Ann Taylor Tells Blind Woman Her Guide Dog Isn’t Allowed In The Store

Hey, retailers — it’s 2012, and if you don’t know that a service dog is a completely acceptable animal to be accompanying a customer in a store according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, you really need to update your employees. And yes, we mean you, Ann Taylor.

Consumerist reader Natalie’s mom, Becky, has a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. She sees about 5% of what is normal so she uses a guide dog, and as such, is dependent on her service dog, Cricket, to get around, especially when she’s on her own. She loves shopping at Ann Taylor, but had an unfortunate experience with an employee who told her she wasn’t allowed to be in the store with her dog.

Natalie directed us to Becky’s blog, “Cruisin’ with Cricket,” where she detailed her recent upsetting experience at a newly-opened Ann Taylor store at her local mall. Her husband, Steve, had dropped her off and was finishing a conference call on his phone in the car.

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. It’s 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.

Becky met up with her husband, who returned to the store to explain the situation and that “they had also kicked out a very loyal, frequent shopper who had a closet full of their clothes.” Becky ended up finding what she needed at another store, where her guide dog was accepted without a problem.

Natalie tells us Ann Taylor called later to apologize, but the damage was done. Becky said she was pretty shaken by the turn of events, but she’s maintaining a positive outlook on her ordeal. She adds that she’s happy to educate anyone she comes across about the roles of guide dogs, and even to show identification if it’s necessary. But, as she notes, and we wholeheartedly agree, being told to leave a store in 2012 because someone doesn’t realize what a guide dog is, is pretty upsetting.

She finishes her tale on an optimistic note:

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.

Disappointed in Ann Taylor [Cruisin’ With Cricket ~ The Journeys Of Becky And Her Guide Dog, Cricket]