Out of Edmonton, Canada, comes a PR nightmare of epic proportions.
Nine-year-old Emily Ainsworth has a service dog to help with with her autism. However, it was because of her loyal service dog, which had clearly marked service tags, that both she and her mother were told to leave their local Winners store (a subsidiary of TJ Maxx).
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"I don't believe that anybody should feel like a second-class citizen in any place . . . and especially as a child," said Emily's mother, Alison Ainsworth, in a recent CBC report.
There was public backlash against the store’s actions and the mother filed a human rights complaint. To stave off a public relations debacle, the district manager personally wrote the Ainsworths an apology. In the letter, he included a $25 gift card and wrote: "My biggest concern is that your daughter doesn't feel welcome so if you don't mind spoiling her a bit, I'd like to give her a $25 gift card to pick something she'd like from any of our stores."
The mother accepted the apology and the gift card and took Emily back to Winners to let her pick out something nice.
Guess what happened: they were kicked out again for bringing along the service dog.
"We were asked to leave the store," said Alison Ainsworth. "My child's service dog was not permitted in their establishment anywhere. And if that's true, then that includes my child because there is no separation between the two of them."
"Levi is imperative to Emily's well-being," said Ainsworth. "Levi gives Emily a sense of stability."
"He's very grounding and he gives her opportunity to participate in community and school and home in a way that would otherwise be challenging for her," she added.
What is strange is that, according to TJ Maxx, allowing service animals in its stores is standard policy. Therefore, one has to question what was it about the dog that the store managers did not like.
"I was disappointed that I didn't get anything from the store, even my dress that my mom picked out nicely for me," said Emily in the CBC report.
"It's demoralizing," her mother said. "It's demeaning."
So how does the same mistake happen twice? You would think the company would be wiping the sweat from their foreheads and collectively thanking God that they managed to avoid a possible multi-million dollar disaster with just an apology and a $25 gift card. Instead, they repeated the same mistake with the exact same customer.
The store did apologize again to the girl, gave her another $25 gift card, and said they would “donate $10,000 to a charity of her mother's choice.”
Miraculously enough for Winners, the mother decided not to follow up with the human rights complaint.
Ainsworth hopes the publicity surrounding the events will help raise awareness and change business' stance towards dogs in public.
"This is a really big message and we're grateful to the community in standing up with us on this," she said.
(h/t Business Insider)