Hirshfield's is painting Edina makeup queen Carroll Britton in an unflattering light.

The Twin Cities paint and decorating chain sent Britton two letters about her behavior in the Edina store in February. "Hirshfield's policies strictly prohibit harassing or offensive behavior directed to its employees and customers," wrote human resources manager Eva Quist in an April 4 letter. The letter noted that the company reserved the right to ask Britton to leave if there were "additional complaints."

When I asked my frequent source what she did to make Hirshfield's write her off, Britton said she did what she usually does with a cute male employee. "I'm always joking and jovial," she said. "I'm an older woman; I'm a cougar when I see a cute young guy. I remember commenting he had beautiful eyelashes. I'm gushing. I'm certainly complimentary. I'm not doing anything that would be not a nice thing to say. I'm naturally flirtatious."

Britton said she did not realize she was offending anyone at the time. "I don't ever recall anybody doing anything but laughing with me," Britton said. "I think if you are offended by something, you own it and you say, I'm sorry, that's not funny to me."

Lots of Minnesotans avoid such confrontation.

In the second letter dated April 14, Quist told Britton that the offended employee wanted a letter of apology, which should be mailed by April 25.

"What happened to the customer always being right?" joked Britton, who has taken to calling the company "Hirshfield's paint and punishment." While she sees some humor in it now, she sobbed as she noted that the letters upset her.

In an interview, Quist indicated that the letters might not have been sent had Britton returned phone calls. "She's not at all banned from the store," Quist said. "But her behavior and the verbiage she has used in front of our employees is unacceptable behavior according to our harassment policies. We have two witnesses. One of them was the one who the verbal communication and physical contact were made to."

Physical contact? "There was according to my employees," Quist said. TOUCHING? "Not touching," Quist said. "Inappropriately leaned on both of the male employees. I do not want this to be a formal interview. ... I would like to do this face to face." Later when I called Quist, as she had requested, she said: "The company has absolutely no comment."

I talked to the offended employee, too. He declined to tell me if he is considering a suit against Hirshfield's or Britton. "You don't have the right to call me without my attorney right next to me. I am not saying one damn thing to you," he said. "I don't know who you are. And I'm not giving out any information about what happened."

When I asked Britton if her lawyer was aware of this, she said, "Of course," after "the second registered letter."

A 'most extreme' case

I read the Hirshfield's letters to Jessica Roe, an employment defense lawyer and partner at Bernick and Lifson, to get a legal take on the matter.

"What are they going to do, come strip the paint off this person's house if they don't get an apology?" Roe said. "It's an internal issue that Hirshfield's should be handling." Only in the "most extreme of circumstances" should the customer have been contacted, said Roe, who has been practicing 14 years. "It's very bad customer service."

An unfiltered opinion

This'll put a cap on your desire for tap water.

A Restaurant Staffer [RS] called with an explanation for this quote on page 8 of the April 16 issue of City Pages: "I'm all for drinking tap water, but when I dined at an upscale restaurant in downtown Minneapolis recently, the tap tasted so fishy I had to switch to bottled."

RS speculated that the glass was dirty; the tap water was fine. RS works at a local restaurant, where she would like to continue working -- thus I'm not printing her name. She said she doubted that most restaurants clean the filters in their dishwashers.

Dishwashers have filters?

Sam, at the Menards on University Avenue in St. Paul, said they do, indeed. He said many dishwashers start out with clean water that gets recycled during washing; new water is used for the rinse. He said that he had cleaned his dishwasher's filter but that most people don't. I guess I'd better learn how to clean that filter. While I'm all for restoring our environment, and can live without plastic bottles, this germ freak will drink Jarritos straight out of a glass bottle instead of a restaurant glass from now on.

Camera! Action! Not

There are some people who'd be thrilled to watch a video of Prince breathing. For something only slightly more enthralling, TMZ.com posted a video showing Symbolina arriving at a nightclub. The only action was the peripatetic rock star adjusting his collar during his entrance, a move that is either supposed to make him look cool or tall.

Alas, this celebrity footage apparently wasn't entertaining enough to remain on TMZ's website long-term.

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or cj@startribune.com. E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. Attachments are not opened, so don't even try. More of her attitude can be seen on FOX 9 Thursday mornings.