Friday, May 17, 2013

The Ambercrombie and Fitch problem.

So I'm going to assume we've all heard about the bullshit the CEO/whatever from AF has said about fat people.

Now first let's understand that this is not shocking. It's not new. It's not a surprise at all. If you have seen any of their adverts, their products etc you'd be pretty fully aware that they are a no fat people store.

Via facebook I saw that there is an Occupy AF thing going on and I have so many problems with this I couldn't fit it all into a facebook comment.

Buckle your seatbelts.

From the facebook page:

>We can't change their business practices, and we can't (and don't want to) force them to make larger sizes. We CAN let them know that bullying is unacceptable, and we CAN change the rarified atmosphere in their store.
This is NOT a "protest". Please do not bring signs, signs, or chant. Just go to Abercrombie and Fitch with as many large, unpopular, or possibly just level-headed people that you know, and shop. Try things on that don't fit. Don't buy anything. Just make the store a place filled with the people that they don't want there.

This one day is just a beginning, a symbol. Every time you are in the mall, go in the store. Don't buy anything, just be there to make sure that their goal of their store being filled with only thin and beautiful people is thwarted. Make it an unpleasant place for the "cool" and "beautiful" kids to shop.

Also from the page:

Remember: This is NOT a "protest". No signs, no chanting, no destruction of property (though if you own A&F clothing that you want to "alter" and wear, feel free). Just browse (but don't buy). Fill the store with people that they don't want there, making it unpleasant for the people they DO want there.
 My first problem with this sort of thing is that the action is directed to the wrong people.

Let's make this perfectly clear.

I do not care where other people with bodies different from mine shop. As I've discussed where and how people shop is not always a tacit agreement about a companies business model, it's not always about being cool and pretty, nor is it always a cut and dried decision. I just posted about that here.

I cannot support the idea that making the consumers of a product feel badly about their purchases or as the about statement says, make them uncomfortable is reasonable or okay.

As I say over and over again, unless you are coming out of pocket to pay for other peoples clothing, food, shelter, cars etc. It's really not your place or business to bother them about it.

Moving along.

Let's talk about being a retail employee shall we?

As we all know being poor or jobless really sucks. It is a rarified privilege to really have the option of saying, no I don't want this job because the CEO is a dick.

Most retail (especially in chain stores) employees make minimum wage and most are part time without medical insurance.

Let's have a quick look at minimum wage. Currently the federally mandated minimum wage is 7.25$ an hour.

Before taxes if you worked a full 40 hour work week you would make, 290$ a week.

When contrasted with a multi millionare boss and customers who can afford to shop in a store at full price, what effect does making those people uncomfortable have?

Let's see.

Having a planned action in a store even if it is supposed to be not a protest means that those people (who are presumably poor especially if they are adults who are not supported by parents or spouses) more stressed out. Working retail, especially in a store that people at large have a problem with sucks. Add in the stress of poverty and then a bunch of people intentionally wanting to fuck up your day and it's really not great.

Salespeople in retail stores have the least amount of power in the structure of retail.

Why focus the energy on people who have no power to change anything?

Why put the onus of change on people who often if they do become a squeaky wheel will lose their jobs?

Would the people who plan to occupy AF give those people jobs if they lose them? :Make them feel better if at the next store meeting they get berated for "not doing something" about the situation?

I worked retail and I remember things like this happening on a small scale. There was a lot of pressure to not let it happen but no real power to do so.

Yes, people working there have chosen to work there but, when you need to feed and clothe yourself or support your family, money comes first for a lot of people.

Not everyone has the privilege of letting their own personal ethics dictate every choice they make.

I felt the same way when people wanted to occupy target stores.

No one has ever given me a good answer as to why it is that these type of things always focus on the people with the least amount of pull. Or told me how those people are supposed to create a change in a company they don't own and have no influence as to how it is run.

If the point is to just be irritating and potentially cause employee stress, it's a good plan.

