Amanda couldn’t find a fitting formal dress at Macy’s. Macy’s said they don’t cater to her plus-sized demographic, she should go to another Macy’s, which caters to more black women, who tend to be larger.
I could not find any gowns larger than a size 12 in the formal/social department. I searched for more than 20 minutes for either a plus/women’s formal/social area or a sales clerk and found neither. I waited next to the “customer service” desk for another 15 minutes for someone to come by, and still had no luck. Finally I noticed a Macy’s clerk putting some shirts on a rack on the other side of the department, so I went over to her. She was a tall African-American woman named Pam. Our conversation:
Me: Hello, could you help me please?
Pam: Yes ma’am. What can I do for you?
Me: I’m going to a formal Christmas party and I need a nice dress, but everything over here seems to stop at a size 12. I wear a 16 or 18, so I guess I need to know where the women’s department is.
Pam: It’s right here. You are standing in it.
Me: But all that’s here are jeans, t-shirts, and sweaters. As I said, I need something dressy for this event. A cocktail dress, or an evening gown, or even a nice business suit.
Pam: I’m sorry, ma’am. Macy’s does not cater to your size.
Me: I beg your pardon?
Pam: It’s a demographic thing, ma’am. We do not carry plus sizes of formal wear or business suits. We find, demographically speaking, that most of our upscale clientele is smaller, so we have a really large petites department and just the basics for our plus sized customers. It’s nothing against you, ma’am. It’s just demographics.
Me: Let me make sure I understand, please. Your “upscale” customers who buy party dresses and business suits are all petite? And your plus sized customers are not “upscale”?
Pam: Yes ma’am. The demographics tell us that plus sized women just don’t need social wear.
Me: So what you are saying then is that larger women don’t have good jobs and don’t go to parties.
Pam: That’s correct, ma’am. Of course, for those few exceptions like yourself there is one other option.
Me: And that would be?
Pam: You could always go to our store at Highland Mall.
Pam: Our Highland Mall store has a different demographic, so the departments are different. There are a lot more women of color in the demographic at the Highland Mall store.
Me: What on earth does that have to do with anything?!
Pam: Women of color tend to be larger, so there is a much bigger plus sized department at the Highland Mall location. They’ll be happy to cater to your plus-sized needs. Have a great day!
She turned to speak to the next customers behind me, a woman with her elderly plus-sized mother. As I walked away, the woman asked Pam where she could find a “nice business suit” for her mother to wear to a wedding. Pam gave her exactly the same response she gave me, that “Macy’s does not cater to her size, ma’am.”
In less than 2 minutes, Pam managed to condescendingly call me fat, poor, and low class, insult all plus sized women in general, and make sweeping racist generalizations of “women of color” being fat and poor, all while being African-American herself. She couched all of her insults and rudeness in terms of “demographics” and delivered her spiel with a smile and superficially polite niceties (“ma’am” and “have a great day”). I was so shocked, angered, and insulted by Pam that I literally left that store in tears! I knew that if I tried to talk to any of the Macy’s managers about my conversation with Pam that I would get so worked up that I’d be either crying or yelling or both, so I made the decision to just leave. I went to Dillard’s and purchased a lovely gown for the party.
So here’s my dilemma. I want to contact Macy’s about Pam’s outrageous statements. It has been a week now and it still burns me up. I have loved Macy’s for years, but I have no desire to shop with them again. I am very seriously considering shredding my Macy’s charge card and sending the slivers to their CEO. But I know from my own many years in retail that the letters that get the most attention are the ones that clearly spell out what the customer wants to make the situation better. I honestly can’t think of anything Macy’s can do to make the situation better for me. I don’t want merchandise vouchers or store credit or even a special discount. I’m not sure I even want an apology, because it would be coming from someone besides Pam. And I don’t want an apology from Pam, because I am quite positive that she meant every word and any apology from her would be insincere.
The other problem is that I am just as certain that Pam was not speaking for herself. Somehow, her upper management had to have coached her statements to me and the women behind me in line. Her responses to us were just too “canned”, too “rehearsed” to be off-the-cuff remarks. Maybe there really is a “demographic thing” that keeps the Barton Creek store from “catering to my size”. Maybe there is a “demographic thing” that suggests that I would be better served at the Highland store because of their fatter, poorer clientele of women of color. Maybe Macy’s really believes that racist, size-ist “demographic” blather, that plus sized women, taller women, and women of color are poor and have no need of nicer clothing. I don’t know, but it is hurtful, disappointing, and frankly shocking that they would have their clerks spouting out their “demographic” information in such a blatantly condescending manner.
If it isn’t too much trouble, could you please let me know your thoughts on what, if anything, I should ask/request/suggest to the “powers that be” when I send them the condensed form of this letter later this week?
It sounds like Pam got told a bunch of demographic and marketing info by her managers, which may itself be true, but the way she presented it was really in poor taste.
It’s a tough one. What to ask for? There is no material damage that Macy’s owes you. Maybe you could ask the CEO to have Pam given a lesson in tact.