BB&B Responds To Customer Complaint Over 911 Debacle

UPDATE: Charges Filed Against Bed, Bath & Beyond Manager Who Refused To Allow 911 Call

Appalled by the events described in, “Bed, Bath & Beyond Will Not Let You Use The Phone To Call 911,” one reader sent a chastising email to their public relations division. In particular, he took aim at their statement that they were using it as a “training opportunity,” which sounds pretty antiseptic and corporate considering that a child’s life could have been in danger. Their VP of customer service responded. Their correspondence follows.

Reader email:

To whom it may concern,

When I read a headline online about Bed, Bath and Beyond not allowing a customer to call 911 I thought for sure it would be an exaggeration. When I saw it was not an exaggeration I thought for sure that your company would have issued a statement condemning the actions of your employee and manager who refused to allow a customer to call 911.

I have read the various statements made by Bed, Bath and Beyond and find them absolutely unacceptable. When did turning a blind eye to a crime in progress become acceptable exactly? I understand the basic idea of not wanting to become involved with incidents occurring in the parking lot in which your store is located; however employees and especially managers absolutely MUST be able to make a judgment call on when it is proper to override basic policy.

I understand privacy policies and so I know your company will never release a statement saying that the employee and or the manager have been reprimanded, but to say that you will be using it as a “training opportunity” is a sad and again, unacceptable alternative. I have worked in retail, and I have managed retail stores. I can tell you right now that if such an event had occurred in my store I would have immediately fired all employees involved and used THAT as a training opportunity.

If your company cannot be bothered to hire employees who cannot even make a rational moral decision regarding the life of a child a mere hundred yards away I will not be bothered to shop at your stores, and I will tell everyone I know about your companies total lack of responsibility and failure to adhere to even the most basic of moral codes.

I understand you don’t care about losing one customer, but I assure you there are hundreds and thousands of people who are absolutely unsatisfied with your response thus far and it would make your company millions to post a public announcement on your website condemning the actions of your employees and assuring people that such actions are not going to be tolerated by Bed, Bath and Beyond.

I hope whoever reads this has a better moral fiber and is able to see beyond a rule book and understand that as a society we are all bound together, we cannot turn a blind eye.

BB&B response:

First of all, I want you to know that I understand and appreciate your position. We are ashamed at how the situation was handled.

The most recent statement that we issued yesterday indicated that this situation was not handled the way we would have expected it to be handled. We have no policies that should have impeded our ability to respond in this case. And yes, we are using this unfortunate occurrence as an opportunity to re-train our associates nationwide. Like you, we do not want anything like this to happen again.

I hope that you’ll understand that I cannot comment on personnel issues.

Thanks for your feedback and I hope that, in light of this, you’ll reconsider. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Hank Reinhart
Vice President, Customer Service
Bed Bath & Beyond

Nice to see a human response. More humanity like that from the associates nationwide will go a long way towards preventing future tragedies, and from them getting renamed Bed Bath and Dead Kids.

PREVIOUSLY: Bed, Bath & Beyond Will Not Let You Use The Phone To Call 911
(Photo: Morton Fox)


Edit Your Comment

  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Bed Bath and Dead Kids kind of sounds like a band name.

    It’s good to see BB&B respond…but they haven’t exactly said anything new, just reiterated everything they’ve said so far, in pretty much the same proper PR-style.

  2. AgentTuttle says:

    Blood Bath and Beyond

  3. duffm4n says:

    Even though they had a pitiful response to the initial story, the company as a whole should really only be blamed for hiring idiots without common sense. These issues always come up, and generally it isn’t the regional manager or some executive doing this stupid garbage.

  4. zentex says:

    The most recent statement that we issued yesterday indicated that this situation was not handled the way we would have expected it to be handled.

    really? cause it looked to me like you defended the decision of the employee.

  5. ceriphim says:

    They’re not “Taking this matter very seriously”? Oh man I’m pissed!

  6. Canino says:

    I’m sure this whole incident was a huge facepalm moment for BB&B corporate.

    But at the same time, I think what happened is indicative of the current retail/service business culture. To save money they hire employees who aren’t qualified (or smart) enough to make basic decisions. To compensate for this, they drill into their heads that they can do nothing but follow company policies. They can make no decisions and there are no exceptions. If it isn’t in the policy manual and isn’t an option on the screen in front of them, they can’t do it. Period. So then something unusual happens that requires a decision and the answer is just an automatic “no”. Most of the time it just results in a pissed off customer (or maybe an article on Consumerist), but one out of 100,000 times it results in something like this incident.

    What happens next? Probably nothing. The company says it will train or send out a memo or whatever, but in reality they would still rather not empower their unqualified employees to make decisions no matter how mundane. Even if they get sued, it’s still cheaper in the long run than allowing employees to make decisions.

