Ann Taylor Says Woman's Service Dog Was Without Harness, Except That Isn't True

UPDATE: Ann Taylor has finally admitted it was “misinformed” about the dog being off its harness.

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Yesterday we brought you the story of Becky, who is blind and relies on the services of her guide dog, Cricket, to get around. She had an unfortunate experience with an Ann Taylor employee who told her the dog wasn’t allowed in the store. Ann Taylor has been replying to feedback on the story, saying really it was because the dog didn’t have a harness. Even if that mattered, it isn’t true, says Becky’s daughter.

The reply reads:

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.

Funny thing, that whole “no harness thing,” says Becky’s daughter Natalie, who contacted us about her mom’s story in the first place.

Ann Taylor released a statement that is so wrong (said they didn’t see the harness… Though per the ADA that doesn’t matter with service animals … And of course she was using the harness, she’s blind, that’s what it is there for).

I’m so disappointed because I love their clothes! I hate losing respect for a company I love.

Exactly — if a dog wasn’t harnessed, how would the blind person being led by the dog find his or her way around? By listening to the dog’s paws hitting the ground?

And how about the part where the employee apologized and told Becky the dog could stay in the store? Not so, says Natalie.

No. They actually followed her out of the store and said something like “we love dogs, we just can’t have them in our store.”

That was their attempt to make my mom feel better. On Friday, they called my mom back and said the employee was no longer working at that location. Now it sounds like they have a statement and they are sticking to it. I don’t want a lawsuit. Just some sort of education and ownership.

Come on, Ann Taylor.

Comments

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  1. Jack Doe says:

    Ann Taylor needs to shut up and thank whatever retail Gods exist that the complainant is aparently a decent person. Most others wouldn’t have posted to a consumer relations blog and would have called a lawyer instead.

  2. Vox Republica says:

    The spokesperson for Ann Taylor then assured reporters that we, in fact, have always been at war with Eurasia.

  3. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    She didn’t tell the woman that her dog could stay in the store. She was told two times that she couldn’t stay and ended up leaving. How sleazy can you get?

  4. SkokieGuy says:

    A company response that makes clear that they don’t understand the law they have violated in addition to contradicting the customer’s version of the events AND common sense.

    Becky was more interested in simply having Ann Taylor educate their employees about the law, but their continued stupidity is going to end up being ‘exhibit A’ in a lawsuit.

    And the mall may get smacked too. A service animal is most probably not going to be in a carrier, and to require so is also not legal.

  5. AtlantaCPA says:

    Like MB said, how does their response pass the sniff test at all? That statement should be an embarrassment to the PR people putting it out.

    • Blackadar says:

      Seriously. The PR/marketing departments for some of these companies must have a 4 drink minimum before they can start work.

      • EdnasEdibles says:

        I honestly blame legal more than PR. I work in PR and there have been countless times I’ve had to fight with legal saying “That statement makes no sense, please don’t make me say this, no one will like this.” and they say “No, this is what we’re saying.”

  6. pocketlama says:

    A service dog is not even required to have a vest, much less a harness. The store owner is allowed to ask, “Is that a service dog?” and, “Are you disabled?” and that’s it. If you say yes to both, they have to let you in. I’ve only been refused twice and both times I refused to leave the restaurant. I told them I’d wait for the police if they chose to go that route and both times they ended up serving me.

  7. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Dear Ann Taylor,

    F%ck you.

    Sincerely,
    The internet.

  8. Blueskylaw says:

    I love it when corporate cuts the employees out of the conversation and just starts replying with what they would consider is damage control.

    Ann Taylor: I swear, her dog didn’t have a harness

    Chris Hansen: Ann Taylor, why don’t you have a seat over here

    Ann Taylor: Are you the police?

    Chris Hansen: Nevermind that, I have the mall video right here.

    Chris Hansen: What do you think you’re doing?

