What Would You Do? – You’re Too Fat To Be Our Customer!

by admin on September 18, 2012

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Shalamar September 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I’m reminded of when my husband and I visited the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC on our honeymoon. I’d been there before for their fabulous afternoon tea, and I knew that they had a dress code, so we dressed up a bit before we went. We witnessed some other folks come in for the tea who were more casually dressed – jeans, t-shirts, that sort of thing. I heard the maitre d’ say “We have a lovely table for you over here where you’ll be well looked after”, or words to that effect. The table was in a more casual area of the dining room – the menu was exactly the same, but the atmosphere was a little less formal.

What a charming and classy way to make sure the guests were comfortable without making them feel like second-class citizens!

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GingerR September 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I used to work in a European boutique and their largest US size was about a 10 – possibly a 12 depending on the cut, but things were marked in Euro sizes – a size 36 was about a US zero, a size 40 was about a 4, etc. The largest size they carried in anything was a 48 and those were very rare.

I honestly used to cringe when larger ladies would walk in because I had no idea what I could show them that would fit – we did carry a lot of knit wear which is a lot more forgiving, but the store was known more for suiting, and a larger lady would strike out there.

So, I was stuck with small clothing and some larger ladies, and usually I could try to make a go of it showing sweater dresses, and tights and whatnot, but on more than one occasion I had women freak out on me because our line ran small.

One day, taking a page out of the hag sales woman in the video, my actual manager had the following exchange:

Lady: I wear a size 16 – 18.
Me: Humm, ok well our suiting only goes up to about a size 10, but I can show you some items from our knitwear line.
Lady: What? What kind of stupid shop is this? Where the f*** am I supposed to shop?
Manager: The fat lady store is 3 doors down.
Me: ….

Yah, so the actress in the video? Not as over the top as you might think.

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Cat Whisperer September 19, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Cami, I think you brought up an excellent point, which is that there are two sides to this issue, one side being the salesperson’s side of the issue.

And you’re absolutely right, as a salesperson you can be respectful, tactful, and sensitive to the customer’s sensibilities, and still end up with the customer mad at you and your manager taking the customer’s side, because they’re they customer and the customer is always right.

I think there are a couple of factors that make retail sales a perfect minefield of etiquette issues. Issue one is that a heck of a lot of people who are in retail sales are only there because they can’t find the kind of work they REALLY want to do, so they aren’t invested enough in the job to want to do it well. They simply don’t care if their behavior drives customers away, because they figure they aren’t making a career out of the job, so it doesn’t matter that they don’t do it well. And I think this extends up the ladder to senior salespeople and even floor managers, who all know that they’re just one layoff or store closing away from being out of a job anyway, and have no incentive to act as dedicated professionals who want to be good at their job, because over the long haul it doesn’t matter: they’re no more secure in their employment than someone who really doesn’t care to exert themselves.

The other issue is kind of the flip side of the coin: customers who regard retail salespeople as inferior, and act accordingly. If the customer knows (or believes) that the salespeople in the store are there because this is the only job they could get, the customer is unlikely to behave with courtesy and respect towards the salespeople. And this leads to the kinds of situations you cited with the customer taking out their anger and frustration on the salesperson, who did nothing wrong.

I don’t know what the answer is. I’ve been on the receiving end of poor treatment by salespeople who obviously didn’t care a whack about me as a customer, and as a salesperson myself I’ve had customers who came unglued and took out their frustrations on me when I’d done nothing to merit such treatment.

We’re all imperfect people in an imperfect world, and in the end the only person whose behavior you’re absolutely responsible for is your own. Whether you’re the salesperson or the customer, I don’t think you can ever go wrong by taking the “high road” and trying to be courteous and respectful in your interactions with people. That isn’t always going to assure that you’re treated with courtesy and respect in return, but what can you do? You have to take responsibility for your own behavior, no matter what other people are doing.

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Crystal September 19, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I had a much more subtle situation of this nature when I was shopping in a high-end national retailer. I was in high school, and had just been selected to travel with the orchestra to be their vocalist for a big concert out of state. I was determined to look my best, and went to this place because they had an excellent reputation for impeccable tailoring. The saleswoman was very pleasant when she greeted me, but after she inquired about my size, it took an awful turn. “You’re a size 8?! Well, you certainly hide it well.” I smiled politely, said “I was unaware there was anything to hide,” then turned on my heel and walked out. Anyone who treats their potential customers in such a demeaning way doesn’t deserve their patronage.

