Back in the Summer of 2019, after a nice lunch with my wife in the Georgetown area in Washington, D.C., something we don’t do that often due to her battle with kidney disease, we decided to head into the retails shops that line Wisconsin Avenue and the surrounding area. As she only has around a few hours of energy per day, I had hoped to make the most of it, as she can get tired and feel drained out rather quickly.
For her, every moment counts, so we tried to enjoy the day to the fullest. However, it was not before long that she was reminded of her limitations in the most unexpected of ways, and it never had to happen in the first place.
As we started out, Jen, my wife, wants to head into Banana Republic, one of her favorite clothing stores. Jen has been shopping there for years, always liked the quality of their products, and really thought highly of their customer service staff and overall retail experience.
As we walked through the first floor, her feet began to swell a little, something common when you struggle with Kidney issues. She asked me to head up to the second floor with her, so we proceeded to find the elevator and head up. We hit the button and waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed rather odd, we could hear movement in the elevator shaft, some banging, but it never proceeded to come down.
Just as we were about to ask for assistance from a store employee, as we thought the elevator might be stuck, the door opened abruptly. We saw a female employee staring at us with a cart full of clothes. She looked like she was either restocking the store with new items or maybe “reshoping” returns. We both smiled at her and asked to join her for the ride up. She looked at us quite upset, looking very much put off. She said, “No, the elevator is mine. I need it, sorry.”
What? The elevator was clearly marked for customers, heck, we have used it countless times in years past, and there was no markings or sign for employee use only. I pleaded, “My wife is disabled and can’t take the stairs. Are you saying we can’t come in the elevator with you at all, when there is clearly room for us?” She fired back, “No!,” and slammed the door shut.
Wow. Jen looked like she was ready to cry. You see, Jen does not get out much. But when she has energy, does all she can to make the best of it. At that point, we were very upset. We went looking for a manager to report the incident, but two store employees could not locate one.
That’s when I went on Twitter, declaring what happened publically, but also reaching out to Banana Republic to let them know what happened.
From there, it went from bad to worse. We did get a call from a corporate customer service representative. The young women who spoke to my wife, while kind, never apologized once, and seemed more worried about a public relations problem or lawsuit as to how we were treated. We were promised contact by the local store manager. We did play phone tag with a customer service rep but nothing was ever resolved.
In situations like this, I always try to be empathetic, to try and understand that retail work is hard—I know, I have done it. But one should always treat the disabled or handicapped with respect, knowing they don’t have the same physical or other capabilities you may have. There were lots of options to help us. She could have let us on the elevator while she jumped off where she needed to or explained if there was an issue and asked for our patience. Or she could have allowed us to get on, head where we needed to and continued on with her work. None of that was offered.
And that’s why we won’t shop at any Banana Republic again. A real shame.