FORT MYERS, Fla. - A WINK News investigation into your privacy in department store fitting rooms has gone nationwide. We found that fitting room doors in Macy's were leaving customers exposed not only here in Southwest Florida, but coast-to-coast as well. Now, at least one civil rights group is objecting to the practice.
Laura and her daughter Ashlyn allowed our sister station in Los Angeles to follow her around as she went in fitting rooms in southern California.
"So, I can walk by anybody else's door? So, anybody walking by could actually see in? Oh, that's awful. That's awful," Laura said. "Right, like shutters and those are backward shutters. If I can see those clothes, I can probably see you. It's just not right."
"I don't really think that they should have doors like these," her daughter Ashlyn commented.
It's the same issue we first exposed at Macy's stores in Southwest Florida. A whistleblower, who brought it to our attention, told us it was on purpose; to allow staff members to spot shoplifters. He also said the practice was not illegal because of small signs warning customers they they are being watched.
"They don't notice. They don't notice that sign that is six inches across is giving basically giving up their right to privacy and allowing Macy's to look at them naked," the whistleblower told us almost two months ago.
When we first ran our story, Macy's originally told us: "Retailers work hard to strike a balance between preserving the privacy of customers, providing customer service, maintaining customer safety in fitting rooms and deterring the theft of merchandise."
Macy's later revised that statement, saying Macy's is "comprised of stores obtained from dozens of predecessor companies."
But we found Macy's wasn't the only store with flipped doors. We also found Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor Loft and Saks Fifth Avenue stores with open slats. Our sister station found the same thing in California.
Now the ACLU has now chimed in saying it could be a violation of your rights; especially in California and other states where the law clearly states no one can look into a fitting room.
"Merely to say we have an interest in preventing theft isn't alone enough in my mind to say, 'ok, and therefore your privacy rights are just thrown out the window,' '" said Peter Eliasberg with the ACLU. "I certainly would be interested in telling Macys that 'you're playing with fire and arguably violating a criminal statute.' "
Here in Florida there is a loophole in the law because retailers are allowed in if the customer gives permission. It's debatable whether those small signs do just that. Macy's told us by email it plans to have all stores nationwide changed by the end of October. Ann Taylor Inc. says it is also in the process of changing its doors. Saks Fifth Avenue told us it does not comment on its loss prevention strategies and will not comment for our stories.
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