    • NoWin says:

      @Canino: “But at the same time, I think what happened is indicative of the current retail/service business culture. To save money they hire employees who aren’t qualified (or smart) enough to make basic decisions. To compensate for this, they drill into their heads that they can do nothing but follow company policies. They can make no decisions and there are no exceptions.”

      BINGO! (even if from just a liability standpoint). Hey, 20 years ago the employees may have busted the window to help and got an award for it, but todays corporate lawyers make sure that will never happen.

      Well, the employee may get an award for keeping the store from a personal injury and property damage suit….see how how corporate attorney departments works.

      I’m not blaming lawyers themselves (they do wonders when you buy a house), but “civil responsibilty” has been overshadowed by our automatic acceptance and almost now-instinctive “it’s not my/our responsibility” of the “I’ll sue for any reason” social mentality.

    • LoriLynn says:

      @Canino: Very well said. I’d still like to think that a person would not particularly care if they got fired for not letting a child die, but I see what you mean.

  7. MountainCop says:

    Sued? This “employee” is damn lucky she isn’t in jail for an interference or an obstruction charge!

    My $0.02, your mileage may vary.

    • Altdotweb says:


      So if the lady asked someone in the parking lot for their cellphone so she could call 911 and they refused, should that also earn them a stint in jail?

      • ChuckECheese says:

        @Altdotweb: Actually yes, it quite possibly should earn them punishment. Many jurisdictions have made it a crime to refuse to render aid or report when a crime is in progress or somebody is endangered. It is also a crime in most states in the U.S. to fail to report suspected child abuse. It is also illegal in most places to leave a child unattended in a car. I really don’t understand why people are having such a difficult time recognizing that BB&B’s actions in this event were not only reprehensible, but probably criminal.

        • @ChuckECheese: I’m sure that’s why they’ve been so very careful (translation: cold, unfeeling) in all of their public responses. My guess is there’s a senior PR team moderating every single corporate statement so as to remove any hint of any possible public admission of wrongdoing.

          As an aside, what does it say about the state of corporate America when companies can’t admit that they did something wrong because they’re afraid of being sued?

        • Darkwing_Duck says:

          @Altdotweb: No, you wouldn’t be required to GIVE someone your phone. I don’t see how saying you’d call yourself wouldn’t be acceptable.@ChuckECheese: And you, buddy boy-failing to attempt to report it in some way would be illegal, but not giving someone a phone-prove it. It’s all he said she said. He can just say he forgot his phone.

          Teachers, govt employees, doctors, store employees, yes. Mandated reporter laws that bind ordinary citizens I despise

      • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

        @Altdotweb: Maybe you would refuse (to allow someone to use your cell phone), but I don’t know many people who would refuse in that situation.

        What do YOU think should happen to these people who allegedly DID refuse?

      • @Altdotweb: Ever heard of Failure to render aid? Besides, I’ve never heard anything that could legitimately excuse someone from giving up 3 minutes of his/her cellphone plan to possibly save a child’s life. Unless, of course, that someone was a brain in a glass jar of water which might accurately describe the employee.

    • JustThatGuy3 says:


      Depends on the state, but generally, no, he/she’s not “lucky lucky she isn’t in jail for an interference or an obstruction charge.” In general, in most states there’s no duty to assist – if you see a child drowning, you can sit down, grab some popcorn, and watch.

      If the employee had taken away the customer’s cellphone, and blocked the customer from calling 911, or kept the police from breaking into the car, that’s obstruction.

      Again, I’m not familiar with the details of Kentucky law, but generally, not helping someone in distress isn’t a crime. It doesn’t exactly make you a model citizen, but it’s legal.

      • drdom says:

        Morals and logic aside, the only individual required to call, allow the use of the phone, assist or intercede in the instance of a crime or medical emergency in my state are “properly equipped law enforcement officers” and “licensed Emergency Medical Technicians, while within the jurisdiction by which they are employed”.

        Sadly, too many well intentioned good samaritans have been sued for trying to do the right thing. We even passed a law protecting doctors and nurses from claims while assisting accident victims.

        It still doesn’t excuse BB&B asshats for this incident, but as others have said, there is no way you can hold someone accountable in the criminal or civil realm. As with other situations, express your dissatisfaction with your dollars. If you consider their policy or response inadequate, stop shopping there.

        Last time I checked, there’s usually a Linens & Things store across the street that usually sells the same stuff at the same prices.

        • angryhippo says:

          @drdom: “the only individual required to call, allow the use of the phone, assist or intercede in the instance of a crime or medical emergency in my state are “properly equipped law enforcement officers” and “licensed Emergency Medical Technicians, while within the jurisdiction by which they are employed”.”