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Shalamar September 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I once visited a local craft fair that was being held close to Christmas in the hopes of finding a cute one-of-a-kind top for my daughter. I spied some hand-painted sweatshirts and eagerly walked towards them. The person running the stand actually blocked me and said “Sorry, dear, we don’t have anything that can handle those ba-zooms,” pointing at my chest!

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Tiph September 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm

How rude, Ive gotten this attitude while shopping for pants. I was given a nice pair of hips and maybe more booty then I needed, but I hardly call a size 10 fat. And Ive gotten the slightly nicer but still rude of I dont think these will fit over your hips and plenty of stares. I dont ever try to fit into anything way small. Though I see alot of issue with clothes now days, nothing is ever made in In large enough sizes ,short sizes ( I have to roll pretty much ever pair of pants about 3 times to fit me) or bras for thin waisted large cup women.

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Cat Whisperer September 20, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I was talking to a friend who works in the lady’s clothes section of a department store, and I told her about this column.

She had an interesting point to make, which is that she’s seen an awful lot of clothing get damaged in the store’s dressing rooms by people who tried to put on items of clothing that were just too small for them. She says she’s seen seams ripped, zippers busted, buttons popped off, and even tears in the fabric between seams where someone just would not accept that the item was too small for them and had to try to squeeze into it.

She tells me it’s the most common cause of damage to clothing that people try on. And she says it’s one of the reasons that some salespeople will try to discourage someone who is obviously not in the size range that the store carries from even taking an item off the rack into the changing rooms. Friend tells me that she’s even had situations where a customer who is frustrated by not finding something that fits deliberately damages the clothing.

Which is not an excuse for any salesperson to behave disrespectfully or with lack of courtesy towards a customer. It’s just another view of the way people can (mis)behave badly.

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Yertle Turtle September 21, 2012 at 1:50 am

I am so sorry to hear so many people have been insulted and embarrassed by insensitive sales staff. I agree that using social media to publicise these encounters could be effective but please don’t film them. If I were the customer and such a video of me were made public I would be humiliated all over again.

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moose September 21, 2012 at 6:51 am

It’s not the salespersons’ fault that the store only carries such teeny clothing.

A very thin friend of mine once came with me into a store for larger sized women. One of the salespeople said to her, “I’m sorry, we don’t have anything here that will fit you properly.”

So what? It’s not so horrible. There’s a big difference between, “Our clothing comes in these sizes, which may not be right for you” and “You’re way too huge/scrawny for our clothing.”

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barbarian September 22, 2012 at 4:53 am

I had to deal with the same thing on a highly personal level with a consultant to upgrade my image for work.
Our company changed its dress code. Although it had a list of acceptable attire, I was still rated negatively even though I wore only what was on the list. The raters were no help at all in explaining the offenses (helpless looks), so I hired a so-called wardrobe consultant met at a networking group. My twin sins were a large physique and limited funds. She was disappointed that I would not first go on a high end shopping trip with her to the most expensive stores in town, but instead requested a closet audit. She took out her disappointment on me accordingly when she showed up at my home. She acted like both my body and clothes were diseased as she had me toss away easily half my closet. She referred to one style as Boobylicious. Her advice-buy a brand of MLM jewelry known to fall apart from one of her friends and go to a large woman’s store, even though I was on the borderline.

I was livid to have to pay for such a humiliating experience. Fortunately, I received kind and professional assistance from te personal shopper at a chain store.

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GleanerGirl September 23, 2012 at 4:38 am

“I’m sorry. We carry clothing in sizes X to Y. However, we have some lovely accessories that might interest you. Oh, you’re looking for a dress to a party? May I recommend ABC boutique? They have some lovely clothes, and carry a different range of sizes. I’ve visited there, and can assure you the clothes are lovely and of high quality.”

It’s perfectly fine for a boutique to carry a set range of sizes. A size 00 will not find clothes to fit in a store that caters to plus-sizes. In either case, the sales person should be polite.

1) Remember that the person might be shopping for themselves, or for someone else. They may be looking for a gift. Therefore, you cannot assume that they will not purchase any of the clothes in the store, just because those clothes don’t fit them.

2) Even if you do not have clothing in their size, there are usually some accessories or some such, where size is not an issue, and you can still use those to make the customer feel valued (and not just in a give-me-your-money way). “Oh, yes, these earrings really bring out the sparkle in your eyes” or something along those lines makes the customer feel pretty and worthwhile, even if clothes, themselves, are not an option.

