I think I've mentioned GDB alumni Becky over at the blog Cruisin' with Cricket. But I'll say again that she is the most kind hearted and wonderful person I've ever had the pleasure of meeting...even if it is just over the Internet through our common interest of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Now, there are three posts that I think you all should read if you haven't already. The first one is Disappointed in Ann Taylor. The second one is Sharing. And the third is Finding Lemonade.
For those of you who don't want to go and read them all the short story is that Ann Taylor kicked her out of the store because of Cricket. Obviously, this is not only illegal but is also really hurtful. A bunch of us wrote in to Ann Taylor through their website to voice our concern and hopefully to get them to have more vigorous training when it comes to access rights of service animals. Here is the letter I received back from Ann Taylor.
"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."
Now, I have highlighted and bolded the parts of the email that were untrue. Hopefully you were able to see them without this help, but just in case. Apparently, everyone who wrote in got this exact same email.
Ann Taylor is now is the middle of a retraction as the PR representative was allegedly told that Cricket was out of harness (a ridiculous claim) and was also told that they were allowed to stay in the store. Of course, if this was the case none of us would have written in. Obviously, this is an example of someone trying to cover their own mistake by blaming someone else. I'm not too sure if Ann Taylor decided to retract this because of all the bad press they were getting or because the store manager really did tell them something wrong in order to cover her own mistake.
Now, I'm not upset that this happened. Things like this still do happen, though it does not usually involve a large corporation like Ann Taylor. Smaller organizations, much like the hotel we stayed at in Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival, have not fully read nor fully understand the terms of the ADA regulation involving service dogs. What upsets me is that they tried to make Becky look completely at fault instead of just owning up to their mistake and apologizing. As Becky says, she doesn't plan to sue and that all she wants is to educate. I like to think that I would have the same attitude, but I know when I received that email I raged for a full ten minutes straight before calming down and feeling sad. As always, Becky has made me feel like an inferior human being with her wonderful attitude and sweet nature.
Now, for something good that has come of all of this. If you go to the Ann Taylor facebook fan page or their Twitter Page you can see that the public has rallied to support Becky and Cricket. People are saying that they will never shop at Ann Taylor again and that there should be a public apology and all manner of things like that. I know one of things that Becky said was that she felt so alone when she was told that she was not welcome in with Cricket. I'm sort of glad that there is such support from the public. Now, I don't know if Becky will stop shopping at Ann Taylor entirely, but I think that she might not want to go back for a while.
I don't shop there often and I'm not telling you that you should never shop there again. While it was handled badly by the PR representative, it was an isolated incident (which is what they should have said to begin with). I've been into Ann Taylor with puppies before and have never had a problem. The point of this post is just to pass it on and hopefully to educate any new readers. ADA regulations state that service animals are legally allowed to accompany their handler anywhere.
I also think they has educated me a little. Normally, when asked to leave somewhere I say politely that it is a service dog in training. If still asked to leave I make sure that they are aware of ADA regulations regarding fully trained service dogs and then leave. Once though, when I was having a bad day, my voice did raise a little. I know that in the future I will be able to take a breath and calmly educate the employees. A learning experience for all of us I think. Though it is absolutely horrible that it happened.