          WTF? So if you witness a crime happening you aren’t allowed to call 911 unless you are a cop? More clearly though on second reading- if there is a group of people witnessing a crime in progress and the only person with a phone won’t call it in and no one else is an officer, no one else can call it in? Please tell me your state of residence so I can avoid it.

          • RedOrDead says:

            @angryhippo: I think you missed the word “required” in drdom’s comment. He/She is saying that you are not REQUIRED to call, REQUIRED to allow use of your phone, or REQUIRED to assist or intercede unless you are an LEO or EMT.

    • harvey_birdman_attorney_at_law says:

      @MountainCop: Interference with what? Obstruction of what? What kind of cop are you?

  8. josh says:

    I too got a letter. First paragraph was the same, but the bottom was different. Looks like they are actually responding to people’s actual comments rather than just sending out a blanket form.

    I’m impressed with the response at this point, but still undecided about using them in the future – their people need to be better trained and their initial response was shockingly inept.

    From the letter…

    In addition, our Regional Vice President was in touch with the gentleman who entered our store, apologized and explained the above to him.

    I understand your response but I hope that, in light of this, you’ll reconsider. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

  9. photomickey says:

    BB&B (by their own count) has 900 stores. Figure 50 employees (at a bare minimum) per store, probably more like 100. That’s somewhere between 4,500 and 9,000 employees.

    So, ONE $8/hr nimrod has been told by a $10/hr manager not to let people use the phone, and enforces this… to excess. BB&B catches wind of it, and sends out a memo to 900 stores: “Hey, if there’s a kid dying in the parking lot… lend the phone out for a minute, eh?” …

    I agree, it would have been better if they had a guy with an actual brain manning the phones that day, but you have to pay $12/hr for that, and they’d have to increase prices, and then we’d have to have dozens of articles entitled “BB&B SHRINK RAY ZOMGS!” when sheets that used to be 1000 thread count are now 800 thread count and cost the same.

    Look, America… want good service? Go to Nordy’s, but be prepared to pay the premium. Want an argument with a clerk over calling 9-1-1? Hope you like those 99c egg cups!

  10. That still wasn’t an apology. It was a careful, careful, very corporate avoidance of the central issue, with the utmost care taken to avoid any possible admittance of wrongdoing. I’m sure that the corporate PR culture would laud it as a homerun.

    How long does it take before business executives lose their consciences and start talking like corporate robots? One week? Two weeks? “Your position,” indeed. It boggles the mind. What other reasonable position is there but that this was a despicable policy — or if not a formal policy, at least a despicable, callous… no, it’s beyond all that.

    This was a sociopathic act. A person who can look at another person and say, “no, we will not call 911, we will not get involved” when a child is in danger — that person needs a psychiatrist, not another PR excuse letter denying responsibility and pretending to “appreciate your position.”

    I didn’t read any humanity in Mr. Reinhart’s response.

  11. jaybeebrad says:

    @ ChuckECheese – I can vouch for that from personal experience. About 2 years ago while walking past a CvS I was knocked over by a group of running pre-teens. My foot caught in a crack in the concrete which cause my ankle to twist, and to make a long story short, I broke my leg severely. We’re talking a bone-jutting-out break.

    I literally CRAWLED into the nearby CVS with people staring at me like I was insane, and as calmly as I could I hoisted myself up to the counter (no people in line) and asked the employee to call me an ambulance. He refused, saying customers were not allowed to use the phone.

    I tried to calmly explain to him what was happening and he became extremely indignant about it. At this point another customer had wandered over, and when she saw what was happening she absolutely lost it. I believe her exact words are “Are you ****ing kidding me?”

    That woman ended up raising a massive stink while I sat in the window display area (they wouldn’t bring me any kind of stool or chair) waiting for the ambulance. When the paramedics and police came, she was the one who actually began the official complaint process against the employee who refused to help.

    The young man was ticketed (not arrested) and I ended up having to appear in court to testify as to what happened. The other woman was there as well (she actually came and visited me in the hospital as well; total side-bar, but have you ever met someone who was *SO* doing the “right thing” that it creeped you out? Bless her heart…)

    Long story slightly less long, the guy in question was fined by the city and sentenced to time served (just overnight in jail.)

    So though I can’t vouch for all cities in all places…people of the world beware. Your refusal to help someone who is in need of urgent help could lead to you being found responsible for contributing to their situation. Think of the guys who egged on the rapist in “The Accused”…

    And since I know you’re all horrendously concerned, my leg is much better now. ;)

    • Etoiles says:

      @jaybeebrad: Daaaaaaaamn. I’m glad that it worked out all right for you in the end, but… yikes!

      When I worked for CVS, there were four times in three years where I either ran myself or sent an employee to the firehouse to get emergency help*. I cannot believe that they wouldn’t call 911. Disgraceful.

