A Dick Move Follow Up: Stew Leonard’s

Posted on
Jun 15, 2010

A few of you might remember my experience at Stew Leonard’s a while back: one of the employees freaked out when I tried to take a photo of the inside of their store, which I felt merited a Dick Move! post. Apparently photos are not allowed inside of their stores.

Which, I’m sure, is why there are roughly 500 photos of the inside of Stew Leonard’s on Flickr.

This put me in a rather foul mood – besides which, I wasn’t really clear on whether or not I could take photos inside of the store. So I sent a complaint email to the company via their website. Shockingly, they replied. And then I replied back. And they replied again.

I was going to include the entire exchange in this post, but it bored even me, and I’m an active participant in the whole thing. I consequently figured it would put the rest of you in a mild coma. And I don’t want to be responsible for that. Instead, I’ve decided to divide the whole thing into six brief chapters.

Chapter I:

My husband and I are yelled at for trying to take photos inside of Stew Leonard’s. I declare this a Dick Move! As I have a rebellious streak that rivals that of a 12-year-old honor student, I also proceed to take numerous surreptitious photos.

Chapter II:

Upon returning home, I send a semi-moronic complaint email to Stew Leonard’s. I conclude with the following phrase, for which I am somewhat embarrassed to take credit:

… Stew Leonard’s is not, by any means, the Disneyland of Dairy. How could it be? In Disneyland, you can take photos.

Spelling and grammar are not priorities, as I assume the letter will never receive a response.

A few weeks later, I am proved wrong.

Chapter III:

A lovely gal by the name of Eileen (last name withheld), who signed her email with “Assistant to the President” replies to my note. She agrees that the employee who yelled at me was rude, and his behavior was inappropriate. She also explains that photos in Stew Leonard’s are, in fact, prohibited, and photos can only be taken “at the rock or with the costumed characters.”

I’ve used the following photo and caption before on the site, but since Eileen specifically mentions the rock, it seems only right to include it again:

What if the customer wants to take photos? WHAT THEN?

What if the customer wants to take photos? WHAT THEN?

Chapter IV:

Not wishing to let sleeping dairy cows lie, I reply to Eileen and explain to her that I think Stew Leonard’s no-photo policy is a big mistake. I note that travel writers (of which I claim I am one – what? I can pretend to be legit. It’s the internet. Everyone’s legit) can’t adequately convey the “Stew Leonard’s experience” without photos. And I note that there are thousands of photos of the store online (yes, I even send her that link).

I conclude with this:

I strongly hope, given that Stew Leonard’s “no-photo” policy seems arbitrary, unenforceable, and counter-intuitive, you will reconsider it in future years. In the meantime, I am sure that countless travel writers will be unable to write glowing reviews of Stew Leonard’s for this exact reason, and that is a loss for everyone involved.

And yes, I am fully aware of how obnoxious I sound.

Chapter V:

I believe I’m broken poor Eileen’s spirit. She’s probably a wholesome, freckled girl who was an over-achiever in school. The type who got excited about science projects and who remembered to send thank-you notes after birthday parties. She’s not used to dealing with long-winded crazies.

Her final reply to me is a short one:

Hi Geraldine,

Thanks for your kind words about our store.  If you would ever like a tour here, I would be happy to set it up for you.

Have a great weekend!

Best regards,


Chapter VI:

I consider writing back to Eileen once more …

I’d love a tour! I can take pictures during it, right?

But it just seems so, so mean. I decide against it, and instead go eat a hunk of cheese, because all this talk of dairy has made me hungry.

The End.


Leave a Comment

  • I’m pretty sure if you tip her last letter on it’s side, it looks like a hand giving you the finger.

    Well played “Eileen.”

    • Everywhereist

      Philip – How dare you question Eileen’s integrity? She’s a powerful woman (assistant to the president of the Disneyland of dairy). I suggest you don’t cross her.

  • Damn you Philip! I just can’t compete with your rapier wit.

    I can’t help imagining the conversation between Eileen and her moronic boss:

    Eileen: Oh my god, she’s a travel writer! A TRAVEL WRITER!

    Moron: Good lord! What do we do now??

    Eileen: I don’t know! Let me think! Wait – what if we offer her a tour?

    Moron: Oooh that’s good! Yes! Make sure she knows it’s complimentary! THAT will make her like us again for sure!

    Ok maybe it wasn’t exactly like that, but that’s how I like to think it went anyway.

  • So let me get this straight…if someone thinks your store is so cool they want to take pictures and show their friends (who might then shop there too), YOU WANT TO STOP THAT?

    ESPECIALLY if they have a much-larger-than-family audience of readers paying attention?

    I think I know at which end of the dairy cow they found their marketing person!

    • Everywhereist

      Ben’s Daddy (btw, I’m calling you that in real life) – I know. These people are nuts.

      “Free publicity? SCREW THAT!”

      • Montecristo Travels

        I have seen this problem in other places as well – I DO NOT get it. I was at a gorgeous castle in France a little while ago and they had a NO PHOTO policy. I went online and sure enough there are NO photos of this place *gasp* How the heck do they think they will attract people? I had no idea how to go about writing a post on our blog for this small obscure chateau – after all there really are only so many ways to describe a castle – you need visuals!… so … well …. we didn’t. So your threat – is actually very real. No photos, no blog post, no publicity. WHY would anyone think that is a good idea? Put that on my list of things I don’t understand.

  • Everywhereist

    Trisha – I have no doubt they would try to charge me for the tour. No doubt at all. 🙂

  • Frank

    Alot of retailers have a no photos policy.
    Retail concepts (especially unique ones like Stew Leonard’s) are gold, and with a small chain like theirs they have to fight to keep others from ripping it off.
    Other companies don’t really love you pricing comping or focusing on some specific deal they’re offering.

    I know bloggers love to think that all publicity is good publicity and that they should photograph the world for their readers, but Stew Leonard’s is a company that isn’t all that focused on growth, and really would prefer a bit of secrecy to “free publicity” (word of mouth is good enough).

    Obviously they can’t stop everyone, but if they see someone openly taking pictures, it’s what they do.

    (They’re a really good retailer by the way… alot of best practices for the industry)

    • Everywhereist

      Frank – I don’t think that all publicity is good publicity – but I do think that a blogger doing a specific post about a store, including lots of photos and describing and a great experience IS good publicity, and Stew Leonard’s has deprived themselves of that.

      Besides, I think that the no-photo policy is not going to deter anyone with sinister goals. If you want to rip off a company’s concept, you can do so whether or not you have photos. Because, to be fair, if it’s a display in your store, it’s hardly secret.

      I have a sneaking suspicion that this has more to do with their past tax evasion – I bet a lot of lawyers and investigators took photos of the inside of the store (posing as tourists) and it’s made them paranoid.

      • Montecristo Travels

        In a world where cell phones have cameras and the GoPro can take video without anyone knowing … it is a silly policy. If you want to rip off a concept … ummm you go visit in person.

  • Please send that last email

  • Former Employee

    As a former employee of Stew’s, I know that what was told to you is most definitely a lie. People are constantly taking photos of the inside of the building, especially during their tours. Also, adjacent to the registers there are a multitude of photos gracing their boards from people around the world that include photos from within the store.

    Don’t think anything of their employees. They lie to everyone, even their own employees.

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