A disabled shopper has slammed a high-street clothing retailer after a worker refused to allow her to use a staff toilet.
Mum-of-two Bianca Artwell, 30, from Rugby, lives with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), when she took back a pair of shoes for her three-year-old daughter at her local River Island store she needed to use the loo.
Artwell explained to the store manager she had to go to the toilet quickly and was unable to wait because of her medical condition.
But the worker told her she had to use the toilet at the cafe across the road because it was against staff policy.
Bianca couldn’t hold it in and wet herself before she was able to leave the store.
Instead of coming to her rescue, staff placed a ‘wet floor’ sign next to the mess whilst the area was cleaned.
Artwell explained her condition ‘can vary day by day’.
She told Hull Live: “On this particular day I felt quite independent with my aids-so I asked my friend to watch my daughter while I went into River Island using my crutches so I could swap some shoes I had bought.
“As I approached the till I knew instantly that my bladder retention was about to reverse and I needed to go urgently. I asked the ladies at the till if I could please discreetly use their toilet and explained I wouldn’t make it if I didn’t go immediately.
“They said no and said I needed to go to a coffee shop across the road. I pleaded again explaining I definitely wouldn’t make it there but they refused. I tried to at least make it outside but only got maybe a metre and a half away from the tills before my worst fears happened. My bladder let go.
“Stood in a pool of my own urine I turned to the three staff members on the till and explained I was really sorry but I had had an accident. They just stared at me and the manager who was getting ready to leave instructed them to put a wet floor sign down. I stood there frozen in complete horror. A staff member came up to me but instead of offering to help she just dropped the wet floor sign next to me and walked away. Stood in shock I assumed she must be coming back but instead she and her colleagues carried on their conversation. The manager even walked past me and shouted bye to her colleagues and just looked at me in my mess and left the premises.
“As other customers arrived, walking past me and my wet floor sign, it finally occurred that this was my problem and the staff weren’t going to help me in any way. No offer of going to a changing room, no offer of tissues, no offer of other clothing or even a, ‘are you okay?’.”
Embarrassed and in need of assistance Artwell phoned two of her friends who came to the store where they cleaned her up and took her to a nearby shop to buy new clothes, before she left the angry shopper pushed over a mannequin.
The rage was captured on CCTV and before she could leave Artwell was cornered by security.
“Frustration did take over - I couldn’t believe what had happened,” she said. “My friend expressed her concern to the manager that he nor any other staff had not helped in any way. His answer was, ‘well, it’s policy that toilets can't be used by the public’.”
“I've previously worked in retail for years and there are characteristics that are exempt from this such as, elderly, pregnant women, children and those with disabilities. Is it policy to further fail a customer after an accident like this by offering no compassion, no dignity or treating them like a human being? I've never in my life been treated in such a cold manner.
Left in the doorway of a shop with a sign directing people to look at the freak show, with no covering or support.
“It was like stepping into an alternate universe of robots with no emotion or basic understanding of disability or just human decency. They could see nothing wrong with their behaviour. I was looked at and treated like I was disgusting for what I did to their floor. My friends were looked at like they were overreacting with their disgust at how I was being handled. They simply couldn't understand why I was left outside barefoot, covered in wee, with no-one offering me any assistance.”
Fortunately she had a much better experience in New Look where she went to buy clean clothes.
After explaining what had happened the staff went “above and beyond” to help and offered her a discount.
“I had come so far and worked so hard to deal with being disabled, but I feel like this has put me right back to where I was. That is what has upset me the most. I genuinely felt safe in that shop because I go there a lot, I knew there were people there who would be able to help if anything happened. But they didn’t. I’ve been left traumatised by it, I just can’t stop thinking about standing there in my own urine.
“It’s made me not want to go out. At the moment I can’t think of anything worse than putting myself in a position where I’m that vulnerable again.”
A spokesman for River Island said: “Every one of our customers matters to us and we were sorry to hear of this customer’s experience in one of our stores. Our Head of Customer Care is already in direct communication with this customer and we are reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure that everyone feels welcome and cared for whenever they visit our stores.”
Bianca Artwell was diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder in October 2020.
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