our customers talk about our sizes, sending interview questions in advance, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Customers talk about our sizes

This question is for my coworker, Jess. We both work at a women’s plus-size clothing retailer (national chain) in the midwest. I do wear some clothes from here, but to most, I probably do not look like the average plus-size person. Jess is a little larger than myself. This is unfortunately relevant because customers try to relate to Jess in such ways like “Oh! You have a big butt you can help me [pick out something that would look good with my own big butt]” or “Oh, you get it with how big your hips are!” or the most common: “I’d rather you help me due to your size!” And recently there are new skinny jeans, which we are supposed to be promoting, and when Jess tells customers about them, they laugh at her for presumably suggesting that plus-size women can wear skinny jeans. They also have complained to her about other people who work here due to their size, such as Andrea, who is very slim and petite, and even our store manager, who wears some things from the brand but is more my size in that she doesn’t necessarily “pass” as a plus-size women.

Apparently these comments have happened before to coworkers who have since left and would more fit in to the “plus-size” image. I asked Jess if there was a certain demographic who give her comments like this since she said that she can tell who will say these things. She said it was mainly women in their 40s-50s.

I have not had any of these comments made to me. These are obviously putting a mental strain on Jess and making a thankless retail job even harder. I do not think she has spoken with the store manager, so I will today and our district manager is also visiting.

It sounds to me like the “I’d rather you help me due to your size!” comments capture what’s going on — that your customers feel particularly comfortable with Jess since she’s closer in size to them. My hunch is that the comments stem from the camaraderie and relief of shopping somewhere that actually caters to them, unlike a lot of other stores that ignore the fact that people come in a range of sizes. I don’t know that there’s anything she or the store could do to stop that without making customers feel unwelcome; it sounds like it may come with the territory, unfortunately.

But the store should give you all some guidance about how to handle customers who complain about smaller-sized women working there, even if it’s just to say that you all love fashion, regardless of size. (They should have better messaging than I do, but I’d imagine it would be something along those lines.)

2. Sending candidates the interview questions in advance

I work at a small non-profit with 10 staff members. We are about to hire five new employees. Our COO has insisted on doing all of the screening interviews herself even though she won’t be directly managing any of these new staff members (that’s another story). She’s been sending me candidates she likes to interview (I’m a director) and asking me to send them questions in advance. I’ve never been sent interview questions in advance and asked a few friends who have also never had this experience. Is this a standard practice I just haven’t come across? For me, it seems like a terrible way to get a good feel for someone.

I definitely wouldn’t send all your questions in advance, but doing it with with a few key questions can be a useful way to get more thoughtful answers — especially if you’re (a) interviewing relatively junior people who don’t have a lot of experience interviewing and will otherwise be scrambling to think of answers to “tell me about a time when…” questions on the spot or (b) interviewing senior people and want to see how they handle complicated questions that benefit from deeper advance thinking. Here’s a description of how I’ve done it in the past.

The key, though, is to really probe into whatever answers you receive to the sent-in-advance questions. You need to ask a bunch of follow-up questions (what was the biggest challenge with that? why did you approach it that way? did you worry about X? how did you handle Y? what would you do differently if you could do it again?) or otherwise you may just end up getting canned answers that won’t be very useful to you.

That said, though, my hunch from your letter is that your COO isn’t doing it this way.

3. Should my friend get a recommendation from the hiring manager’s lawn guy?

My friend is looking for a job at one particular company. He knows the hiring manager’s lawn guy, and the lawn guy has offered to give the manager my friend’s resume instead of my friend applying online. Is this weird? Should my friend take the lawn guy up on his offer?

Does he just cut his lawn, or is the relationship deeper than that? If he just cuts his lawn — and if the company where your friend is a applying isn’t a lawn care company or in a related industry — it’s not likely to be hugely helpful. And yes, possibly weird.

Caveat: There are some people who place a huge amount of weight on personal recommendations from people who aren’t particularly connected to the work they do and who aren’t in a position to evaluate the work of the person they’re recommending. The people in this group tend to place enormous emphasis on character references and less on evidence of work skills. If it turns out that the hiring manager is one of them, then who knows, maybe this could pay off. But in general, it sounds like too tenuous of a connection to use.

4. When exit interviews are shared staff-wide

My company has recently, in a bid for transparency, started to publish the results of exit interviews each quarter. That means they present pie charts of the reasons why people are leaving and graphs of people’s opinions of upper management. I don’t have a problem with those. But I do have a problem with their publishing quotes directly from the leaving employees. They do remove names, but we aren’t that large of a company and people tend to do very specific jobs, so it makes it fairly identifiable. I had a work friend leave the company recently and I knew right away what quotes were hers. Heck, every time we’ve had someone leave the department, I’ve been able to tell what quotes were theirs.

