the service puppies I've raised are welcomed into stores and restaurants far more often than not. We'll continue to be out there, daily, thinking of you and educating the public, working toward the goal of acceptance so you will never have to experience that kind of rejection again.

Rita said...

Bless your heart Becky! I am so sorry that someone who gives so much to so many, always with such joy could be treated this way. Please know you have a special place in my heart for all you have done for someone I love very much. I often think of you and your many amazing qualities. Hope this only makes you stronger. Cricket too.

Hambone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hambone said...

Hey Cricket you can stop by and visit me anytime, I won't kick you out :)
http://hambonethehound.blogspot.com/

Big Dog Training Collar said...

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Ro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becky said...

Ro - Thank you SO very much for your very kind supportibe comment. I really really appreciate it.

Ro said...

You're welcome Becky! I deleted it after I noticed the offending comment was gone. That seriously got my blood boiling. Wow.

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stefanie said...

Even though disappointment and discrimination you show such grace. Such an inspiration! So sorry this happened to you. Thanks for the link Mimi - a not to Ann Taylor is definitely in order. you can visit my site to at www.bichonrescue.net

stefanie said...

Thank you to whomever posted the link ~ I sent Ann Taylor a strongly worded comment as well, suggesting that they embrace this opportunity to educate their employees nationwide, before a denied access situation results in a lawsuit for them.bichonfrise