Contrary to what a Giant Eagle spokesman claimed last week, the decision to lock down the store in Montrose during a tornado warning April 14 was not a one-time aberration engineered by one wayward employee.

Five readers contacted me in the wake of that claim and said they had experienced exactly the same thing at five other Giant Eagles.

The subject arose because Canal Fulton resident Cathy Russell was stopped at the front door in Montrose and told she couldn't come in because the store was on lockdown. She was flabbergasted.

“If you're outside and there's a tornado coming and they won't let you in, somebody could die,” she said.

After Giant Eagle insisted she experienced a one-time blunder, reader Shawna Alexander-Hardy sent this email:

“I read your article about Giant Eagle not allowing customers in during the tornado warning. I live in Alliance and they did the same thing here!

“There were four people standing inside the entrance turning people away as the sirens were blaring. The statement provided by the Giant Eagle rep is a joke. All of their employees are trained to lock the door and turn customers seeking shelter away.

“I laughed as I read that statement. It is ridiculous! Two stores in two different locations saying the lockdown is protocol and policy is no coincidence."

Barberton resident Mimi Teets said she encountered the same thing at the Giant Eagle on the east side of Fairlawn.

“My sister and I were in Fairlawn at that same time and they had the same policy there.

“We just slid through as the last customers to get in. After us there were about 10 people standing there behind us because a team member didn't let anybody in and said, 'That is our policy. We can't let anybody in.' And they had to go back into the parking lot and into danger.”

Teets said she confronted five or six employees inside and said, 'What's the matter with you guys?' and they said, 'Well, that's all policy. That's all policy.'

“I'm upset about that because [the Giant Eagle spokesman] gave you the wrong impression and all of us the wrong impression.”

Jessica Munich wrote this on our Facebook page: “Similar things happened to us Sunday at the Streetsboro Giant Eagle. We left and went to Acme. No problem there at all.”

Nor is this practice a recent development, according to two other readers.

Wadsworth resident David Hudson told me the same thing happened at his Giant Eagle during a tornado warning a couple of years ago.

“They wouldn't let anyone in or out. I always wondered about the legality of it.”

And Kara Glass said on Facebook, “The Giant Eagle in Barberton did that a few years ago. They wouldn't let anyone in after the sirens went off.”

When Giant Eagle was asked last week about the Montrose incident, the official written response from spokesman Dan Donovan was this:

“During weather emergencies such as tornado warnings, Giant Eagle store teams are trained to welcome all those seeking immediate shelter into a designated safe location within our stores.

“We learned that for a very short time during [the] warning one of our Montrose Giant Eagle Team Members was unaware of our policy and, with the best of intentions for those in the building at the time, mistakenly locked the store’s entrance."

So, Mr. Donovan, would you care to revise your answer?

After a prolonged "background" conversation about who may or may not be telling the truth, Donovan sent this written response:

"As we shared previously, we train our Team Members to welcome all those seeking immediate shelter into a designated safe location within our stores. If any person attempting to enter one of our stores during this month’s tornado warning had difficulty, that is not consistent with the policies we have in place and is wholly unacceptable.

"Since the initial warning event, we have taken steps to clarify our policy related to unique weather occurrences such as this, and have communicated with our store teams throughout Northeast Ohio."

Let's hope so.

 

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31