  9. RandomLetters says:

    Wow. Totally the wrong response at this point. If the mall has security video of Becky and Cricket entering and it shows a harness on your ass is going to be grass Ann Taylor. You should have just admitted to the mistake, said sorry a few more times, offewred the OP a few gift certificates and made a donation to a local to the OPs area charity that offers assitance to those in need. You’d think that someone at whatever marketing firm they use would know about crisis management in the information age.

  10. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    You’d think Ann Taylor PR wouldn’t have to be told this age old maxim, but here we go —

    When you are already in a hole, STOP DIGGING.

  11. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    So ignorance of ADA law extends from the store employee to the corporate level.

    That explains a lot.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      Ignorance (and flat out not caring) of ADA is a lot more common than you might think. While a lot of malls do “allow” the guide dogs, they definitely neither welcome them or like them. Malls would prefer they go elsewhere; they are afraid dogs will track in dirt and fleas. Corporations often think they are above the law anyway. Ann Taylor is hugely lucky that the woman doesn’t hire an attorney and sue them under ADA. No business needs this kind of negative publicity.

  12. Coffee says:

    Clarifying its earlier statements, Ann Taylor’s representative said, “Did we say it didn’t have a harness? That’s not what we meant. We were referring to harnesses that sledding dogs in Alaska use. Because those dogs are huskies, and we saw a movie where one that was part wolf was pulling the sled. In conclusion, without the harness, we were unable to determine whether the customer’s animal was part wolf, and as such, were not comfortable having the animal in our store. Good night, and God bless.”

  13. semidazed says:

    I am astonished they had the stones to say, “Yeah, that blind woman totally didn’t have a harness on her seeing eye dog. Totally didn’t have one. It was her fault for not being more obviously blind.”

  14. dolemite says:

    Seeing eye-dog that isn’t on a leash/harness?

    “MARCO!”
    “Woof!”
    “MARCO!”
    “Woof!”

  15. AlfredaCosta says:

    I’m not buying this. Pure guess/conjecture, but the reference to the mall regulations makes me think that the employees realize they are in hot water and are attempting to back into an excuse that might seem plausible to their corporate office. My guess is that at some point one of the parties here is going to recant: either corporate or one of the employees.

    I find it difficult to believe that a blind person would be at the mall with an unleashed, unharnessed, guide dog.

  16. snarkymarcy says:

    By harness, they are likely meaning a vest that indicates “service dog.” They are in PR and need to learn to say that, if that is what they meant. However, they put out that statement without thinking it through, so they have SO MANY lessons to learn.

    • Peggee has pearls and will clutch them when cashiers ask "YOU GOT A WIC CHECK MA'AM?" says:

      From the pictures on her blog, it looks like she takes Cricket around in a harness that she can hold onto, but not the usual orange vest you associate with service dogs. So they could have just worded that poorly.

      What’s strange to me is that the amended laws will allow you to ask if the dog is a service animal and what service they are providing, but not to ask for any kind of proof that it’s a legitimate service animal. Seems like employees just have to assume that any dog that comes in is a service animal.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        The harness you can hold onto is kinda standard for guide dogs. I’ve never EVER seen a guide dog wearing a vest. Because, THE HARNESS MAKES IT KIND OF OBVIOUS AAARRRGHHHH!! *yelling at Ann Taylor, not you*

        Also I love your username. :)

    • spartan says:

      So the issue might just be on what the word “harness” actually means because sometimes a word can have more than one meaning.

      For example in this sentence: The p.r. people are doing a wonderful job. That sentence is totally 100% true as long as you understand that in this context “wonderful” means ‘totally fucked up”.

    • RedOryx says:

      Except they go on to say that “dogs should be leashed or inside a carrier at all times. When the customer entered the store with an unharnessed dog…”

      It’s an assumption, but I think it does, indeed, seem like they mean an actual physical harness that a blind person like Becky would be using.

  17. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    We don’t care, we don’t have to, we’re Ann Taylor!

  18. crispyduck13 says:

    Sometimes companies deserve lawsuits, I believe this is the case here. Congrats on your lottery win Becky, now cash in.

