Former Claire's Employee Claims the Store (& Parents) 'Forced' Staff To Restrain & Pierce Unwilling Kids

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claires ear pierce
MNStudio/iStock.com

A former Claire's employee is taking a stand after she claims she saw a flaw in company policy when it came to piercing the ears of underage kids. Raylene Marks from Edmonton, Canada, wrote an open letter to her former company, condemning it for making employees pierce the ears of children even if the child does not want to be pierced. She revealed that management of her store and allegedly other locations agreed employees must go through with piercings even if it means physically restraining the child to get the job done. Marks is taking a stand against the company with an open letter that has since gone viral online.

  • Marks said her job at Claire's started to bother her the more she saw children resisting getting their ears pierced.

    As she explained in an open letter to her former employer on Facebook on April 7, Marks used to work at the Edmonton, Alberta, location of a Claire's accessory store. The chain is somewhat known for doing on-site piercings, and to some it is a rite of passage to get your ears pierced at the kid-friendly locations. But as an employee, Marks revealed that the reality of piercing children is different than one might imagine. 

    She wrote that she never minded piercing kids who were excited to get their first pair of earrings and would try to put them at ease as best as she could, but it was the kids who clearly didn't want to be there that struck a chord.

    I had a couple 'gray area' piercings, though; piercings where the children resisted heavily, were pressured and intimidated by the parents into settling down, and the children weren't happy with what had happened even after the earrings were in place and the standard lollipop had been dispensed. I didn't feel good about those, and I started to wonder at what point the piercer and the parent are actually violating a child's personal boundaries.

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  • One alleged incident last week caused her to put in her two-week notice, after a 7-year-old cried and begged her mother not to get the piercing done.

    The girl and her mother had come to Claire's to get a "double" -- meaning that two piercers would be piercing at the same time. "It's reserved for nervous kids who might change their mind after the first earring goes in," she wrote. 

    But to the girl, it simply didn't matter. She did not want to get her ears pierced. "The girl pleaded and sobbed for thirty minutes not to be pierced," Marks wrote. "Despite Mom saying, 'Honey, we can go home whenever you want,' she was not letting her daughter go home."

    She added that the mom was putting a great deal of pressure on her daughter to go through with the procedure, and the child was showing clear signs that she was uncomfortable.

    This child was articulate, smart, and well aware of herself and her body. She expressed that she didn't want us touching her, that we were standing too close, that she was feeling uncomfortable. She made it clear she no longer wanted to get her ears pierced. She begged, over and over again, for Mom to please, just take her home.

    That child's message was loud and clear to me: Do not touch my body, do not pierce my ears, I do not want to be here.

    Marks eventually told the other piercer that she was assisting that she could not go through with it, and luckily the girl's mother agreed that it was best that they go home. But that wasn't the end of Marks's story. 

  • The next day she claims she was approached by a manager who was upset that she had refused to pierce the child. 

    Marks tried to explain to her manager that there was no way she could have pierced the girl, even if her mother had insisted that she do it, but she was met with alleged disapproval. "I was firmly told, 'You would have had no choice but to do it.'"

    "So if a mother is physically restraining her daughter, holding her down and saying, 'DO IT,' while that little girl cries and asks me not to, do I do the piercing?'" Marks asked her manager. "My manager did not hesitate to respond, 'Yes, you do the piercing.'" 

    It's a "company policy" that really rubbed Marks the wrong way. 

    Marks said her manager also claimed that other managers in the district agreed with her about Claire's piercing policy and even reached out to the district sales manager, who said that this policy was correct. 

    "Children can be held down and pierced. Children do not have a voice in the piercing process. The associate doing the piercing has no right to refuse to shoot metal through the ears of a child who begs not to be touched," Marks wrote.

    That made her decision about what to do next all the more clear. "I gave my notice that day."

  • Now Marks is publicly taking the company to task for forcing employees to pierce unwilling kids.

    To Marks, forcing kids to get their ears pierced is wrong and "helps facilitate situations where children can be traumatized or otherwise subject to forms of intimidation and abuse in-store." And if an employee refuses to go through with piercing a distressed child, that person gets pressured by the company via write-ups, verbal warnings, and even termination in some cases. 

    "I believe in upholding a child’s right to bodily integrity at all costs, and I will not be an adult that commits an indignity to a child," she wrote. "Kids who don’t want to endure the discomfort and pain of the procedure should not be forced to because a paying adult comes in, claims to be the legal guardian and insists upon the ear piercing."

    "I cannot be part of a company that teaches a child that their right to say, 'NO,' to invasive non-medical contact can be so easily overridden by an adult, and moreover, that they're supposed to accept that," she added. 

    "If you are a company that cares about kids, I implore you to consider changing this policy that blatantly ignores every child who vocally protests, cries, shows obvious signs of distress or is physically restrained by their alleged guardian while they sob and beg to be released," Marks wrote.

  • In an updated letter to her first post, Marks said a Claire's representative has reached out to her and agreed that the policy needs to be tweaked.

    In a post on Facebook on Thursday, Marks wrote that a representative of Claire's did reach out to her and agreed that she had been acting in accordance with company policy.

    "The representative claims that Policy 509 is in place to allow employees to refuse to pierce, 'distressed and resistant,' children, and that revisions will be made to the policy so it can't be misconstrued," she explained. "I was told the policy might be changed to reflect a right to refuse a piercing if the child is, 'distressed or resisting.'" But to Marks if a child is clearly in distress, then perhaps they are doing too little, too late. 

    "I encouraged the representative to include language that allows the employee to refuse a piercing for a child who simply says, 'No, I don't want my ears pierced,'" she wrote. "I don't think it should have to get to the point where a child is emotionally distressed or physically resistant for their wishes to be respected." She added that she has yet to hear from Claire's since their conversation. 

    "At this time, there is no legislation in place to protect a minor who does not consent to an ear piercing. It is, to my knowledge, uncharted territory," she wrote. 

    That is why she still urged parents to put pressure on Claire's to make some major reforms. "I am grateful and pleased that Claire's has responded to me and seems willing to amend policies to integrate child consent," she wrote. "I hope for follow-through on these intentions to create change within the company, and will hold them to it. I hope you will, too."

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