Macy’s Fitting Rooms and Other Controversial Store Policies

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Image courtesy of Vlad the Impala via Flickr.

Macy’s has admitted that they purposely install fitting room doors upside-down so that the slats face downward to allow employees to more easily see into the fitting rooms. Macy’s employs this policy, the purpose of which is to cut down on theft, in every U.S. state where it’s legal. The news has stirred up controversy about the Macy’s rights to survey their merchandise vs. customers’ rights to–you know–undress without strangers watching them. Many people feel that Macy’s fitting room policy is an invasion of customer privacy. Others argue that the store has a right to take “loss prevention” measures as they see fit and that customers should not expect total privacy in a store fitting room. The rights of business owners and the rights of customers often come into conflict and often generate much heated debate when they do.

Here are five more examples of controversial store policies.

1. GameLoft

In 2010, GameLoft’s super-strict Android store policy came to light and made headlines in tech communities. It dictated that a user’s purchase of a game entitles them to “one download of the game to one phone number and on one phone model only.” That means that if your phone gets stolen, your phone’s data is lost, or you even just get a new handset, you have to re-purchase the game. This is a pretty stingy policy in an age where DRM-free media is plentiful (although, admittedly, not in the realm of games). As far as I can tell, GameLoft hasn’t changed its policy yet.

2. The Alamo Drafthouse

The Alamo Drafthouse, a movie theater in Austin, Texas, has a strict “no distractions” rule–and they stick to it. In July, the Alamo Drafthouse kicked a customer out when she continued to text during a movie–even after the theater gave her two warnings. The theater employs a similar policy against talking. Although critics may call this a harsh policy, it’s one that’s likely to build a loyal fanbase of moviegoers. This is a drastically different approach from the “customer is always right” standard that a corporate movie theater would likely have defaulted to.

3. IKEA

In 2010, an angry IKEA customer sparked a discussion about the store’s exchange policy. When the customer went to exchange some defective parts of a product he’d purchased, he was asked to show his driver’s license. For privacy reasons, he didn’t feel comfortable with the store taking down his information. He also felt that he shouldn’t have to show identification to exchange a product that had a clear manufacturing defect. After much argument, he relented and showed his ID. He also researched IKEA’s exchange policy and found out that ID is required for every exchange and that they do retain the customer’s information. Some people argue that IKEA has the right to do this to prevent fraud, but others feel that it’s bad business to assume the worst of customers, especially in cases of clear manufacturing defect.

4. Verizon

Just this week, Verizon began blocking users who tether their phones using a third-party app instead of the Verizon-approved one. This happened just days after AT&T announced a plan to revoke unlimited data plans from users who use unauthorized tethering apps. Both developments are bad news for customers with jail-broken phones, as well of anyone who’s a general fan of net neutrality. Verizon and AT&T argue that they’re allowed to charge extra for tethering because of the amount of data it uses, but advocacy groups like Free Press contest that users should be free to decide how they use the data they pay for. The FCC plans to examine the issue soon, but until then, AT&T and Verizon users will be subject to the companies’ new anti-tethering policies.

5. CVS

In 2009, CVS reversed their policy of locking up condoms in some stores due to pressure from various advocacy groups. Although the chain never had an official policy on the subject, their rules left it up to store managers to decide which items, if any, to keep behind a locked case. Some CVS managers claimed that they kept condoms locked up because they’re a frequently-stolen item. Health and civil rights advocates, however, argued that limiting access to condoms was a dangerous move that could contribute to rates of STDs and unplanned pregnancies.

What other controversial store policies have you heard of? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. lukas70

    3 years ago

    Here are just some of the crimes that have happened in these very
    same fitting rooms…why would a company make it easier for a peeping tom etc by allowing anyone to be able to see in…. and when video cameras are so readily available.
    I am sure there are many victims out there who dont even know it.
    Other stores dont do this even though it may be “legal” by getting around a loophole in the law.
    Why is it illegal in the other states? Answer: those states have gotten with the times and understand that this kind of stuff can happen:

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/309439

    http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/crime/peeping-tom-caught-in-macys

    http://sandysprings.patch.com/articles/defendant-gets-life-for-attacks-on-sandy-springs-woman-and-three-others

    http://foxxtrapp.blogspot.com/2009/02/macys-peeping-tom-discovered-at-fox.html

    http://www.masscops.com/archive/index.php/t-29671.html

    there are literally hundreds more! just google it…
    Macys needs to take away the tools needed by these pervs..and since they cant take away their phone cameras, they CAN take away the door that allows easy viewing/taping of my teen age daughter!

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  2. margotdent

    3 years ago

    The only one up there I don’t disagree with is the Drafthouse. It’s the best theater (well, theaters) I’ve ever been to, partially because of these policies!

    The Macys one is just creepy.

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  3. pmiller

    3 years ago

    The Drafthouse also used an angry voicemail from that customer to do some viral marketing for the theater. Seems like they do everything right. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVz-fO7kxcQ

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  4. Susan.Yoo-Lee

    3 years ago

    don’t like the fact that Macy’s have their door upside down. You might as well just go into an open room and change clothes in front of dozens of other customers. The whole point of going in a dressing room, is to have privacy.

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  5. ebbeszoo

    3 years ago

    i dont think the doors should be upside down but i have been in other dressing rooms that the doors are upside down as well. also, ikea is not the only place that request id when returning/exchanign things, as walmart does the same. i dont see anything wrong with that.

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  6. ChuckG

    3 years ago

    I went into a Macy’s dressing room and found a pile of those long security tags they put on clothes. I contacted the nearest employee who then contacted security. We may not like it, but at least I understand it.

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