Remember that post I published about fellow blind blogger Becky Andrews, the social worker who owns her own business in Salt Lake City? And remember how I described her as a fashion plate? Well, one week after I featured Becky here on the Safe & Sound blog, her name turned up on Jezebel, a blog that describes itself as “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing” The Jezebel” post wasn’t about Becky’s fashion sense, though. It was about Becky’s style! From the post:
A legally blind shopper was barred from shopping at a Salt Lake City area Ann Taylor last weekend because she had a dog with her, even after she explained that she was dependent on the service animal to get around.
The Jezebel blog picked up on the story after Becky wrote about the incident on her own Cruisin’ with Cricket blog. In Becky’s words:
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.
Work with a guide dog long enough and you’re sure to go through a situation like this. My Seeing Eye dogs and I have been stopped trying to get into Crate and Barrel on Michigan Avenue, at Andy’s Jazz Club on Hubbard, even at Wrigley Field. In every case I asked for a manager, and once they showed up we were allowed in. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Becky and Cricket. Again, from her blog post:
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.
And that is exactly what Becky did. She took her business to The Limited next door. Later on a representative for Ann Taylor company claimed Becky’s dog didn’t have a harness on, and that’s why the pair was denied entrance to the store. Maybe that rep needs a guide dog herself. Or at least a check-up with an eye doctor!
Becky called the statement absurd. “To make it very clear, I walked into the store with my guide dog in harness, of course!” she wrote in a follow-up post. “Why would I enter the store without her in her harness?” The company could be fined up to $50,000 under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but Becky says she doesn’t plan on pursuing anything in court. She describes herself as a woman who usually prefers to stay quiet about things like this, but hearing the lie about Cricket’s harness compelled her to agree to an interview on KSL News that garnered a lot of support for her in Salt Lake City. “This wasn’t about me – this was about all of us,” she said. “Accessibility. Respect. Equality. It is for each of us.”
An Ann Taylor spokesperson emailed a statement to the Jezebel blog after Becky’s story came out:
We at Ann Taylor sincerely apologize to Mrs. Andrews for her experience at the City Creek store.
Service animals are always welcome in our stores and this incident is not representative of how we approach customer service.
In our previous statement we had said that her guide dog was unharnessed. This was not the case. We were misinformed, and we are sorry that this information was released.
We strive for 100 percent customer satisfaction. In this case we fell short.