      (*Both CVS locations at which I happened to work were literally NEXT DOOR to — sharing a wall with — the local firehouse. It was quicker to have a kid pop his head out the door and yell for an EMT than it was to call 911.)

  12. Lucky225 says:

    It shouldn’t matter what POLICIES bed bath and beyond has or not, in most states it is AGAINST THE LAW not to yeild a phone for 911 purposes, no matter who you are.

  13. ShadowFalls says:

    Is it me, or does that almost seem like a generic copy & paste from a PR response or something…

    I just find this whole thing utterly ridiculous. It almost seems like a hoax from the fact it is so unbelievable. But it did happen, the fact BB&B isn’t addressing the matter appropriately is more annoying. Someone could have died, what if next time someone dies?

    As a business, you should be limiting liabilities. Even not addressing this situation properly is a bad business decision.

  14. Jevia says:

    Failure to allow use of a telephone to call police could also lead to the company being sued. I know of a particular case where a guy was being beaten up in a parking lot of a store and the employee refused a customer’s request to call the police. That store got sued. Yes, I’m sure insurance covered legal bills and settlement, but that store’s insurance premiums likely went up.

  15. BeThisWay says:

    I don’t know. I think it was a decent response. He said they were ashamed, which is a pretty strong statement, IMO.

    I am not one of those who think those in the wrong need to slit their wrists in public so the wronged get to witness the bloodletting.

    Methinks this won’t happen at another BBB…

  16. ViperBorg says:

    Still a crappy response.
    Proper response: Sack entire store, hire and train new people with some ethical moral values.

    Seriously, it was a CHILD. A child cannot help itself out of a hot car.

    What is wrong with this company?!

    • nsv says:

      @ViperBorg: Sack the entire store? So people who weren’t even at work that day should lose their income?

      Other folks who would not only have called 911 but would have taken a brick to the car windows should lose their jobs because they were in the back of the store?

      The heck with sacking the entire store! Firing squad, I say!

      • ViperBorg says:

        @nsv: All right, all right a little overdone.

        Sack the person who wouldn’t allow them to use the phone, and the manager for enforcing this policy.

        Then sack the idiot who wrote the PR response.

    • Coelacanth says:

      @ViperBorg: A few bad apples doesn’t warrant sacking the entire store. Get names of everyone who reasonably came into contact with the case, and sack THOSE people.

  17. TommyFeds says:

    How about Baked Babies & Beyond?

  18. balthisar says:

    I know that everyone here is outraged at BB&B because emotionally, it’s obvious that we should help kids that are illegally locked in cars. But the outrage is misplaced, and BB&B’s response after the fact seems perfectly adequate. Consider that if the kid were truly in imminent danger, breaking the glass would have been acceptable, and then calling the police (akin to some guy having a heart attack, you initiate CPR, and then call the paramedics). Granted, at some point a call to the police would have been necessary, and so the obvious solution would be to to go into the BB&B and ask for the telephone. So here we are:

    The BB&B employee made a bad decision, but it’s not completely unjustifiable. The employee didn’t see the kid, and only has the word of some person off the street. Have none of you ever been hit up by “my car’s out of gas, can you give me a few bucks to get home to my starving kids” types of people while in parking lots or gas stations?

    Everyone (that’s everyone!) has some type of initial skepticism. If some person walked up to me in the parking lot to ask to borrow my cell phone because some kid’s locked in the car, it’s certainly not unreasonable that I’d refuse. If the person were insistent (but not violent) and didn’t relent and it were obvious that he or she were in distress, then I’d consider loaning my cell phone. The same deal works in a store. If you stop at “no” then you’re not getting your message across, or you lack self-esteem or willpower. Certainly if I saw the kid myself, then I’d make the call without hesitation, but the store employee didn’t see the kid and had no way of ascertaining the situation, and the importance of the situation wasn’t conveyed to the employee.

    • LoriLynn says:

      @balthisar: I kind of hope I don’t run into you if I ever really need help.

      • balthisar says:

        @LoriLynn: If you really need help, though, I’ll help. Remember, it’s all based on the apparent danger that you’re in. If I’m behind the counter and have no idea what you’re talking about, I can’t ascertain the danger.

        @ViperBorg: The rest of post answered that. Be clear, forceful, and clearly explain. Be man/woman enough not just to accept NO the first time.

        Really, I’m not a heartless monster, and agree that the clerk did wrong. But you’re all blowing things way, way out of proportion.

    • ViperBorg says:

      @balthisar: “Consider that if the kid were truly in imminent danger, “

      And what exactly is your definition of imminent danger?

      And they asked to use the store’s phone, not the employee’s personal cell phone, what would they have done? Ripped it from the wall and ran? Called emergency services in China? What logic are you using, exactly?

