Customer expected warm welcome but left with cold feet
Fry’s Food advertises “Welcome Service Animals”.
But a recent visit at Fry’s Foods on Rural & Southern in Tempe made clear that the “welcome” is conditional.
Fry’s doesn’t advertise that you are subject to harassment and questioning on the spot if you enter a Fry’s store with a service pet.
The store manager, “Karen,” at Rural & Southern in Tempe did just this to a customer in July 2019.
As the customer with the small service pet waited at the meat counter, she noticed a woman, she would later learn was the store manager, walking towards her.
The woman stepped in front of the customer to block her path and sternly asked, “What kind of dog is that?”
There was no intro, no rapport building. If the store manager introduced herself, she did it from afar, as the customer didn’t hear any introductions.
The customer chose to leave the store and not bring herself or her service pet back, rather than face the humiliation of answering the store manager’s questions. It was obvious that service pets are not really welcome at Fry’s.
Trying to make sense of the store manager's questioning
Initially, the customer really wasn’t sure what the store manager meant when she asked the question, “What kind of dog is that?” For all she knew, the woman/store manager was just making conversation, inquiring if the dog was a poodle or corgi. But her unfriendly demeanor was a pretty big clue that she was trying to uncover if the dog was a legitimate and legal service pet.
The store manager finally said,
“We’re allowed to ask two questions.” (This was the tip-off that she was inquiring if the pet was a legal service pet or not.)
A check at www.ADA.gov confirms that the question the store manager asked is NOT a legal question.
What questions can a public place’s employees ask to determine if an animal is a service animal?
Here are the only two questions per Arizona Disability Law that employers legally can ask a customer:
“In situations where it is not obvious that the animal is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions:
(1) is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?
(2) what work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the animal, require that the animal demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.”
Fry's hidden signage warns of $250 fine to their customers
A check on another Fry’s store turned up this sign, which was partially hidden behind a garbage can. Moving the garbage can revealed the verbiage that was hidden:
“There’s a new law! Arizona’s HB 2588 allows individuals misrepresenting a service animal to be fined up to $250 per violation.”
Ironically, this sign is nowhere to be found at the Rural/Southern store in Tempe.
It’s reasonable to assume that the Tempe Rural/Southern store manager’s intent behind her questioning was to determine first if the dog was a legitimate service dog. Not so welcoming, after all.
Advice to Fry’s corporate managers and the woman, whose identity was later revealed to be Karen, the Tempe store manager:
* Just use some common sense customer service first and politely remind customers that pets, except service pets, aren’t allowed in Fry’s stores. Inform them that they need to remove the pet or leave if they have a regular pet. Allow the customer to abide and leave with dignity. If the customer has a legal service pet, they will let you know their pet is a legal service pet *if* they wish you to possess that information.
* Try to be aware and empathetic that many people are from other places like Seattle, and those newcomers may assume that most Arizona stores welcome pets because pets can’t be left in vehicles in AZ due to AZ sun. Don’t chastise the customer who isn’t aware that small pets aren’t allowed in carts.
* Do a better job posting more visible warning signs and full and visible disclosures about your service pet policy. Let customers know that they are subject to questioning on the spot if they choose to bring their service pet in the store.
* Don’t assume everyone who enters with a pet is trying to sneak in a pet under a false guise.
* A check at a national review site reveals that there seems to be a high percentage of homeless people who visit this Fry’s at Southern and Rural. Don’t discriminate based on preconceived ideas you may have about your customer base.
Lastly, while the ADA law states that pet owners legally can be asked two specific questions, the consumer does not have to answer. They can leave and choose to permanently stop doing business with your stores.