Always treat the customer with dignity, and remember that people change, and you never know – that same customer may fit your clothes in a year or two. You want that person to come back, and to spread the word that your shop is the place to get fine fashion.

This was not only rude, but blatantly poor salesmanship. Unfortunately, it was common behavior.

And I mean that in both senses of the word.

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GleanerGirl September 23, 2012 at 4:39 am

And whatever you do, NEVER say “those kind of people.” NEVER. About ANYONE.

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Gayle September 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I was at a craft fair one afternoon and one of the vendors called me over. “Ma’am, I have something I know you’ll like. I’m sure you have the same problem I do. Bracelets aren’t big enough are they.”

While I have a copious can, I have very small wrists which anyone who bothered to LOOK at my arms would see. “No,” I said “My problem is that I can’t find them small enough and they slide off my wrists.”

A woman on the bus one day got up and said “I hope your legs heal.” She seemed flabbergasted that I said “WHAT???” In a very unfriendly tone. “I hope your legs heal” “I hope you get some good sense!”
This is scar tissue. That’s how they’ve “healed”. Thanks for making me feel self-concious. You’re NOT being nice when you point out someone’s physical problems. Keep it to yourself.

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Lauren September 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I’m currently 7 months pregnant with my first child, so when I started putting on weight I had next to nothing that could be altered to fit me or that I could still wear without looking trashy. Normally, I’m a size 6 US, but because I’m carrying all my baby weight in my breasts (I’ve gone from a 34C to a 42D already) & in my belly & hips, I’ve been in need of new bras and pants especially. I usually don’t shop at expensive places like Abercrombie, Hollister, or Express; I prefer to keep my clothing budget low by frequenting shops like Walmart, Target, or occasionally Forever21.
I was out shopping alone at the mall, & saw signage for a massive clearance sale at H&M. Being low on funds due to medical expenses & always looking to save money, I decided to take a look just out of curiosity. I was wearing plain black yoga pants with an extra-long tanktop that fit me snugly but tastefully, so my pregnant belly was noticeable but covered up. I browsed through the clearance racks, finding a few casual sundresses with an empire waistline that could accommodate my bust without restricting my stomach. As I brought these to the dressing room, the attendant saw my belly & snatched the clothes out of my hand, saying “You can’t try these on, you’re going to burst the seams.” I was floored by her behaviour, & politely said that I had purposely chosen dresses several sizes larger than I needed so as to avoid damaging the clothing. She reached out & actually POKED at my belly while stating “You won’t fit in these. I can tell just looking at you.”
Growing frustrated with her rudeness but not wanting to cause a scene, I asked her what she recommended for sizing if this was the case. She looked at me with disgust:
“You think just because you’re pregnant you can walk around showing off your belly like that? It’s gross.”
I just turned on my heel and walked out of the store. I couldn’t believe how rude she was! I stopped in Charlotte Russe next door, & found some lovely empire-waist tops that looked great on me.

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Christina October 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm

While it is never right to discriminate- and everyone should feel comfortable no matter where they go- we as women need to take responsibility for our health. While I don’t think that a size 14 is necessarily in the “danger zone” we need to remember that it’s not anorexia that kills the majority of women in america, it’s heart disease. I think it’s irresponsible to simply give up and accept ourselves as overweight and just go with the flow in America. While we all must embrace our God Given Curves, we do not need to embrace our Fast Food Given Curves. Runway model thin is unhealthy, overweight is unhealthy- we need balance. We need to take responsibility to stay in shape, eat healthy and stand up to obesity. For our kids, for our friends and for our country.

That being said, this is a HORRIBLE example of discrimination, and were this video real, it would be appalling. The woman who stood up for the size 14 is honorable and did the right thing, absolutely. I would like to think that we are all as kind to our fellow neighbor.

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Donna October 6, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Christina, my size doesn’t come from fast food. It doesn’t come from over-eating. It doesn’t come from eating the wrong things. It doesn’t come from not exercising, either, I run 5 miles every other day. It comes from an endocrine dysfunction as the result of an accident. You may not think you’ve said anything offensive, but you’re assuming that people who weigh more than they want to are that way only because they eat poorly. Please don’t assume things about me just because I look a way you don’t want to look. Perhaps I don’t want to look this way either, and running 15-20 miles a week is the way I keep myself looking as good as I do.

