ConsumerWatch: Investigation Finds Revealing Dressing Rooms At Retail Stores

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Reversed slats on a dressing room door. (CBS)

Reversed slats on a dressing room door. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – The next time you are in a dressing room you may want to consider more than just whether or not your clothes fit.

A joint CBS investigation has found that dressing room doors in some Macy’s and Ann Taylor Loft stores throughout the country were flipped around, allowing onlookers to peek in on changing customers.

When dressing room doors are flipped around, the slats in the doors are angled down into the room, allowing anyone on the outside of the room to look in. Those inside the room, however, may have a false sense of security because they are not able to see outside.

The whistleblower who brought attention to the issue was a former Macy’s employee with 20 years of experience in security and loss prevention.

Many customers were completely shocked when they realized that most anyone walking by could look in on the person changing and some were also concerned people could come by and take photos or videos. Customers said they were wary of changing areas now and may just buy clothes and try them on at home instead.

The former Macy’s employee said the rationale behind the door-flipping is to help prevent shoplifting and theft. He said that he was shown flipped doors in the lingerie, young ladies, and other women’s departments by a male detective.

Peter Eliasberg from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said trying to prevent theft alone is not enough, in his opinion, to compromise privacy rights.

Eliasberg also said that the California state law is clear. Anyone who looks through a hole or opening of a changing room or fitting room which the occupant has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade privacy, is breaking the law he said.

Macy’s had said earlier that they were trying to strike a balance between preserving customer privacy and safety and deterring property theft. Now, they have also said that fitting rooms vary by store and when each store was built. The company said all stores will eventually have dressing rooms with outward-facing slats. Macy’s stores did also have signs posted stating that fitting rooms were bring monitored by same-sex security.

Ann Taylor Loft has said its flipped doors were not a loss prevention effort, but rather an installation mistake and they will be fixed.

If you are concerned about the privacy of your fitting room, it may be a good idea to check out the doors before you disrobe or hang your clothes over the door to prevent anyone from seeing in.

Below are statements issued by Macy’s and Ann Taylor Loft in their entirety:

Ann Taylor Loft
“The fitting room blinds in question at the stores referenced are not part of a Loss Prevention policy or strategy. If the blinds were improperly installed, our construction teams have a schedule in place to properly re-install the blinds.”

Macy’s
“Our fitting rooms are designed to give the customer a sense of comfort and an appropriate level of privacy when trying on merchandise. Fitting rooms in Macy’s stores across the country vary in their size, design and configuration, depending primarily on when each store was built and the retailer that built the store (today’s Macy’s is comprised of dozens of predecessor companies).

We currently are implementing changes to some fitting room doors so they are consistent across the country. At the end of this process, all fitting room doors will have outward-facing slats that limit the visibility into the fitting from anyone standing outside the room. We strive to make customers feel safe and secure at Macy’s.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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