If there is a desire to make some change and awareness among the people who can make a difference there are other annoying things to do.

For instance.

If you click here you can see an array of means of contacting AF. If you want to make them uncomfortable it is very simple to spend a little while writing a short form style email. Have all of the people you want to occupy, send the same message. Every day at the same time. Every. Day. Spread the message on facebook, message boards and other social media and ask people to join in.

Read their diversity statement and ask pointed questions about it. Every. Day. If you get a response, CC EVERYONE you can think of and share the information you get.

Also at the end of everything, there is not a lot anyone can do to change that mans mind or his policies. There is merit in watching to see if they violate their own or state or federal policies  Call the right people about that. Remind them of every misstep if they violate those policies.

Basically don't screw with the people with the least power.

Let me say it again.

Regardless of your personal ability to decide where you work, how and where you spend your money etc based strictly on your idea of ethics and morality that's awesome. Get it. Do it.

However, do remember that not everyone is in that position and it is patently unfair and frankly a jerk move to harass, bother or make the rest of us uncomfortable.

Also in case you don't already know, I think that the CEO of AF is a fucking asshole. Very typical sizeist, classist rich White dude douchebag. I hope he has the eternal fiery shits. I hope he gets the shits so bad he needs an anal retread.

I don't care what he looks like, and yes if part of your issue with him is his looks please stop. Not an okay thing. I do care that he's a douchebag.

I am very into the idea of letting the horrified public make sure he knows how much of a douchebag we think he is.

I'm not okay with doing the same to the people who work at his company. Especially the ones on the bottom.

Homo Out.



Jadelyn said...

And even if they behave with perfect politeness toward employees and don't trash the store, the whole "have vast numbers of people deliberately browse but not buy" thing is going to fuck up the store's numbers. They keep metrics on this shit - people who haven't worked retail don't always know that, but the store has a thing that counts your traffic, compares it to your sales, and spits out ratios that tell you how "well" your shop is doing according to some formula handed down from corporate.

You take a hundred people in there, you've just driven down their sales ratio. Badly.

And you know who gets in trouble for that? The employees. Shit rolls downhill, as they say. When I worked at LB we would often get a phone call from our DM to berate us the day after a bad-numbers day. She would yell at - and I do mean literally yell, middle management can get away with truly shitty behavior in these kinds of large retail chains - whichever manager was on duty, who would then be told to go around and yell at the regular employees in turn for being shitty salespeople, and basically everyone's day was ruined. Corporate really does expect store-level employees to be able to completely control sales numbers and they take low metrics not as evidence that something weird (like, ahem, a protest) was going on, but that their employees suck, and should be punished accordingly.

So there is literally no level on which this plan does not completely suck ass.

Kelly said...

I want to chime in to say that these Occupy movements are racist and classist at best. The people who work in those stores have no say and no power what so ever. Shannon gives some real solutions but instead of saying Occupy whatever (I hate that term and really, google on why it is so beyond offensive) why not attack the CEO head on? Flood his inbox, his voicemail, and organize a protest outside his offices or his home. Make life uncomfortable FOR HIM not for the thousands of people who have no choice but to take a minimum wage job so that they can survive. The A&F board gives exactly no fucks about their retail employees because there is always someone else, willing and waiting to take the crap they dish out. You are hurting people who are already hurting by working in minimum wage retail, who have to deal with racist, sizeist hiring practices, who have to deal with consumers. They have enough to deal with without a program that will DO NOTHING but hurt them further. It is a luxury to say 'no I shall not work for such a company' but you know what, in these times, most people don't have that kind of choice. If you can't have compassion for the working poor and see their situation (which is what I saw in the FB page comments) then you should not be organizing social change movements.

Ursula Andromeda said...

I don't have anything intelligent to add. I just wanted to say you make good points. We shouldn't be making the people in the low-paid positions be the ones to suffer.

Tapati said...

I hadn't heard about this type of protest yet but it is pretty stupid and offensive.

Subscribe To My Podcast