22 May 2011

PE: Lessons From Hollister

So one of my jobs is managing a Hollister store. There are two lessons I feel I've learned from working there that are relevant to the discussions on this blog.

#1. If you say you "feel bad" about messing up a pristine folded pile of clothes, you shouldn't throw the shirt you just grabbed onto the presentation.

If you have ever been to an Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister, you probably are familiar with the kind of folding the company expects. It is basically folding perfection. It sounds ridiculous to talk about the rage that can overtake a person who has just spent 30 minutes of their life on a perfect pile when they see a careless shopper simply rip one out of the stack with no thought given to trying to preserve the other shirts (or whatever). But that rage is real. I sometimes think that shoppers think we just throw the clothes into some kind of folding machine. Do they realize that a person spent time making a pile look like that?

Anyway, every now and then someone will talk about how they "feel bad" for messing up a pile to their friend, yet they will discard their unwanted article of clothing as if it were a piece of trash and they were at a garage sale. And then you get those conscious shoppers who will fold (in some way) the piece of clothing they looked at and place it on top of the pile it came from. It doesn't really matter how they fold it, but the fact that they acknowledge that it is a nicely folded pile by putting a little effort in keeping it nice says a lot about their character.

What does this have to do with anything? I'll tell you. I can't number the amount of times I have heard people say, "I feel bad that you have to deal with being gay," or, "I imagine that would be so hard, and wouldn't wish that on anyone," or "Gosh, I can imagine how painful it would be not to be able to marry the person you love..." and then they end with "but..."

Tell me people, do you REALLY feel bad? Because if you REALLY feel bad, why do you vote to ban gay marriage? Why do you accept that gays shouldn't be given the same rights or standards as straights? Lip service does nothing. And why do you feel bad? Usually we only feel bad because we know what we are doing is messed up... or wrong. You know that pile was folded by a person who spent time making it perfect, and you know the extra work you are leaving them to do, and yet you simply throw the shirt in some random place. If you feel bad for me because "it just must be SO hard to be gay," then make it easier. It doesn't have to be hard.

#2 Our society is unbelievably homophobic. Still.

This is a lesson I learned from our new bags. They certainly cause a stir in Hollister stores across the nation:

Yep. Two dudes. First off, you need to realize that Abercrombie & Fitch sells sexy. Their bags and marketing is always a little provocative and it always has. Suddenly when there is no girl involved, however, the world gets crazy. Second, these guys are not even touching. They are laying on the beach. In fact, if you go to the beach today, chances are you could find a similar thing going on. Two guys on the sand next to each other. But let me tell you about the reactions I witness on a daily basis from people of all ages.

Some people will actually give the bag back after seeing it. Some make comments. They will take a look at the bag, and then with a look of disgust, comment about it to their fellow shopper. Some will comment right in front of you. "That's a fag bag, I don't want that." "Eww, why do they have to put dudes on this!" Others will be more discreet and they will crumple the bag in their hand so no one can make out what is on it. Some will complain and ask for a different bag.

So now, everyday I am reminded of the homophobia that is still very much alive. Especially when it comes to guys. If you replaced the two models with female models, there would be less of a problem. Better yet, make one female and one male and then they could be on top of each other without much controversy. Plus, you can't even tell there are two guys on it by looking at one side. That's all.


Boris said...

Welcome back! I'm sure many of us missed your insightful comments over the past several days.

You are "kicking against the pricks" when it comes to shoppers respecting the work that went into the carefully/lovingly-arranged "piles" in your store, and also when it comes to the latent homophobia that reveals itself when some shoppers see the Hollister bags, or the equally blatantly homoerotic posters, flyers, etc., at A&F stores. So what? Hollister and A&F (and long before either of them, Calvin Klein, with his allegedly underage underwear models back in the 90's) demonstrated "sex sells!"

Of course, homophobia is alive and well--whether it be in Utah, or Indiana, or even in Southern or Northern California. A majority of the "good citizens" in all three states have supported anti-same-sex marriage statutes/amendments for the purpose of "defending traditional marriage" (whatever the hell that is) against an over-hyped but virtually non-existent threat. How in the world can recognition of same-sex marriage undermine straight marriage, unless a lot of the supposed heterosexual marriage partners are in fact bi-curious and willing to experiment (which I doubt)? Homophobia is about as rational as racism--but let's not forget racism is still a factor in American politics (witness the ridiculous claims of the so-called "birthers" who, in their hearts, just could not accept that an African-American was elected as President of the United States. It HAD to be a fraud or conspiracy!)


Ty said...

I totally understand your fury at the discourteous nature of customers. I worked at Aeropostale, and it made me furious that these people would destroy everything in their path as they went through the store. It certainly has changed the way I act as I go through stores as a customer.

I also understand your frustration at the automatic homophobia in things that aren't even homo-oriented. It's just pathetic. You could have a bag with a guy and girl in full erotic positions, but people wouldn't bat an eye. I also find it ironic that out of all the "relationship" type problems we have as a nation, gays are not contributing to teen pregnancy, rape, frivolous "Vegas-style" weddings, or even divorce. Those are all heterosexual problems, and they're what's truly decaying society.

Anyway, I'm done with my soapbox speech. But know that we totally get it, and we're right there next to you.

Thanks for the post!

Hinton said...

Someone suggested that you should start a church. The main goal should be fellowship and not religion based upon deity. Since I wrote long comments on religion to your earlier post "THT: No Question" I won't repeat anything about religion.

The "religion" should be spiritual in natural and the emphasis should be love, acceptance, appreciation and unity of all.

I think that you would be a fantastic leader.

Trev said...

Wow, what most shocks me about the comments about the bags is not so much the homophobia but the social acceptance of the objectification of women that they betray. Gay men have it hard, but women--a whole half of the population--really get a lot of crap.

bradcarmack said...

This is a good reminder for me to be a more courteous shopper.

Also, I am every so often reminded of how homophobic our culture still is. Sometimes, because of the gay-friendly crowd I interact with, I forget.

More and more people in this country are shedding their heterosexism: I think the trendline is promising. Let's keep fighting.

Anonymous said...

You're so right about lazy shoppers. I can't stand it when people leave shopping carts in supermarket parking lots or decide they don't want an iten and just plop it on any shelf in the store or trash displays in department stores.

Homophobia. I have it. I'd feel uncomfortable with an A and F bag too. I think a lot of gay guys would feel uncomfortable carrying it around the mall. I guess the fear is pretty instilled in some of us. What would people think? Why should I care?
On the other hand...I never liked the idea of wearing clothes that require me to advertise their brand for free. I know some people like to show off the logo but I really don't care where someone gets their clothes. Others do I suppose.

Keith said...

Very good points on both accounts, Jonathan. Thank you so much forthe insight. I do hope for a day when such mindless homophobia is eradicated. Based on things that people have told me since I came out, including family members and close friends, I feel like that day is far off. bu Iean to do my part to raise awareness and help people understand how their words can be damaging.

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