After losing 80 lbs., Heather Albert was thrilled to finally fit into Lululemon clothing.
The human resources manager from Las Vegas had dealt with polycystic ovarian syndrome for years, which made it difficult to lose weight — and postpartum depression following the birth of her son in 2011 made matters worse.
“Having been an athlete my entire life, it saddened me to think that I wasn’t able to do all of the things I wanted to do with and for my son and my family,” Albert, 35, tells PEOPLE.
So Albert slimmed down with a gastric sleeve, and “over a year of hard work, dedication and lots of yoga!”
Now that she can wear Lululemon — the athletic wear store didn’t carry her old size, a 22 — Albert started buying items secondhand, before she built up the confidence to go in person to the Park City, Utah location during a work trip.
“So much has changed since losing weight. I have more self-esteem, more self-confidence, and most importantly, I feel healthier overall,” she says. With that in mind, “I decided to channel my inner warrior and brave the retail store in Park City.”
But as Albert looked through the clothes, she overheard the sales associates whispering about her — the only customer, allegedly saying, “Do we even have anything in her size?” and giggling.
“I was humiliated,” Albert says. “I have been made fun of my entire life for my weight, so any time comments are made regarding my appearance or weight, I shut down. I felt ‘less than,’ and felt that I was not welcome in the store. Moreover, I felt that I didn’t have the right to be shopping there because I’m close to the upper end of their size ranges.”
“I was so embarrassed, I just paid for the two items I had in my hand and left the store as quickly as possible. I just wanted to be out of there.”
After Albert shared the story on Facebook, it spread quickly.
It’s not the first time Lululemon has come under fire. In Nov. 2013, founder Chip Wilson responded to complaints about their pants looking too sheer by saying “some women’s bodies just don’t actually work” for the clothing. He stepped down one month later.
Albert says she didn’t expect the publicity around the incident, and only wanted an apology — “which I’ve gotten many times over” — and retraining for employees. She added, though, that she likely won’t purchase Lululemon products directly in the future, only secondhand.
“I’d rather my money go to a company that is supportive of people of all sizes – such as Athleta, whose quality is on par with Lululemon but they also offer plus sizes so that their clothing is available to women of all shapes and sizes.”
PEOPLE reached out to Lululemon, who said they did not have a comment at this time.