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Christina October 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Donna, in no way was I talking about YOU, nor anyone else with a health condition. At what point in my comment did I endorse judging people based on their looks or assuming that people are “fat” because they are being irresponsible? In fact, I condemned judgement and discrimination as a whole.

I don’t assume anything about anyone, but the fact of the matter is that statistics alone show that there are a lot of people out there who DO become overweight because of unhealthy habits (and those unhealthy habits can be attributed to any number of things- lack of education, apathy, or feeling like helpless/hopeless, and many many more) and we need to recognize that this is what kills in America.

My point is that we need to make a distinction between the extremes. We need to find a balance. We need to follow examples set by people like you, Donna. You are exactly the opposite of the people I describe in my original comment. You are putting in effort, you aren’t “going with the flow in America.” We need to follow examples of people who care about their well-being and are committed to taking care of themselves. And to take care of themselves regardless of the kind of physical results it yields- because in the end it’s not about how a person looks, it’s about long-term commitment to health. Working with your doctor to make sure you’re where you need to be, and if you’re not, how to get there in a healthy manner, taking into consideration your entire medical history.

I’ve been there, too. There was a point in my life that I gained about 30 pounds due to unhealthy habits. I had to change my lifestyle in a BIG way, and it was really hard. But it was a priority for me.

I don’t think that anyone can argue with the statement that America needs to make a better commitment to health and educating our children about things like portion control, exercise, sodium, etc. THAT was my point. I was talking about those who DO become obese or overweight because of lifestyle choices alone. Not medical conditions. There is a distinction, and I recognize it. I’m sorry if my lack of specifics offended you, Donna.

Once again, all this being said: This video is a horrible example of judgement that is absolutely appalling. This should never EVER happen to anyone.

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Melalucci October 20, 2012 at 1:27 am

A plus size woman knows almost instantly when walking into a store whether or not she has the possibility of fitting into their clothes. If not, all it takes is a peak at a rack or two. I still don’t want a salesperson telling me they don’t carry my size. Ask me if I need any help, and I will let you know what information I need from you.

EXACTLY. I was probably a size 8 in high school, and I walked into a small boutique that sold cute clothes at low prices. Immediately, the lady behind the counter said, “We have big sizes in the back.” WTF?? I should have never gone back there, but I just ignored it, hurt and offended.

Later, I asked to try on a medium shirt that was on the mannequin — the large was too big. The saleslady (can’t remember if it was the same one) told me some version of “it probably won’t fit.” It did, but there was a giant hole in it, so I didn’t buy it.

Anyway, this place has crappy-quality clothes nowadays, so I’ve stopped going there for good. I haven’t had the money for shopping in a long time, but I can’t WAIT to try Torrid (a store for us curvy chicks). I’m a size 12 now, so I’m hoping they’ll have some stuff that actually fits me right!

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Melalucci October 20, 2012 at 1:33 am

Yertle Turtle, the ones being discriminated against weren’t real customers, and the salespeople weren’t real, either. It was all staged to see how the actual customers would react.

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Alex January 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Donna I just wanted to point out that anorexia is only one kind of eating disorder. Over eating/ binging is another, bulimia etc. Eating disorders are the cancer of psychiatric disorders having the highest death rate among psychiatric disorders. Yes heart disease is a major cause of death in women. I work for a cardiologist who is a researcher and I had the privilege of speaking with a woman spearheading lipid research focusing on lipoprotein little a. She was focusing in this because she is had a heart attack in Her early 30′s. She ate right and exercised but her genetics gave a lipid disorder that causes hardening of the arteries. Now she is fighting to find treatments because she has a daughter who may have inherited the same trait. The causes of heart attack are more complicated and diffuse than simply abad diet choices, though that can play a large role. The other reason heart attack kills so many women is because heart attacks in women present very differently than in men and usually a lot more subtle. Health is important and yes obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are major problems in society but it’s vastly more complicated than eat right and exercise.

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Alex January 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Oops sorry Donna that was meant for Christina. I am not intending to disagree simply add insight.
Thanks

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Alex January 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm

One last comment: doctors have minimal training in nutrition ( at least here in the US) so it is advisable to seek the direction of a registered dietitian/nutritionist with experience in your particular needs. I say registered because that means at least four years of university and year internship. Not a fly by night self titled nutritionist.

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