  19. Bionic Data Drop says:

    Ann Taylor – STFU, apologize, offer at least a $100 store credit, welcome her back anytime, and hope this whole thing goes away. Who the hell is running their PR?

  20. ZenListener says:

    They only fired one employee? I thought the manager also told her to get lost.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      It sounds like they didn’t fire the employee, but transferred her to another store.

  21. Pete the Geek says:

    Ann Taylor could easily back up their statement by releasing a few frames of the store or mall surveillance video that shows the dog unharnessed. Assuming it is true, of course. At this point, it may well take an ADA lawsuit to resolve the matter.

  22. mbuki_dru says:

    At the risk of sounding dumb, how does a woman who can only see 5% of what is normal pick out clothes? Maybe the staff at Ann Taylor wasn’t sure why a women who could see well enough to shop for clothes needed a seeing eye dog?

    • comesthesun says:

      I see blind people in clothing stores all the time. The one I’m most familiar with goes to the same Banana Republic I go to. She feels the clothes and then will ask what color it is (her speech isn’t great, but mostly understandable), and sometimes a customer is nearest to her, and that customer will answer. But I think that because she’s a regular, one of the sales associates always kind of folds clothes near this lady so that she’s in speaking distance to answer those questions. It seems pretty normal and regular to me.

    • southpaw1971 says:

      You took the risk, and you won. You do sound dumb.

    • Laughing says:

      Clothes are more than just blobs of color. You can feel their shape and the texture of the fabric.

    • RandomLetters says:

      The way she shops for clothes without being able to see is she asks the staff for help. They help in picking out clothes that look good on her and good together. If you read her blog you’d see that after she left Ann Taylor she went to Banana Republic. There the staff made her feel welcome and helped her pick out items that would match well with things she already had at home. She was also expecting her husband to be with her as soon as he finished his phone call. And it doesn’t matter what the staff at Ann Taylor feel about her abilities. Her dog is a service animal and they needed to STFU and do their jobs.

    • erinpac says:

      I’d imagine even 5% can probably give you an idea of color, familiarity with the brand & feel can probably tell you a lot about cut, buttons, decorations, etc., and a salesperson probably could have found the correct size if she could not, and if the salespeople were actually helpful. People learn to do a lot more for themselves than one would expect, and many WANT to do what they can, even if it may appear easier to let someone else do it. That store has a lot of work attire, and it probably doesn’t require a lot of visual detail to identify a comfortable suit jacket or similar. She wouldn’t likely need to read a t-shirt logo there. Even if she needed store help, that may still be more you picking, just with someone answering questions.

      Besides, maybe she was getting something specific. It did say she found what she ‘needed’ elsewhere. If she was after something particular, it would be like going to a store for almost anything else.

    • sponica says:

      Ann Taylor (normally) has a very well trained staff to help you pick out very good items of clothing…

    • suez says:

      Can’t tell whether you’re male or female from your screen name, but have to assume you’re male because a woman would understand why, even if you can’t SEE the clothing, you HAVE to try it on to know if it will fit. Sizes mean nearly nothing in clothing–it’s nothing like how men sizes work. A size 10 in two different cuts of the SAME brand and fit totally differently, let alone if they’re different brands. But that’s neither here nor there–she has a RIGHT to shop where she wants, even in a paint store.

    • Citizen says:

      I looked at her blog, she says that her condition causes a 95% reduction in field of vision. So in the other 5% she can see fine.

  23. eezy-peezy says:

    What is wrong with:

    “our employees made a terrible mistake, we have fired/disciplined/re-educated them, and this will never happen again.”

    Stop trying to make excuses, just Ann up and apologize.

    • Gravitational Eddy says:

      We here on the USS Stresand Effect are agast at the effrontery pushed out by the Ann Taylor company mouthpieces.
      I’m giving orders to start up the Streisand Effect generator to full capacity as soon as I have all the data needed.
      I do not believe these guys for an instant. Likely they will fade backinto the corporate subculture they came from as soon as the damage from the generator becomes apparent.

