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PETCO Animal Supplies, Inc.
Jim Myers, CEO
Elisabeth Charles, CMO
Lisa Epstein, PR
9125 Rehco Road
San Diego, CA 92121
United States

June 13, 2013

Dear Mr. Myers and Ms. Charles,

Last week, as a long-anticipated reward, my nine-year old son and I visited your store in Manassas, Virginia. My son has Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder, and is fascinated with fish. To reward his hard work in 3rd grade, we purchased an aquarium kit from the store. A helpful employee advised us as to set-up and the necessary time for the tank to be hospitable for fish. My son began the five-day count-down, eagerly awaiting when we could return and purchase two small goldfish.

On Thursday afternoon, with an excited child, I returned to PETCO and requested help from an employee at the front desk. My son ran ahead to try and find the two fish he wanted. [Redacted], who identified herself as an Aquatic Specialist, joined me on the way to the fish department. I told her we wanted two small goldfish ($2.99 each), at which point she asked the aquarium size. When I informed her it was five gallons, she stopped and informed me she could not sell me goldfish. Stunned, I asked why. She told me that since goldfish grow to ten inches, I would have to have a tank that could accommodate such a fish.

Incredulous, I explained to her that I had purchased the entire tank system only last week, and I had been clear with the previous employee that we intended to buy two small goldfish. She informed me, in her opinion it was unethical to put two goldfish in a five gallon tank, because they would grow larger. I stood agog in the fish department, while my son continued to press his face to the blue tanks in anticipation of his new fish.

My son was still blissfully ignorant of the conflict— children with autism often struggle with change, and this was an event he had been anticipating with great joy. Through rising tension, I told her I would simply purchase a larger tank if the fish grew too big, but for right now, two 2″ fish in five gallons of water was reasonable. She self-righteously stated that was not acceptable, and refused.

I have never been so angry in a store.

There are two issues here: the incredible lack of anything resembling customer service, and the reality of a child on the autism spectrum now having to process and adjust in a store where he is refused the very goal that same store (and his mother) promised a few days earlier, following very specific directions.

I spent a fair amount of money on the tank set-up and supplies, and I returned to PETCO out of loyalty to buy our fish. Instead of a friendly experience, we were shamed and more care was shown for the well-being of a two-inch fish than was shown for my child, and for me as a customer.

It’s unclear if this is a company policy or the actions of a misguided activist employee, but the damage done to my goodwill is substantial, and PETCO today lost our business.

A clarification as to PETCO’s policy would be appreciated. Do customers need to bring in photos of their aquarium and be vetted? Is there an application for purchasing a fish? Does one have to sign an affidavit promising to upgrade aquarium size? Based on this employee’s assessment of my son and I, we were discriminated against by PETCO.

Training for employees in customer service, particularly [redacted], is not only prudent, but clearly necessary, unless you wish you lose more customers.

Tracy M
Manassas, VA

p.s. Thankfully, we were able to find a local aquarium store where they were helpful, kind and delighted in selling us two small goldfish and additional supplies. Their employee also gave my son a lesson in caring for his new fish.

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