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Hidden cameras expose privacy problem in Macy's fitting rooms

8:33 AM, Jul 22, 2011   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Florida - The next time you try on clothes at a department store, pay attention to the door.

A 10 News undercover investigation revealed customers may be revealing more than expected at Macy's stores all across the country.  While it's illegal to secretly videotape inside fitting rooms in Florida, Macy's manages its loss-prevention by installing their privacy doors backward.

That means that any employee - or customer - standing up against the door can see inside.  But the person getting changed cannot see out.

Also read: Do other stores spy on you too?
Update: Another store admits to mistake with privacy doors
Update:
Saks Fifth Avenue has inverted blinds too

Macy's acknowledged installing the doors backward as a loss-prevention method.

"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," said Melissa Goff, Vice President of Media Relations & Cause Marketing at Macy's. 

The company appears to have been installing privacy blinds backward for a number of years all across the country, whenever state law allows it.

In Florida, 10 News was able to gather video of the compromised privacy from Macy's stores in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Orlando, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, and Naples.  Not every door at every store was inverted, but the majority observed were.

A former loss prevention specialist at the Macy's store in Bradenton says he was fired after bringing the fitting room issue and other problems to the attention of store managers.  He also showed 10 News e-mails from Macy's corporate office encouraging employees to alert them as to any policies or problems that may be illegal or unethical.

"The e-mail told me it was my duty to report anything that was illegal or ethically wrong," said the whistleblower with nearly two decades in the loss prevention business.  He asked 10 News to keep his identity private.

"You could walk just about anywhere in the store and into a fitting room and nobody would stop you," he said, adding that there was nothing keeping men from walking into to watch a woman change, or vice-versa.

The whistleblower said his loss prevention superiors started retaliating soon after he filed the report, which also alleged racial profiling, illegal audio recordings, and falsified shoplifting reports.

He says as supervisors started tinkering with his lunch and work schedules, he started butting heads with them, which quickly lead to his firing.  But he had spoken to 10 News before the termination.

Macy's wouldn't comment on the employee's situation nor his report, but a spokesman said, "Macy's is continually reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure we are serving the best interests of all of our customers. We strive to make customers feel safe and secure at Macy's."

F.S.S. 877.26 allows stores to monitor customers from outside a dressing room, but their stores don't make it clear you can see through the doors.

"Legal, yes, but is it moral?" the whistle-blowing loss prevention specialist asked rhetorically.  "Is it right for anyone to see you naked when you expect privacy?

Connect with 10 News Reporter Noah Pransky on Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky or Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky.  Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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