      To the Ann Taylor people: Hold on to something. The world, as you see it will soon change for you. and not in a better way.

  24. TD99 says:

    Hey Ann Taylor, if you’re reading this…

    Apparently business is SO good for you right now with sales through the roof, that you could really care less about properly resolving this issue.

    Let us not forgot that it was us, your CUSTOMER who built you, and it may also be us, your CUSTOMER who will take you down (see: Casual Corner/Petite Sophisticate, Mervyn’s, Woolworth, etc.).

    You need us; we don’t need you.

  25. RandomLetters says:

    I wonder how the mall will feel with Ann Taylor seemingly trying to drag them into this situation? By quoting the malls policies it seems like Ann Taylor is trying to pass the buck. Hopefully the mall will release a statement along with some video.

  26. framitz says:

    Keep digging that hole Ann Taylor.

  27. hahatanka says:

    Every state government has an ADA which handles complaints.

  28. powdered beefmeat says:

    I think Cricket needs to train the employees of AT because obviously the management has failed.

  29. RedOryx says:

    I bet this is one of those situations where the employee/manager/store in question knew they had fucked up and so when corporate got wind of it (probably from social media), they questioned the employee/manager who told them all this about mall regulations and the dog was unharnessed and how it was all a big misunderstanding, blah blah blah.

    So corporate just wrote up this email and have been sending it out to people who contact them (because if you check Becky’s blog, in the comments other people have copied the exact same response they got), never expecting it to go public.

  30. sparc says:

    blame the blind person? this is a sad world we live in. Shame on you Ann Taylor.

  31. hennese says:

    To really get under their skin, they need a blind person with a guide dog, sit on one of thir benches and breasfeed their child.

  32. Kingsley says:

    Why is it so hard for Ann Taylor to generate education, and exploit some positive steps that would garner some better publicity? What they have said is wrong, even if it’s right. Consider: Educate, have the woman and her family and animal back in the store for some staff education with the city/state representatives or some advocates, and photo-ops, and give some certificates, and even extend discounts for a period of time to customers with disabilities.

  33. Starrion says:

    Ann Taylor is obviously in panic/denial PR mode.

    We totally didn’t know it was a guide dog. There was no harness and we can’t be….

    While the ADA law says the dog doesn’t have to have a harness or vest, she didn’t have certification papers…..

    Um, that employee doens’t work here anymore, so we aren’t sure what exactly happened. We are taking it seriously and it won’t happen again. Really.

    Hey, why is the sky dark over there?
    Are those flying monkeys?
    Why are there lawyers parachuting onto our headquarters?

  34. Snowlilly says:

    The ADA states that service animals are not required to wear a harness or vest. People choose to put one on their dogs because it is equipment that they use to mitigate their disability, or they get fed up with gate keepers accusing their service dog of being a pet. But legally, it is not needed.

  35. StevePierce says:

    This is from Ann Taylor’s website. http://www.responsiblyann.com/

    WE ACT responsibly. The Ann signature stands for more than fashion and style. It signals our commitment to operating our business responsibly and thoughtfully. This commitment means that our clients can look and feel great about their clothes they wear and, it means as a business we are holding ourselves to high standards. It means forging strong partnerships with our suppliers so that are products are made ethically. It means investing in new programs and innovations to minimize our impact on the environment. And it means making meaningful contributions to our communities. Simply put, it means putting our best selves forward every day.

    Responsibly, ANN

    ….

    While they say, “putting their best selves forward every day.” what they really mean is every day except Tuesday.

    – Steve

  36. AngryK9 says:

    Any surveillance footage of the alleged unharnessed animal in the store?

  37. RandomLetters says:

    I got a reply to a posting I made on their Facebook page. They are recanting their earlier story saying they were misinformed and that her service dog was harnessed.

  38. merc78 says:

    Nothing like digging yourself a bigger hole to climb out of. Common sense should have been sufficient to determine that a guide dog must be harnessed otherwise well you get the picture. dah.