09 7 / 2014
On the off chance that this ends up going viral (hah, okay) - let me introduce myself. I’m your friendly local Aerie manager. That’s right, I sell bras and undies for the company that has recently been all over the media for our #Aeriereal campaign. Tonight, I was touched by a customer (emotionally, not physically) and appalled by humanity all in one shot. Most of the great lessons I’ve learned in working in the retail world begin with the customers who come through my doors. This lesson is no different. I suppose I haven’t quite decided what tonight’s overarching lesson is, but allow me to tell you a story.
Tonight, I looked up as a group of three walked through the entrance to the store. Presumably, they were a family. Mom and her son and daughter. We were pretty busy though, so I did not get to interact with them enough to know if my assumption is correct.
I said hello to them, and they greeted me in return. The young girl asked if we had any swimsuits left. I said “Yes! They’ll be right back there on three racks by the fitting room” and pointed toward the back of the store. As they headed in that direction, all I noticed was that the boy seemed uncomfortable (poor kid, dragged into the bra store…little does he know he’s one of dozens per day) and that (again, I’m assuming) Mom seemed like she was tired of trying to find a store with a decent swim selection still in stock.
Side note: We just did our Back To School floorset last night and Sunday night. They were lucky we had some swim left. And it’s only the first week of July! Wtf, retail? I know this isn’t a new thing, but still. Swim should still be sold during SUMMER. I digress…
After a few minutes, a line accumulated at the register, Cathleen was busy taking care of those lovely folks, and this young girl wandered back up to me to ask if she could try some suits on. “Sure can! Come on back,” I said with a smile. What this girl said next broke my heart. As we walked back toward the fitting rooms, I noticed that my pace was far quicker than hers. That’s not unusual…I power walk at work and can easily bridge the gap from stockroom door to entrance in under 10 seconds. However, I looked down and realized this girl was limping slightly. I backed off and tried to match her pace…the last thing I wanted was for her to feel rushed. She caught on and stepped aside to allow me to pass her. Here’s the part where she spoke.
She said "I’m sorry. Everywhere else I’ve gone today, I’ve been asked ‘Why are you even buying swimsuits? You’re like…crippled.’ "
I was stunned. Utterly baffled. Speechless.
I regret that the next words that escaped my lips were not more eloquent or profound.
All I could do was say incredulously "So what? You don’t need a swimsuit? Everyone needs a swimsuit!" and tell her to let me know if she needed anything while in the fitting room.
I probably didn’t even seem surprised by what she had just said, but it was all I could do to wrap the fact that not only did some jerk ACTUALLY utter those words (or at least the sentiment behind them) to this poor girl, but that MULTIPLE jerks made her feel like she shouldn’t be shopping for bikinis simply because she’s at a disadvantage.
Now, for all I know, there’s more to her physical story than the limp. Maybe she can’t swim in water deeper than she is tall. Maybe she can’t muster up a doggie paddle. Maybe today was a really great day and she can’t normally get around on her own. The boy with her was carrying a crutch. Maybe it wasn’t his, but hers instead. Or maybe it is his, and he is her brother, and there’s something genetic going on.
REGARDLESS of ANY of that….WHOSE business was it to make her feel like she wasn’t worthy of donning a swimsuit???? Even IF all she wanted to do was lounge by the pool in said swimsuit…even IF she couldn’t even go out by the pool and simply wanted to - I don’t know - take beachy photos or something….how could someone have made that snap judgment from watching her walk and had the gall to ask her why she was swimsuit shopping? Why do YOU shop for a swimsuit?
I was cursing the fact that it was busy, because I wanted so badly to have a conversation with her and to apologize for whatever numbnuts said such a cruel thing. Now, maybe she wouldn’t have opened up. But I wanted to at least tell her to pay no attention to that nonsense and rock out whichever bikini she ended up buying. Didn’t get the chance.
I’m kicking myself, because I could have created an opportunity. Or, if I hadn’t been in shock, I could have simply turned around and said “Someone seriously said that to you? Were they high? Come on!” and started a conversation that way.
She struck out at our store. I genuinely hope she had luck somewhere else. I hope she found the cutest suit you’ve ever seen and that she’ll be so darned adorable in it that everyone will stare in awe.
Those words will stick with me for some time. This girl felt shame while swimsuit shopping because of a rude comment. We ALL know that swimsuit shopping SUCKS. It is the ultimate period of self-degradation as you inspect every wrinkle, scar, and roll in the fun-house mirror under the florescent fitting room lights. What we need are more stores following Aerie’s lead and putting messages like "The girl in this mirror has not been retouched. The real you is sexy" on the mirrors as a quick reminder that you know what? You actually look pretty great in whatever it is you’re trying on! Will everyone believe it 100% of the time? No. Will we still put things on and cringe now and then? Duh. Will we deceive ourselves into thinking that everything we try on looks great because the real you is sexy? Of course not. But if it alleviates an iota of stress when deciding whether or not something looks good enough to purchase, it’s worth it.
If you, the girl who said this to me tonight, ever stumble upon this post - know that you are not “like…crippled.” Know that you didn’t deserve to be questioned. Know that I didn’t even notice you limping until you apologized for walking slowly, and that the apology was entirely unnecessary in the first place.
A note to retail employees everywhere: yes, there are some things about retail life that absolutely suck, and we all know how easy it is to feel run down during a shift. Of course there are the days where everyone and their brother wants to take their frustrations out on you. That said, the amount of humility that can be learned if you pay attention is unmatched. Please think about what comes out of your mouth when speaking to another individual. Especially if it’s someone you don’t even know. Especially if it is a customer. Hurtful words regarding physical appearance and ones that hone in on our insecurities only seem stronger and truer when spoken by someone who has just met us. If I went shopping and an employee pointed out my muffin top and asked why I was browsing the cropped tops, I’d be devastated. You never know what may stick in someone’s mind. And believe me, if you think you’ve noticed some sort of “flaw” - they’ve already noticed it and beat the subject to death in their own thoughts. No need to bring it up.
Aerie, you’ve trained me well. I want everyone who shops with me to leave all full of smiles and happy thoughts, and I get so frustrated when I can’t help turn someone’s day around!
17 3 / 2014
Oops. Not like anyone is still actively paying attention to this thing anyway. Murr.
11 2 / 2014
So I purchased a handmade leather hip bag this afternoon (à la Fiona Glenanne…) on Etsy and I’m SO excited about it still but can’t get excited about it here because my mom thinks I should have saved the money…but I’ve wanted one for YEARS since I saw Fi wearing hers on Burn Notice and it’s actually one-of-a-kind and the shop owner is incredible and is customizing it for me…AHHHHH! I’m gonna be a hands-free, badass bitch like Fiona. Except that my hip bag has a detachable leather flower on the front flap….meh, I was never going to be storing a detonator in there like she did anyway, so I suppose it’s no matter. :p
28 1 / 2014
I’ve been pretty absent. But I keep thinking about a return to blogging, and so I think I shall jump back in. So, without further ado…my thoughts for today….
24 11 / 2013
Here’s a serious advice. Even the nicest people have their limits. Don’t try to reach that point because the nicest people are also the scariest assholes when they’ve had enough.
Demons run when a good man goes to war.
There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man
reblogging for accuracy
Me, at the store.