I am planning on leaving the company in the next month and I am considering if I decline an exit interview altogether, given this policy. I’d like to help the company; it is a nonprofit that does some good work, while also struggling to meet the needs of employees. I’d love to provide some feedback, but I don’t want my coworkers knowing exactly what I said. I’m not going to say anything bad, but I will say where the problems are in my experience.

What do you think about this approach to exit interviews? Am I crazy to feel a little annoyed about this? I would have no problem is a report was complied in HR and used there and by upper management, but the report is emailed to all staff. It is great fodder for speculation about who said what.

Yeah, I can see why you’re concerned. Their attempt at transparency is a good thing, but when you have a staff that’s on the smaller side, you’ve got to consider whether people will be able to stay anonymous.

Frankly, that’s a great thing to give feedback about at the exit interview! They may have no idea that it’s playing out that way. You could explain your concerns and that it’s been clear to you in the past who quotes had come from, and say that you’d like to give feedback yourself but that you’d want assurance that your quotes won’t be widely distributed if you do. It’s reasonable for them to share what you say with senior management, but it’s also reasonable for you to ask that they confine it that group. (It’s also reasonable for you to limit what you say if they won’t promise you that.)

{ 483 comments… read them below }

  1. EE*

    I wonder if OP4’s friend has read Muriel Spark’s book “A Far Cry from Kensington”. Its narrator gives the advice that jobseekers should tell everybody in their orbit that they’re jobseeking. Why? Because people love neat coincidences. The story of “I needed a good book-keeper, and would you believe it? The painter just happened to know the perfect person!” is far more compelling than “I advertised, interviewed a few people, and made an offer.”

    1. Jennifer*

      Sounds like Barbara Sher, she talks about that sort of thing as well.

      Too bad nobody I know knows anybody or anything related to my line of work :P

    2. Isobel*

      That’s exactly the book I was reminded of as well! “I just happened to be looking for an accountant, and do you know I got a first-class fellow through the barman at the Goat.”
      However, a novel set in 1955 is probably not the best source of job-hunting advice!

    3. Snowglobe*

      My husband got a job through our painter! Our house painter’ brother-in-law owns a company in my husband’s industry. Painter mentioned his brother-in-laws business is growing and he is always hiring, and passed along the contact information.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I feel there’s a difference here though as your husband was the jobseeker and not the hiring manager.

          1. Not Yet Looking*

            The difference is the relationship being presumed on to the hiring manager. In the painter example, the presumed-upon relationship is Brother In Law. In the lawn example, the presumed-upon relationship is “hired lawn guy.” As a manager, I’m going to put a lot more stock in the recommendations of my brother-in-law than I’m going to for my contract employee – unless, as Alison indicated, there is a deeper, friendlier relationship, like “my lawn guy of 15 years who I invite to dinner parties.”

      2. nonymous*

        I am reading this as that the painter shared BIL’s company’s contact info with hubby, where I think the difference is that the painter provided contact info instead of taking a hands-on role in the application process. This would be like if I shared with my new-to-the area friend that LocalCompany hires staff with her credentials, and is really common for smaller companies who don’t have a huge amount of market saturation.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      People who do contract work know a LOT of people. Since they move about during their work day they have a good sense of what’s going on in their town and surrounding area.
      My friend who is also my contractor found a part time job for me when the economy tanked and everyone was looking for work. He’s gone on to find jobs for other people also, this is because of being in contact with so many people as he goes about his work day.
      OP if you are in a more rural area, don’t even think twice about this. This is how people connect and interact. If you are not convinced, then what I would do is apply through normal channels and let your friend tell his boss that you put in an application. I think that if you don’t ask anything more than to have the company look at your resume, you should be fine. There is a difference between asking for a job and asking them to look at your resume for consideration.

      So it could go like this:
      Friend to Boss: “Hey, I wanted to give you a heads up. My friend, Jane Doe, applied at your company for X position. If you get a chance you might want to look over her resume, she’s great with Y and Z. She might be someone who would be a good fit for that job opening.”
      Keep it short. Hit the best talking points.

      1. Hillary*

        This is perfect. I’m doing something very similar this week. One of my sales reps mentioned that his company is looking for people, my brother in law is looking for work and might be interested.

        I told the rep my brother in law might be interested, mentioned his name and that he’s a good worker, and asked what the best way for him to apply is. My sales guy copied in the hiring manager (who also knows me) on the reply that my brother in law should apply online.

        Will it get him the job? No. Will it get him an interview where he can demonstrate he’d be good at it? Probably yes, both because they trust my judgment and because he’d be an asset.

