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Macy's Fitting Rooms and Other Controversial Store Policies

By (view all posts by Allegra.Ringo)
at 6:57AM Wednesday August 10, 2011
under Newsworthy

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.