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Editorial: Walk on by

On Nov. 6, a woman named Alice made an impassioned plea on Facebook: “Please do not do business at the Chesterfield Mall Bath & Body Works!!”

She went on to say: “I was very disappointed today while on a field trip with my Special Education students. They were given an assignment to find stores on their own and locate a product and write down information about the product.”

She explained that, while the task seems easy, it “is an important skill these students are still learning.”

“As we got ready to walk into Bath & Body Works we were met by a worker who told us we were not welcome to come in the front door,” Alice wrote. “We stopped in our tracks and I told him who we were and what we were doing. He told me we were not welcome in the store. He then pointed out to the sensor at the entrance and told me that if the three students and I walked in the door of his store that I would hurt the sales for the store since we couldn’t buy anything.”

Alice stated the obvious – that clerk had no idea whether she and her students were there to buy anything or not. She explained to her students that they were not welcome.

“They did not understand why,” she said. “I then found out that a few other groups (on the same outing) tried to go into the store and were met with the same rudeness.”

And it’s not just happening in Chesterfield. In March of 2014, USA Today reported that a field trip for a group of special needs students from Montgomery Public Schools ended with the children and a teacher being asked to leave a Bath & Body Works store at the Eastdale Mall.

At that time, the store’s parent company, L Brands, issued an apology.

According to L Brands, each Bath & Body Works store is equipped with a sensor to monitor foot traffic, which is matched to store purchases. Each location is expected to achieve a certain percentage of sales per the total number of customers.

Apparently, the employees in Chesterfield and Montgomery did not want to throw off their sales quotas for the sake of an educational scavenger hunt.

The company trained them well in the relevance of numbers. Too bad it did not train them in the importance of people – or the power of social media.

As we rush headlong into the season of frenzied holiday shopping, images of packed Bath & Body Works stores come to mind. Those scented hand creams and candles make good gifts for all the people for whom you want to show appreciation.

But now, another image comes to mind – the image of Alice’s students, their faces reflecting confusion over why they were not allowed inside the store like everyone else. That’s an image that anyone who knows and appreciates individuals with disabilities just won’t be able to get out of their heads.

If Alice’s Facebook post is any indication, that number is huge. Her post alone has had over 131,000 shares – and all those people who shared Alice’s post likely had their posts shared as well.

Remember the old Faberge commercial? “You tell two friends and I’ll tell two friends and so on and so on.”

Faberge and Alice understand social media’s power. Bath & Body Works? Not so much.

In a secondary post, Alice added: “I do want to thank Susan from Kirlin’s Hallmark at Chesterfield Mall, who was absolutely wonderful to my students today during our field trip. She told them that she was happy to meet them and asked for them to all come back and see her again – and to bring their parents and friends.”

No doubt they will.

Here’s a training lesson Bath & Body Works would do well to remember: Even if Alice’s students did not have money to spend on their field trip – and perhaps they did – no doubt their parents and friends will this holiday season, but when it comes to Bath & Body Works, they might choose to just walk on by.

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