Women told she is too fat to tan - then refused a refund


tanning bed

Kelly McGrevey turned to the press after receiving some shockingly poor service. She bought a month-long tanning package from Aloha Tanning in Norton, Ohio. She used an upright tanning machine on the first day. However, when she returned the next day it was broken, and the employee on duty said she could not use a tanning bed because she was too fat.

The story has now gone viral - revealing just how exposed one company's customer service can be.


McGrevey told her story to TV channel WKYC. She said the staff member had told her that the stand-up tanning machine was broken, and she fell foul of a new policy, in which anyone over 230 pounds could not tan on a bed.

She said she felt humiliated, and that she had been discriminated against because of her weight.

She then told reporters that she had asked for a refund of the $70 month-long tanning package she had bought from the salon, but the same staff member said they didn't give refunds. She asked to see a copy of the policy, but he refused. She then called police and filed a complaint.

While she waited for the manager to consider a refund, she decided to take matters into her own hands and go to the press.

The story was then re-told in newspapers and blogs around the world, and hit social media yesterday.

Your rights

Consumer rights vary across the world. If it had happened in the UK, then McGrevey would probably be within her rights to get a refund - it would depend on how long the tanning bed she could use was out of action.

She booked a month-long tanning package, and if it was broken for a significant period, then the failure of the equipment means she is not able to take advantage of it. That's a failure to deliver a reasonable service - which is covered by the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

If, however, the bed was only out of action for a day, then there's a chance that the salon could argue it delivered a 'reasonable' service. The humiliation she felt at being refused an alternative doesn't make any difference in law.

In any case she could apply direct to the company and the manager, quoting the relevant act, and asking for a refund. If this wasn't forthcoming, she could consider the small claims court - depending on how long she was unable to take advantage of the service for.

Service goes viral

Of course, there's a world of difference between meeting the minimum standards by law and good customer service. Given that she had used one day's worth of the service, and was mortified by the staff member's comments, the wise decision would be to give her the money back.

We know just how easy it is for bad service to go viral. There's the famous incident in 2008 when a musician had his guitar broken in transit with United Airlines, and after being refused compensation, he published a song 'United Breaks Guitars' on YouTube, and had a million views in four days.

Then there's the rude assistant at the up-market 'Gasp' boutique in Melbourne. After a shopper wrote to complain, the manager sent an insulting response, explaining that she should stop wasting the store's time, because she was not a 'fashion forward consumer' who would appreciate a 'retail superstar'. The email exchange trended on Twitter, and spawned a number of Facebook pages, including 'We Hate Gasp'.

And it's just as easy for good service to be shared thousands of times. There's the Ritz Carlton employee who found a toy giraffe left by a younger guest, and not only returned it, but also sent the child photos of the giraffe enjoying his extended stay at the hotel - in order to back up his father's excuse for the absence of the toy.

And who can forget the Sainsbury's staff member, who responded to a letter from a three-year old, who said the tiger bread looked more like giraffe bread. The staff member told her it was a brilliant idea and sent her a £3 gift card. The letter went viral, and prompted the supermarket to rename the bread.

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