A friend stirs up my outrage – to boycott Petsmart

July 22, 2010

I will begin with a letter I wrote, and then explain how I got here. This letter is to support my friend’s boycott of PetsMart. Basically, for people who don’t want to click the link below and read her long blog post, her cat Ei[se]nstein died during a grooming appointment. They had just moved, so he had a clean bill of health from a vet only a few months prior, and he had been remarkably tolerant of grooming for a cat — he was a Persian and she kept him shaved down, so it was quite routine for him to be groomed. This cat was Miranda’s only local friend because she had just moved to Bloomington, Indiana, for graduate school. (And I would like to remind anyone from PetsMart corporate who may end up reading this — if it were not for people who perceive pets to be close friends and family, you would not have a business.) Worst of all, when her cat died, the employees at this PetsMart location left her with her raw grief in a public area, with no offer of comfort or support, and with no offer to figure out what happened (well, except the vet tried to sell her an autopsy!). In what seems like an effort to cover their own butts, they only offered statements that all boil down to “Sometimes these things happen.”

Before this gets all tl;dr, I encourage anyone reading this to join me in signing Miranda’s petition and boycotting PetsMart until this situation is addressed.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a proud former employee of PetsMart, and friends with many other current and former PetsMart employees, some of them groomers. For this reason, I am writing you today in hopes that PetsMart will address a situation that occurred in December 2008 at one of your Indiana locations. Specifically, as outlined in a blog post online (http://mirandathom.blogspot.com/2010/06/most-important-recommendation-i-can.html), a friend of mine lost her cat while he was in the care of PetsMart groomers. This incident—both the pet Einstein’s death and the way his caretaker Miranda was treated—reflects poorly on PetsMart as an organization and on its current and former employees. Until this incident receives due attention, I will cease doing business with PetsMart, and will encourage my friends and family to do the same. My own blog post on the matter can be seen at https://amberwb.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/a-friend-stirs-up-my-outrage/.

Thank you,

Amber Westcott-Baker

So, how I got here… It’s kind of interesting to me (as a researcher of attitudes and attitude change) that I’m having a hard time summarizing my former position or how I got here (ah, consistency bias).

I didn’t originally want to support this boycott. As a former PetsMart employee, I did not like the way my friend characterized this incident as “PetsMart killed my cat,” rather than some specific PetsMart groomers killed her cat. My initial position was that the organization PetsMart is separate from the action of its individual employees when those actions break with store policy–which certainly would be the case if, as she suspects, the groomers gave her cat a sedative or did anything else other than groom her cat.

However.

What I failed to consider before was the fact that an organization is made up of its employees, and its actions are the summed actions of its members. If those employees did break with store policy, were they held accountable? Does PetsMart have a SOP for handling a pet death? If so, why was it not followed in her case? (I am assuming it wasn’t, because the way she was treated reeks of diffusion-of-responsibility — no one seemed to know what to do or how to respond.) Are records kept of deaths, and are they investigated in any way? From my experience as an employee and friend of groomers, I know that sometimes pets die from stress or overheating — rarely, but it does happen. What I don’t know is whether there is a standard way of handling it.

I wanted to view her incident as unique, not a symptom of a systemic problem with PetsMart as an organization. However, the way that she was treated in the aftermath of Ei[se]nstein’s death makes this an organizational issue. It means that when anyone takes their pet to PetsMart and the worst happens, no one in the organization will know what to do or how to respond to real grief at the loss of a family member. It means that the bereaved will have no way of knowing whether their pet died of natural causes (stress, some underlying condition) or mistreatment/neglect unless they have their wits about them enough to preserve the pet’s remains, have an autopsy, perhaps hire a lawyer… which, BTW, are all things that only people of privilege have the social and economic capital to do.

Miranda has her own list of things she wants to happen to resolve this situation. Personally, at the very least I want someone from PetsMart to acknowledge and sincerely apologize for her loss. I want them to investigate this PetsMart location and the number of pet deaths that have taken place there. I want them to develop Standard Operating Procedures and actually train their employees to deal with pet deaths–or, if they have these procedures and training policies in place already, investigate why they were not followed in Miranda’s case.

Until that happens… PetsMart, you’re dead to me.

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