      I’m putting a sticker on my cell phone now: “If I’m in need of emergancy medical care, please use my cell phone to call for assistance. Thank you.”
      Hell, I’ll put that on my shirt and jacket too. Maybe I’ll write it on my forehead.

      • RagingBoehner says:

        @ViperBorg: I guess the answer is if the child is in imminent danger, don’t call the police — break the window yourself.

        If you see someone drowning and want to help, I wouldn’t recommend calling the police to come rescue the person for you. Dive in there!

        Also — I would NEVER hand my cell phone to someone to make a call on it for any circumstances. That’s the oldest trick in the book, I’m afraid. I suppose if the person were insistent I’d consider investigating the situation myself but handing your cell phone to a stranger is stupid. You’ll have a thousand dollars of charges to Bangalore before you can find a payphone to cancel your contract.

        • mike says:

          @RagingBoehner: I typically will call 911 on their behalf. But diving in the water to save someone might not be the best idea.

          Of course, this is dependent on water conditions, etc. But most people have never swam with clothes. Clothes can be very heavy when we and most people can’t swim with that much restriction.

          The key is if you absolutely know that you can do something, help! But if you’ve never taken a CPR class, or if you’ve seen Doogie Houser and want to be him, don’t try out here. Chances are you will get hurt yourself and make a bad situation worse.

          • RagingBoehner says:

            @linus: I’ll give you that — maybe not the best analogy. I can barely keep myself afloat. But I guess my frustration is that people are pointing fingers at BB&B — who handled the situation poorly to be sure — but were unwilling to take any real initiative themselves.

            If a child is truly in danger and you’re running around inside a store looking for someone to make a phone call — that’s not going to help get the child out as much as breaking a window will especially if seconds matter as others have noted above.

            So if the OP is unwilling to break the window (fear of getting sued, injured, beaten up by angry car owner/parent, etc.), it’s not unreasonable that a corporate entity has similar concerns.

            It’s a sad state of affairs.

            • mike says:

              @RagingBoehner: I agree with that. It should be one of those situations where I point to someone and say, “You, call an ambulance while I break this door.”

              For those interested, you can get a window punch for pretty cheap these days. I have one that attaches to my keys. Amazon has them for pretty cheap with free super saver shipping. Buy one next time you shop on amazon.

              2 for $17+ change

              1 for $10

              • RagingBoehner says:

                @linus: Well as most of us DC residents can tell you bricks are pretty effective too.

                Probably not as safe for the little ones though.

                Though I guess the old brick through the front window trick would work pretty well. Cover your eyes junior!

                • mike says:

                  @RagingBoehner: You know, I can never find a brick when I need to bust a window open. I guess it’s one of those panic moments.

                  I’d be interested to know where the youngster was sitting in relation to the car. Windshields hurt when they break. You have to be pretty careful when you punch them.

                  • econobiker says:

                    @linus: The picture in the story looks like a front window was broken. Children are required to be placed in the rear seats.

                    Also the goober that called the police had a phone locked in his truck that he had to retrieve. I figure he and his wife were walking in and saw the child, then ran in to call the police, the store paged for the mother, refused to let them use the phone. and then he had to go back out to the truck for his phone.

    • oneandone says:

      @balthisar: Being approached by a stranger asking to use your phone might make you legitimately concerned for your safety or the strong potential for theft. But employees in a store should be used to being approached, and hopefully don’t fear for their safety or the store’s property everytime a customer asks them something. Two different situations.

      On the other hand, I have noticed that customer treatment within stores of the same chain at different location varies tremendously. I’d assume they’re operating under the same policies, but in some places (usually wealthy suburban areas) you feel like a patron of a place that’s interested in selling you something. Stepping into the same chain in poorer or urban areas, you become a threat to the store that must be contained, and any kind of activity is suspicious. I don’t know if these attitudes have any basis in fact or stores’ experiences, but it’s hard to believe that customers have behaved so badly that staff have to preemptively adopt a defense posture for every interaction.

    • carbonmade says:

      @balthisar: I don’t know, if someone came up to me and asked to use my cell phone to call 911 because some kid was locked in a car, I’d give them my phone immediately, no questions asked. If they asked to use my phone to order a pizza, well, then I may refuse.

  19. RedOrDead says:

    Many years ago when I worked in retail, there was a lady who came into my store to say there was someone unconscious and bleeding in a car in the parking lot. I called the police and while I was still on the phone, she took off. When the officer showed up, they said there was no one in that car or any other car and threatened to cite me for making an phony 911 call. I was working by myself that day, but fortunately there was another customer in the store the entire time who could vouch for me that this really did happen.

