Teen Accuses rue21 of Weight Discrimination, Sparks Online Backlash

Elise Solé, Shine Staff

An Oregon teen’s claim —  that she was thrown out of women's clothing store rue21 because of her size — has triggered a public outcry against the fashion retailer. 

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On Saturday, Shelby Buster, 14, was walking through the Valley River Center Mall in Eugene with her mother, Marjory Buster, and a friend named Jennica. Excited to shop without her mom for the first time ever, she went with Jennica to rue21, where she had a rude surprise.

“I walked in and the lady at the front counter said, 'Hey, you’re too big to be in this store, I need you to leave,'” Shelby told Oregon news station KEZI on Sunday. When her mother arrived and learned of the incident, a store clerk allegedly apologized to the family.

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But an apology wasn’t enough. After leaving the mall, Shelby updated her Facebook page, stating: “Well, happy birthday to me! The rue21 in Eugene, Oregon told me I was too fat and told me to leave the store! I can’t believe it! Thanks for ruining my birthday, rue21!” Marjory Buster also contacted KEZI with the story.

She told Yahoo Shine in a voice mail: "We are not at liberty to comment. Maybe when the situation gets more resolved, we can talk."

The district manager at rue21 told KEZI that the store planned to analyze security footage from Saturday to resolve the matter. A store spokesperson declined to comment to Yahoo Shine. However, on Tuesday night, the fashion retailer updated its Facebook page with the following message:

"At rue21 we value diversity and welcome all customers in our stores. We intensely train our associates on our anti-discrimination policies, and we offer a variety of apparel trends and sizes, as well as accessories, footwear, and fragrances in our 966 stores nationwide. We are currently investigating the claims of Ms. Buster, including conducting interviews with store associates and other witnesses who were present at the time of alleged incident. The alleged behavior, if true, would be absolutely unacceptable and contrary to company policy. We deeply regret any misunderstanding that may have occurred."

Shelby's claims have sparked outrage online and many have vowed to boycott rue21. On the company Facebook page, Elaine Stanford wrote, “Seriously? This is not a misunderstanding. While it’s nice to see the company apologize, to call it a misunderstanding totally takes the sincerity away. What are you offering this family?” And Tanya Zdraveyska wrote, “That's a horrible thing to say to anyone let alone say it to a 14 year old. Hope that worker gets fired. This story just hit Australia. Disgusting Rue 21.”

The store did have some defenders — Trina Eddinger Loesche wrote, “Give them time to look into the matter. Things don’t happen overnight.” And an employee, Haley Harter, defended her company by writing that the store carries a diverse range of sizes. She wrote, “As an employee of rue21, I have to say, my store does NOT discriminate … We also carry 'curvy' jeans so it's easier for people to find the style that fits their body type better.”  

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