This summer, I worked part-time at Anthropologie and experienced firsthand the many ways that the retail industry is problematic. Some of the worst encounters I’ve highlighted below:
A white woman once asked me, “Does this store have a petite-size section?” When I told her we didn’t, she put her hands on her hips and said, exasperatedly, “I just don’t understand why you don’t have a petite-size section when you have a plus-size section. Isn’t that discrimination? I’m a petite woman, I feel discriminated against.”
There were two women in the fitting room who were targeted by a manager as potential thieves in the store (Anthropologie likes to refer to them as “Nick” and “Nicky”). I interacted with them, and another employee, who didn’t interact with them, asked me what race they were. When I asked, “Why does that matter?” she replied that Black and Hispanic women were more likely to steal.
One woman complained that the new plus-size section was taking up too much space in the store and lowered the clothing options of the “regular” or “standard” (as Anthropologie likes to call them) clothes.
While I was working at the cash register, I overheard a fellow employee next to me get yelled at by a white customer. My fellow employee and the manager were trying to explain the change in the return policy, but the customer kept saying they were wrong and she wasn’t being understood; she yelled at them, “You’re talking to me like I’m speaking Chinese!”
Yikes. Big, big yikes. I could write separately about each of these encounters, but piecing them all together reveals just how racist the industry can be (I’m looking at you, H&M and Gucci and Sephora) and how it’s far from inclusive of all body types (Brandy Melville, anyone?). These are all deeply intertwined and compounded by other factors, such as gender identity and socioeconomic status. Just because things look like they’re starting to improve (like how more stores are including plus-size options), doesn’t mean the retail world has suddenly become un-problematic.
Stores still racially profile and target people of color for stealing (I witnessed that a lot this summer). They still often only carry what we think of as “normal” sizes. Still so many brands are fast-fashion, unsustainable for the environment and dangerous for their workers (on the flip side, more sustainable clothing isn’t accessible to people of low socioeconomic status).
Working retail was a way for me to make money this summer, especially since my internship was unpaid. But, it’s not something I would want to go back to — unless there was actual, concrete change in the industry.