  20. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I have a problem with this response. This:

    The most recent statement that we issued yesterday indicated that this situation was not handled the way we would have expected it to be handled.

    is a complete lie unless they’ve issued a response since the first one. They specifically said that they were pleased with what happened. I get the feeling that the only reason they’re willing to say that they’re ashamed here is because they sent this to only one person. Except for the part I’ve quoted, this should have the public response to this incident.

  21. friedduck says:

    It’s simple, attack the store manager–then they’ll call 911 for you ;-) (kidding, kidding.)

    In all seriousness, they wouldn’t have *any* problem calling 911 for shoplifters, or a belligerent customer (queue SNL skit about Bon Qui Qui), so what the hell’s their problem?

  22. HogwartsAlum says:

    Here’s where the people in the store (not the employees) might not want to give a complete stranger their cell phone:



    You go outside with them to see what the problem is and they mug you.

    I would have no problem calling the police FOR someone but there’s no way I would just hand over my phone (assuming I had one, which I don’t).

  23. vastrightwing says:

    Memo to all retailers.

    I am fighting back to your horrible business practices by consuming less and less. I’m not picking on any particular retailer. Your policies have dehumanized and wrecked our society to the point of stories like above to where I won’t support it anymore. It’s not just BB&B, you’re all guilty of creating an environment where none of your employees are allowed to think or show compassion for another person.

    So until further notice, my policy is to not spend my family’s money except for very basic necessities. I will support only local people with whom I have a personal relationship.

  24. [WARNING: Author is a philosopher.]

    Details aside, I think everyone is rightfully upset because this demonstrates how corporatism, among other things, has really damaged our ability to get along as a society. We all know that helping each other out *used* to be the default, and that while occasionally this meant getting pranked or robbed, it was generally seen as worth it, and also as rare. (I think it’s still rare, but it seems like every single incident of someone getting the shaft is so exhaustively reported on that we tend to think it’s the norm — just my opinion, though.)

    It’s disturbing that not just the corporation, but the public (as represented here) has a knee-jerk tendency to defend selfishness, petty greed and self-centeredness when it comes to helping one’s fellows. People seem to think that it makes sense to not want to hand over your phone to someone who claims there’s an emergency — why? Because the possibility that your phone will be stolen is more important than the possibility that someone else will DIE? Similarly, we’re supposed to sympathize with employees who are “just protecting their jobs”, even if by doing so they’re saying that their job is more important than a child’s life?

    What’s it really WORTH to not get sued?

    And hey, if more people took the risk of being sued or screwed in some way in order to help others, then maybe less people would sue over stupid things. What goes around does tend to come around, and that applies to selfishness too.

    (I always ask myself one question: Could I sleep at night? I wouldn’t hate myself if someone pulled a dirty trick to steal my cell phone; but I *would* hate myself if someone needed my help in an emergency and I was too worried about my stupid electronics to offer it. Making the decision that way means that no matter what happens, I come out on top.)

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @HogwartsAlum: Exactly. I don’t get the people who thought the couple should have asked random people in or outside of the store. I would have assumed that they would have been suspicious of me for exactly those reasons. Even that’s assuming the couple passed anyone before they got to an employee.
      It just makes more sense to go straight to someone you know has a phone and will help you.

      “People seem to think that it makes sense to not want to hand over your phone to someone who claims there’s an emergency — why? Because the possibility that your phone will be stolen is more important than the possibility that someone else will DIE?”

      @Mary Marsala with Fries: False dilemma. If you have a cell phone you can always call 911 yourself. It isn’t necessary to hand your phone over.

    • Parting says:

      @Mary Marsala with Fries: If there is an emergency, and someone wants to use my phone. I can call 911 MYSELF. If it’s a REAL emergency, the person will be more that willing to give me necessary info for an ambulance/police to arrive.

      That’s a compromise, where no one steal your phone, and you help someone in need.

  25. SuffolkHouse says:

    Folks, corporations exist to make money. This is how their charters are written. They can, in fact, be held liable by their stock holder if they are found doing things that squander profits.

    If you want this to change, don’t vote for McCain – that’s for damn sure.

    • mike says:

      @SuffolkHouse: I wouldn’t vote for Obama either.

      /political troll

      • SuffolkHouse says:


        I don’t care who you vote for, but if you think this kind of corporate abuse needs to stop, McCain ain’t your guy.

        If you don’t want to vote for Obama, then you don’t want this to change.

        • daniinpa says:


          That’s ridiculous. What has Obama said that would make you think he’d stop corporate abuse (it’s not like Obama has said much of substance anyway, but you hear the word “CHANGE” and assume it is for the better)? He’s in their pocket just like every other politician. Neither one of them is going to do anything to stop corporate abuse and there isn’t much a president can do about that anyway.

          It’s up to us, not the politicians. It’s our society, it’s our culture. This isn’t about taxes or profits, this is a culture-wide problem. The government is the reflection, not the cause. This is why I prefer to read blogs and sites like Consumerist that look beyond the political flavor of the month. We have got to change. The business-owners and the consumers and the employees (we are all one or all three). Stop giving your power away.

