Retailer in Hot Water

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Retailer in Hot Water

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A Centreville, Ala., woman who says she was spied on in the restroom of a Buddy's Food Mart has sued the convenience store's parent company and one of its employees.

Donna Skaggs alleges in her complaint that possibly thousands of customers who used the restroom at the c-store in Tuscaloosa were spied on through a peephole by Buddy's area supervisor Jay Smith, according to a report in The Tuscaloosa News. The complaint says Smith spied on people through holes drilled in the walls of a utility closet at the Buddy's store.

Skaggs claims the holes gave him an unobstructed view of the toilet in the unisex restroom. The lawsuit was brought against Smith and Kuykendall & Powell Oil Co. Inc., which is the company that runs 12 Buddy's convenience stores.

Smith and Kuykendall deny Skaggs' allegations, the report said.

According to her complaint, Skaggs was a regular customer at Buddy's and knew people working at the store. She claims that toward the end of February 2000 she noticed Smith coming out of a utility closet at the same time she was coming out of the restroom.

"She asked the store manager ? why Smith spent so much time in that closet," the complaint states. "[The manager] said, 'He's watching for shoplifters.'"

Two months later, Skaggs claims an employee quit his job with Buddy's after taking a complaint from a customer about the alleged spying. The complaint alleges the employee went to other Buddy's stores and found peepholes in utility closets there, too, and then talked to management.

The complaint says the employee went to the chain's owner, Buddy Powell, and told him what he had discovered, and that Powell allegedly responded, "Jay has to get his kicks somehow!' " Powell could not be reached for comment, the report said.

Skaggs claims that the holes are only visible to people who know where to look for them in the restroom.

The lawsuit was filed in February as a class action on behalf of all customers of Buddy's who used the restrooms at the store. It accuses the defendants of invasion of privacy and outrageous conduct. It seeks an injunction to stop the alleged practice, and also compensation for embarrassment, as well as punitive relief.

A trial is scheduled to begin June 10.