Party City Employee Accused of Refusing to Sell Balloons for Police Memorial

A viral Facebook post reported that a Party City employee refused to sell balloons after leaning they were to be used in conjunction with a police officer's memorial service.

Published Oct 5, 2016

On 1 October 2016 Facebook user Karly Lane published a post to the Party City retail chain's Facebook page, claiming that an employee of a Party City location near Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania, had refused to serve her when she disclosed that the balloons she was purchasing were for a policeman's memorial service:

[On 1 October 2016] I went to one of your stores to pick up a dozen blue and black balloons to set free as a memory of Our friends one month, as I stand in line I tell the young girl I need a dozen blue and black balloons and she goes on to ask what they were for very nicely and I explain we had lost a very good friend and police officer one month ago and we were setting them free, she then changed her attitude and told me she needed to get someone else to wait on me because she refused to support a police office. My heart was broken. It such a shame we have people like that working with the public. ???

Lane wrote that the employee didn't refuse to allow the transaction but declined to handle it herself and arranged for a co-worker to complete the sale.

Later the same day, Party City officially responded in a comment on the popular post:

Hi, Karly Lane. We're deeply sorry about your experience and we would like to look into this. Please private message us with your phone number and email address so a representative can contact you. We are always looking to improve our customer service and appreciate you reaching out to us.

Lane's post became so popular that CNN reported on the controversy, noting that the balloons were for a service honoring Robert Gogo, Jr. (who died in an off-duty motorcycle accident):

Once the worker discovered the balloons were to honor a police officer, Lane said, the worker had someone else wait on her.

Lane complained on her personal Facebook. As of [3 October 2016] afternoon, her post had nearly 1,000 shares.

"My heart was broken," Lane wrote.

Party City responded that they "absolutely do not condone this type of behavior and are taking the situation very seriously."

Party City said it is conducting an internal investigation and holding "an immediate sensitivity training and code of conduct refresher."

Although the original complaint attracted a lot of attention and ongoing boycott threats, Lane shared a second post (without updating the first one) about her subsequent interactions with Party City:

So I've been working very closely everyday with party city since [1 October 2016]. And I've have received TONS of questions as to what they are doing to make this better. I talked to their Chief operating officer of the company yesterday. He informed me of some of the amazing actions they are taking. 1. being they have their company HR at the store doing refresher training classes 2. They are making a donation in Robert Gogos name to the Duquesne police department 3. They are making ANOTHER donation to the city of Duquesne police department in Party city's name. ? as bad as the situation took off, they are very concerned and are doing whatever it takes to make this right! I must say I'm very happy about the donations being made so close to home. ??

The angry comments shared to Party City's page on 5 October 2016 made it appear many shoppers did not know that the store had attended to Lane immediately (and made two separate donations to police organizations).

As to whether events transpired exactly as reported in Lane's original Facebook post, we contacted Party City to ask whether they confirmed that Lane had indeed been refused service specifically because she was purchasing balloons for a police officer's memorial service. A representative for the chain responded and stated that Lane "claimed" to have been refused service, that an internal investigation was ongoing, and that any employee found in violation of their code of conduct would be terminated:

Party City is extremely concerned regarding a recent situation where one of our valued customers claims to have been denied service. We absolutely do not condone this type of behavior and are taking the situation very seriously. An internal investigation into the allegation is currently underway and an immediate sensitivity training and code-of-conduct refresher is being held. Appropriate disciplinary action will take place for any employee who violates our code-of-conduct.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.