    • thelushie says:

      @SuffolkHouse: This is not a corporate issue, per se, it is a person issue. A PERSON didn’t want to get involved. If another person was on duty, the outcome may have been different and we would have been reading a post lauding the heroism of the BB&B employee.

      And I really hate to bust your idealistic bubble, but voting for Obama (and not voting for McCain) will do nothing to stop corporations. He can’t get rid of them and will do very little to control them. This is the world we live in. You can always move to a more socialist-based country but before you do that, think long and hard about the good things you will give up. I have a friend who lives in the Netherlands that hates the health care system. It looks great on paper but it takes weeks to get into a doctor. Quality is not always great. If he had to have major surgery, he would come to the US.

      We as people, can make a difference. We can get involved. Try to be nicer and kinder to fellow human beings. Be more helpful. Learn how to think.

      The declines in society that I am seeing are just as prevelant among liberals as conservatives. That points to a societal problem. Not a problem of who to elect as president.

  26. mike says:

    The sad reality is that we as a people prefer not to get involved. I think there is even a psych study on this. When a group of people witness a tragic event, many will do nothing because the thought in everyone’s mind is, “Someone else will do it.”

    I do it too. I’ll admit it. It isn’t until someone looks at me and says, “I need your help” that I’ll get involved.

    When I took CPR, they made this absolutely clear: look someone in the eye and tell them to call 911. If you just say “someone call 911, no one will.”

    Perhaps a psych person can help me out on this one.

  27. DWalk says:

    @vastrightwing: I second that.

  28. the-perfect-face-for-radio says:

    all you have to know in order to understand this is that the attitude and perspective of a corporate flack is precisely akin to that of a prostitute. there is no shame, only an eagerness to satisfy the client and advance its interest. bb&b doesn’t give a damn about a kid dying in an overheated car, all it cares about is that people continue to buy shower curtains, and while its flacks will never tell you this in so many words, the sentiment is the same:

    “calm down you ignorant peons. nothing to see here. now, who wants a spiffy new shower curtain?”

  29. MyPetFly says:

    “Kitty Genovese”

    Google it or Wiki it.

  30. lightaugust says:

    Not to take the side of the kitchenware peddlers, but regarding the apology not going far enough, or being lame… if they fired the person responsible, isn’t he right to say they can’t talk about it?

  31. mexifelio says:

    Won’t somebody think of THE CHILDREN!?!?

  32. handyr says:

    I blame the whole welfare-to-work movement for this. People who in the past were unemployable are now populating the majority of entry level jobs. I remember when most store clerks were friendly, helpful, and able to navigate through unexpected occurrences. Maybe we should go back to paying these people $96/week to sit on their asses and watch Judge Judy.

  33. bagumpity says:

    Thank you, Consumerist, for making yet another corporation realize that they cannot toss off a blase’ response and expect that to be the end of it.

    It’s just this sort of “they said WHAT? Are they f*cking kidding?” public reaction that needs to happen over and over again until there’s a chapter in Public Relations 101 entitled “When to admit you f*cked up, and f*cked up an a really big way, and what to do about it after.”

  34. katylostherart says:

    bloodbath and beyond! i’m just surprised not one of the employees had the heart to go out and look for themselves.

  35. samurailynn says:

    It seems to me that if there was going to be legal trouble over the employee not calling 911, it would be the employee getting in trouble, as long as the BB&B didn’t have a policy telling the employee not to allow people to call 911 for emergencies.

    Also, when I was a kid (probably between the ages of 5-9) I used to love to sleep in warm cars. My mom worked as an inventory auditor for small stores, and I would go with her sometimes. I would often ask if I could sleep in the car, and sometimes stayed sleeping in there till 11am or so. Of course, I was old enough to let myself out of the car, but I wonder if the same thing happened today, if someone would call 911 or try to break the window to get me out of the car.

    • econobiker says:


      “I would often ask if I could sleep in the car, and sometimes stayed sleeping in there till 11am or so. Of course, I was old enough to let myself out of the car, but I wonder if the same thing happened today, if someone would call 911 or try to break the window to get me out of the car. “

      Yes, they would call 911 and would go after your mother today for the same reason people freak about a parent going into a store for 5 minutes and leaving children alone in the car.

  36. BrianDaBrain says:

    “The most recent statement that we issued yesterday indicated that this situation was not handled the way we would have expected it to be handled.”

    The statement made earlier actually seemed to be quite the opposite. It seemed to pat BB&B on the back for handling it the way it was. I’m happy that somebody with a Vice President’s title actually bothered to respond to this, but it still seems like too little, too late.

