Dear Mr. H****:
I am contacting you to share my thoughts on my son's first, and last, visit to Build-A-Bear Workshop earlier today and I hope that you will carefully consider how to proceed upon learning the particulars of our experience.
When we arrived at the workshop around 12:30 PM today, it was all a little confusing, but we figured out the basics pretty quickly. It is important to note that my son is eight years old and has Autism. It was a little overwhelming for him so we were taking our time and asking as many questions as we could before doing ANYTHING so we would be able to smoothly transition through every part of the process of building our bear. It's important for some Autistic people of any age to have a predetermined process for completing a task otherwise the transitions can have a very jarring effect on their thought processes. Our first contact with an employee while trying to learn this process was with M*****. I found M***** to be very abrasive just observing her behavior toward other customers before even speaking to her. We asked her several questions that she grudgingly answered, each time making an attempt to walk away from us and giving many verbal and physical cues that she was annoyed by us; these included eye-rolling, sighing and responding to questions in a breathy, exasperated manner. After having her turn her back on me while I was asking a question, I decided to simply ask another employee.
When we were ready to have our bear stuffed, we got in line behind several other customers. I didn't see, or apparently hear, M***** who was sitting on the opposite end of the stuffing machine calling us over since no one was waiting there. I only realized she was speaking to me when I heard her yelling, in a very irritated tone of voice, that she could take care of us on the opposite end of the machine. I didn't want to go over there, but I did and things predictably fell apart right away.
M***** started absolutely DRILLING my son over his name and she did so in a manner that was very unfriendly and impatient. He thought she wanted the name he'd decided to give his bear and got very quickly confused by her firing off the question so many times in rapid succession, leaving less than a second for him to respond each time ('What's your name? What's your name? What's YOUR NAME???'). It was at this point that I informed her that she was dealing with a child with Autism and that if she wanted him to answer her he needed to be allowed to process the question without being intimidated. In fact, he was intimidated by being spoken to in this manner, so much so that he was actually afraid to respond to her and looked to me to provide the answer. Again, she rolled her eyes at my child and said, "It's just your name!" She didn't need to add the word, “stupid” to the end of her sentence. It was more than clearly implied. It was at this point that I told her that I didn't like her attitude one bit and that if she wanted the transaction to continue without consequence she needed to tone it down. M***** opted not to respond to the admonishment so I asked her to verify for me that she had heard what I said and that I had made myself clear. She responded that I had, but did so in her signature nasty tone of voice and it became apparent that I was never going to get through to her. I asked to speak to a manager, relayed the details of the interaction with M***** and requested that someone else assist us in building our bear.
It is my opinion that M***** dislikes working with the public, particularly with children, and that she is extremely intolerant of children with special needs. Even when she was made aware of my son's condition, she refused to adjust her attitude one iota or put forth any effort to make him feel more comfortable. For this reason I am recommending that she be terminated. It would serve her well to find employment more suited to her personality or that which, at very least, doesn't amplify the negative parts of it to such a degree. I am also recommending that your company implement a training program that teaches employees how to deal with children with special needs. This employee was disrespectful to me and she all but called my child an idiot. The former can be explained by any number of circumstances. I'm aware that we all have bad days once in a while. The latter, however, is evidence of a certain underlying intolerance which I find to be completely unacceptable and certainly unworthy of continued employment. She was made aware of my son's condition and instead of taking that as a cue to ease up a bit or ask questions about how to proceed with him, she used the knowledge to form a prejudicial opinion of my child and deal with him in accordance with that prejudice.
I would appreciate a swift, personal response to my concerns and I would also hope that you would take my recommendation under careful advisement. I am sending copies of this letter to several Autism charities, including – but not limited to – Autism Speaks, the nation's largest and most well-recognized Autism research organization. Copies will also be made available on several of my blogs and web sites for parents of Autistic children so they can consider whether or not they wish to spend money with a business that allows this kind of intolerance to go on in clear view of other customers and co-workers. If you choose to do nothing, it will serve as validation and empowerment to M***** and to other employees who might be prone to the same kind of unacceptable behavior and it will force me to seek a solution from persons above you in the corporation.
Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my concerns. If you have any questions that remain unanswered in this letter, you may feel free to contact me by phone or e-mail using the information listed below.
(but I'm not listing it here, of course...)