By Diane Herbst @DianeHerbst
In retail speak, it’s called a “divorce letter.”
But to the Wisconsin woman who received the letter banning her from buying anything from her favorite store – either retail or online – it’s an outrage.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Amy Thompson, who first told her story to Madison, Wisconsin, NBC affiliate WMTV, tells PEOPLE. “It’s not right what they are doing.”
The split between Wisconsin’s Thompson and Victoria’s Secret is a particularly nasty one, culminating earlier this year with a Madison, Wisconsin court finding Thompson guilty of a disorderly persons charge after the 41-year-old allegedly cursed and threatened to “batter” a Victoria’s Secret employee after she refused Thompson’s coupons, according to a police report obtained by PEOPLE.
Victoria’s Secret also claims Thompson has made over $7,000 in returns, has used fraudulent coupons to buy merchandise, and has resold almost $200,000 worth of merchandise on eBay, according to documents obtained by PEOPLE.
“We acknowledge that Thompson was sent a divorce letter based on her frequent merchandise returns, approximately 65 returns and $7,637 through February of 2014,” Kevin McAlister of L BRANDS wrote on Feb. 25 2015. “Such letters are sent to customers that despite our best efforts we cannot satisfy.”
A spokesperson for L BRANDS, which owns Victoria’s Secret, declined to comment other than to say Thompson is not allowed to shop in any Victoria’s Secret stores in the country.
Thompson insists she has done nothing wrong.
She says Victoria’s Secret won’t accept legitimate coupons from her, she is allowed to resell, the returns Victoria’s Secret says she’s made are overblown, and the allegations in the police report are false (although a court found her guilty of the disorderly persons charge on June 3).
And those fake coupons? She says they were bought from reputable people.
“I want to expose awareness,” Thompson, who did not want her image shown or where she lives revealed, tells PEOPLE. “I want people to know they have consumer rights.”
One retail expert says Thompson’s case, while unusually heated, is not all that unusual.
“This is an extreme case, but companies are doing this all the time,’ ” Peter Fader, PhD, a retail expert, professor at The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania and author of Customer Centricity, tells PEOPLE.
“This is the first time I’ve seen that word used in this context, although I am not sure the alternative words are any better,” he says. “What I usually see is firing your customers. They’re both really bad.”
A Relationship Turns Toxic
Thompson has been an avid Victoria’s Secret customer for well over a decade and loves the brand. So it came as a shock while shopping at her favorite Victoria’s Secret in Madison, Wisconsin’s West Towne Mall that an employee handed her the “divorce” letter in March 2014.
“Your large returns are disruptive of business,” it states. “As a result, we will not accept future purchases, returns, or exchanges from you and we ask that you not visit any of our stores in the future.”
The letter was signed by a loss prevention specialist.
Says Thompson: “I said to the manager, ‘I didn’t steal anything.’ She said ‘They told me I was no longer allowed to talk to you anymore.’ ”
That same day Thompson contacted Victoria’s Secret parent company, L BRANDS, and threatened to sue them if she didn’t get an apology letter. The following month the company rescinded the letter invited Thomson to shop with the company again, and gave her a $75 gift certificate.
The reconciliation didn’t last long.
In September she was banned from her local store because she had “unusual requests and demands,” including asking the store manager to call her when new merchandise arrived, and frequently calling the store and harassing employees, Kevin McAlister of L BRANDS later wrote in an email to state officials investigating a complaint against them filed by Thompson.
On January 8, Thompson filed the complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), for “demonstrating unfair and deceptive business practices,” according to a copy of the complaint.
One week later, police were called after she was forced to leave West Towne Mall’s Victoria’s Secret.
A sales associate would not allow her to use what she said was an expired coupon, according to a police report, so Thompson cursed at her, calling her a ‘b—‘ and ‘c—‘ and pointed her finger in the associate’s face, saying, “You better watch it. I know when you get off work.”
Thompson was removed from the store and later charged with disorderly conduct after admitting to police she called the sales associate “a condescending b—,” the police report states.
Thompson, however, denies she cursed at anyone or that she was removed from the store.
In February, the state closed its investigation, saying “the two parties were unable to come to a resolution,” DATCP spokesman Jerad Albracht said in an email to PEOPLE.
And in June, a judge found Thompson guilty of disorderly conduct and ordered her to pay a $187 fine and, according to an L BRANDS spokesperson, was banned from their stores all over the country.
But Thompson refuses to give up. Earlier this month she wrote a long letter to the DATCP responding to L Brands’ allegations against her.
“They are going above and beyond to get me out of there,” she says. “People don’t know this is wrong.”