  37. misslisa says:

    I realize this site is all about discussing our consumer issues in regards to businesses…BUT: Shouldn’t most of our ire and vitriol be reserved for the idiot mom who locked her kid in the car in the first place? BB&B didn’t ask for this display of stupidity to happen in their lot, regardless of how terribly they handled it. I hope the mom gets deported (she’s foreign).

    • samurailynn says:

      @misslisa: The news story didn’t say if there was actually any danger to the kid. We don’t know what time of day this happened, or what the temperature was. If it was 60F outside, I don’t even see why anyone would be worried. Even if it was 70F outside, if you don’t know how long the child was in the car alone, the kid really may not have been in danger. The article says the kid was in the car for “almost 45 minutes”. Since the article doesn’t say what condition the child was in, I really don’t know if all the fuss was warranted. However, the article doesn’t say that the mother wasn’t a US citizen, so I don’t know how you’re claiming that deportation is an appropriate punishment.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        @samurailynn: I think in the original video they say that the had to cool the toddler down. In the new video that’s up here: [] under Featured Videos the reporter says the toddler was unresponsive when they got into the car.

        The reporter also said that the police are looking into whether or not BB&B should be charged with something.

        Apparently the mom is claiming it was only for 15 minutes not 45 but that’s probably a moot point if the child was unresponsive.

        • samurailynn says:

          @Rectilinear Propagation: If the child was unresponsive, then yes, I would say some kind of punishment is definitely in order for the mother. (The individual employee who wouldn’t allow someone to call 911 may also be at risk for punishment, but BB&B should be clear as long as they did not have a policy preventing people from using the phone for emergencies.)

          However, I still do not think deportation is an appropriate punishment. How is sending the mother (and probably her child with her, since someone would still need to take care of it) to another country going to solve a possible case of child abuse/neglect?

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        @misslisa: The video only says that she lives in Lexington. Unless I missed something in the first one, neither video said anything about her being foreign.

  38. BytheSea says:

    Agree that this isn’t an apology or admittance of wrongdoing, just corporate spin. First, they placate the complaintant by saying they understand his anger and agree with him. Then, “We have no policies that should have impeded our ability to respond in this case” neatly slides any responsibility off the customer. Then, “And yes, we are using this unfortunate occurrence as an opportunity to re-train our associates nationwide” is a nonspecific promise that consequences will be meted out, without details, times, or actual expected outcome given.

  39. shanerz says:

    I think his e-mail is a genuine response; honestly, you can’t expect that they’ll provide more because there’s simply not more to offer. He acknowledge their wrong actions and went so far as to say “ashamed”–something that’s far too infrequent in corporate vocabulary. This e-mail is totally acceptable and does the job.

  40. baristabrawl says:

    I’m against it. I’ll not be shopping at BB&B anymore. I can get towels from Target and overpriced kitchen shit from The Pampered Chef. My needs are met.

    • thelushie says:

      @baristabrawl: You won’t shop at a place because of the action of one employee? Well, what about the elderly woman who was taken in for a mental evaluation when trying to get a refund at Target? Every business has bad employees just as every business has great employees.

      Sorry, I just don’t think boycotting a store based on an incident is worth it. It isn’t realistic. But whatever floats your boat.

  41. trujunglist says:

    While I don’t think BB&B initially handled this very well and the employees responsible should probably be fired, I think that they really do mean what they say in that they were all ashamed to find out that it happened.
    I’m fairly certain that BB&B really did use the opportunity for emergency training, likely setting aside several hours within a few days after the incident to make sure employees know what to do in the case of an emergency. It’s not always just a child stuck in a car, it could be a much more immediate problem, like someone getting stabbed and bleeding to death. I know that my company would likely do this (they really drill us on safety constantly), and I’d be really surprised if BB&B was different.

  42. LemuelaManius says:

    I was in a Walgreen’s in Chicago, and a two-ish year old girl was choking on
    something (in the store, cosmetics department). 6 or 7 customers customers
    were trying to help to no avail, as none of us could properly preform the
    Heimlich maneuver, while we waited for emergency response. Not only was the
    pharmacy in full view of this baby girl turning blue, not only were they
    watching what was happening, but they did NOTHING. Absolutely nothing! And
    that’s very important, because pharmacists are required by law to be
    certified in life-saving techniques. We were screaming at them “Please help!
    Please help this girl she’s choking to death!” A man even ran to their
    counter and begged the pharmacists to help. Contrary to what should have
    happened, the pharmacists just stood behind their counter, watching, not
    even acknowledging the pleas for help. Finally, the ambulance arrived and
    the girl was taken away. I don’t know what happened to her. But I do know I
    was so disgusted by the behavior of the Walgreen’s pharmacists, that was the
    last time I ever shopped at their store. I filed a formal complaint and
    never received a response.