A friend and I went to visit the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem one afternoon, and of course nobody needs to have their feet trapped in footwear for just slowly strolling around in a well-maintained building.  As we walked in, a greeter-flunky said to me "Uh, they're not likely to let you in without shoes", but let me by when I assured him I was okay and would wait to see what we encountered at the tickets desk.

Which resulted in a long and rather upsetting conversation with the security people at said desk, including a call to the supervisor where they even passed the phone to me so I could discuss the matter directly.  No joy; they wouldn't budge on denying admittance until I presented some sort of footwear.  They were actually rather rude about it, and clearly just wanted me off the premises if I wasn't going to "conform".  Typical rent-a-cop mindset, where arbitrary bullying is okay.

I had to slog all the way back out to the parking deck for a pair of china flats, but that satisfied them and I was finally able to enter the museum and shuffle uncomfortably around the exhibits.  This was a total waste of over 20 minutes and a certain amount of emotional stress, trying to negotiate with these people and convince them that there was no risk or liability involved in letting me alone.



It was especially ironic since they've certainly had barefoot people in the buildings before -- here's a still from the museum's own Youtube channel, when they augmented an exhibit by hiring in a troupe of professional dancers to perform among the sculptures -- all happily barefoot, not a problem.  They certainly didn't kick the kid out or insist that she have footwear either; quite the contrary, they loved the encounter all the way up to the director level.

So the next available business day I called the museum's management to complain about how I was treated, gave all the details and pointers to some web resources, which led to the following email chain from the "visitor experience" director or whatever.  I found his offer for ticket refund rather disingenuous, as it was clear he still wasn't understanding the problem.  Aside from that, despite all the clarification and hard logic, the ultimate answer was still "no".

I wonder how the folks at BoSoma would feel about it.

screenshot from 'Tiny Dancer'

Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2017 13:29:54 -0400
From: Craig Tuminaro <craig_tuminaro@pem.org>

Tiffany Yee contacted me regarding the your phone call today and the
concerns you expressed regarding your visit.  First, let me thank you for
taking the time to relate the circumstances of your visit.  We take
feedback from guests under great consideration and are always looking for
ways to improve.  In that vein, let me offer you an apology that you felt
discriminated against because of the interaction you had with our security
personnel.  After speaking with several staff members who were here that
day, it is clear the interaction could have been handled better and the
communication made clearer.

The Guest Experience Representative you first encountered, who indicated
that our security team might ask you to put on shoes, should have either
told you directly that, due to liability reasons, as policy we cannot allow
guests to visit the museum without footwear, or directed you immediately to
the Coat Room, where a Security Officer could have explained that policy in
greater detail.  Instead, you and your companion went through the admission
line, which perhaps inadvertently communicated to you that we do allow
guests to explore the museum barefoot.

 From the conversations I had, it also appears that the interaction you did
have with security personnel could have been more positive in its tone.  We
will be following up with those individuals to work with them on ways to
ensure more positive communication with guests.  Nevertheless, I understand
that an exception was made and you were granted access to the museum.
Because that interaction cast your time with us in an unfortunately
negative tone, I would be happy to offer you a refund for the amount you
paid for admission.  In order to do so, I would only need the amount you
paid and your full name and an address to send the refund.

I do regret that the museum's policies were not made clearer and that the
resulting confusion and interactions made your time with us

With regard,

*Craig Tuminaro*
Director of Guest Experience

Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2017 15:00:20 -0500
From: *Hobbit*

Thank you for replying so quickly and comprehensively.  Hopefully you
found the indicated website informational.  You may discover that
the lifestyle choice is becoming more popular and desirable as
knowledge and confidence about it reaches more people.  And that
the typical negative perceptions and excuses are all groundless.

PEM actually does not bear any liability to a patron's feet, under
any circumstances I could think of.  If you look at the law around
premises liability and duty-of-care, the most you might feel compelled
to do would be warn a patron that hazards might be present, and you
are 100% covered.  If they walked into the building that way, they
clearly and provably accepted all risk from their actions and are
fine with it.  In addition, a public accomodation in Massachusetts is
under significant legal obligations to not discriminate for any reason.

Please check with your legal cousel if convenient; I believe you can
get reassurance that welcoming shoeless patrons does not impact your
operations whatsoever.  In fact, as I proceeded through the exhibits
I regretted not being able to experience the different surfaces and
textures under me, as they all appear to be meticulously maintained.
If it's any reassurance, I go hiking and climb mountains without
footwear and had just come out of the parking deck across the street,
over all the small sharp gravel scattered around there.  By contrast,
your exhibit floors are a far more benign environment.

Clarification -- Security did not make any exception for me, I had a
pair of cheezy shoes in my pocket which I often carry for just such
confrontations with people who will not see reason.  Once I put them
on, Tina and her associates seemed happy to let me in.  Before that,
she was absolutely adamant but I thought I could see just the barest
glimmer of understanding under what she kept telling me.

Don't worry about refunds or the like --  my companion had brought
along discount vouchers from a local library, so the financial
impact was negligible.  The emotional one, however, was not -- try
to imagine how you felt back in the day when you saw the class
bully heading straight at you and knew your day was about to take
rather a downward turn.  No hope of reasonable discussion for an
agreeable outcome.  That's what it feels like to be discriminated
against, especially over such a petty and harmless matter, and it
did diminish my ability to appreciate the exhibits in an immersive
way.  I still enjoyed the day, albeit with my comfort somewhat marred,
and please rest assured that I was quite impressed with the facility,
the variety and quality of its contents, and the presentations.

Thank you for understanding, and I hope your public policies can
change for the better.  The "Guidelines" page on outbarefoot.org may
be a useful reference.  When visitors select where to go among the
whirlwind of things to see in Salem, or when potential donors are
considering their philanthropic options, aspects like this can make
a difference.



_H*   170704   [or thereabouts, actually written much later]

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