      2. Lala*

        I was coming here to say exactly this. I’ve gotten interviews (and two different jobs) because I knew people who were able to let those hiring know I was interested and someone they trusted. I still applied through regular channels, because you’ve got to show that you respect whatever process they want you to apply through, and that you don’t think they’ll just hand it to you because you both know so-and-so. It just gave me a better chance to get my foot in the door.

        People really like to have any extra data points they can get when they’re staring at a pile of resumes.

    5. Customer Service - Digital Specialist*

      Well, and they give that sort of advice at “outplacement firms” too – the sort of place where out of work professionals go when they’ve been laid off. Tell everyone, because you never know who might know someone!

  2. théière*

    Adding to #3: if the company has an online application system, then they are very likely to want you to use their online application system. Skirting around the process is just going to cause problems.

    Good luck to your friend!

    1. Kathenus*

      Agree with this. In my organization not using the online application system means you won’t be in consideration. As Alison mentions, the level of relationship between the lawn guy and hiring manager is a factor in this. If they have more than a casual business relationship having them mention that a friend of theirs has applied for xx position and they think they’d be good at it for yy reasons might be beneficial. But definitely apply through the normal process and have the reference be additional information, not done instead of applying online.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Agreed. No matter who you know, no matter who has an ‘in’ with a hiring manager, please apply to the job in whatever manner the employer sets up.

      First, the application process is often a matter of compliance with OFCCP and/or a company’s own Affirmative Action plan. I’m not going to risk an OFCCP audit by ignoring scores of qualified applicants who followed our process just because I get a hand delivered resume.

      But a more practical reason is this: what if someone loses the hard copy? Then there’s no record of your interest in a role. I’ve fielded calls from people who swore they walked a resume to HR – and they probably did – but hard copy resumes can get misplaced.

      Hope your friend gets the job if that’s what he wants, OP!

  3. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 Presumably the lawn guy is cutting the hiring manager’s lawn at their home and not at work? If so, it feels a bit off to give them a resume. I’m just imagining how I’d feel if my lawn guy dropped off someone’s resume. I think I’d feel pressurised (has he led them to believe something is guaranteed to come of this?) and a bit annoyed. And I actually know my lawn guy socially (though I normally call him a gardener – am just using ‘lawn guy’ for people who like to control+F for comments).

    If it was someone really close to him and he wanted to help them get a look-in, I’d be willing to advise on how to get a look-in (which would start with: take this away and tell them to follow the application instructions on our website). But it would be weird.

  4. Mike C.*

    I’ve been through something similar to OP5 but with the yearly company survey. All but the last question were multiple choice, the last being a general “anything else you’d like to pass on” type of comment.

    At the all hands meeting, management went through the numbers and then read aloud all the comments, which had all identifying information removed. It was rather eye opening to hear the similar themes and the hear management actually talk about addressing those issues without the normal polished platitudes that one may come to expect. Yeah, maybe a few folks knew who wrote a particularly overspecific comment but for the vast majority it was really good to see the engagement from management in front of us.

    But really, the big difference here is size. We maybe went through several dozen comments that could be made by anyone in the department but I can imagine there are maybe a handful of folks leaving every quarter. It seems to me that if your company wants to have this sort of candid feedback, they need to do a survey y of everyone while they still work there rather than rely just on exit interviews. After all, they’re little more than an autopsy.

    1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      This really is a big thing to think about with anonymity. Is it enough not to say any names or very identifying details? How far should you go to make sure that nobody can deduce in their head who you’re talking about? If you want to be completely sure you can’t tell anything about anything, because you never know what’s a detail that could reveal something to a person who maybe even knows more than you know yourself! In this case however it’s actually quite important that some things are shared about the exit interviews. Still you can’t think that everything is fine as long as no names are mentioned. They are telling too much now, but how much information can they stop sharing and still keep the exit interviews useful? That’s actually quite a difficult question.

      1. anon for this*

        Yeah, anonymity is difficult. One of the things I don’t work on directly but that’s discussed in my orbit at work is how to anonymise/pseudonymise medical data, for instance for research purposes. It’s a very difficult problem, and “strip off the names” does not cut it.

      2. Candy*

        My company does an annual staff survey that’s purportedly anonymous yet they ask for your campus, department, and job title which, in my case, narrows it down to one of two people. It’s so obviously not anonymous that no one fills out the survey (this year in my department of 8, only 3 filled it out)

        1. Shay*

          I hesitated this year to participate because I wasn’t clear how anonymous it really was, then got several emails reminding me I hadn’t yet taken the anonymous survey. I understand even those emails were probably sent by the supposed third party administering the survey, but still, it was creepy.

          1. HR Expat*

            In my company, the emails are sent to everyone automatically. The automated system has no way of knowing if someone has completed it or not.

            1. Specialk9*

              That’s kinda naive. There are several ways for companies to track who said what in “anonymous” surveys. They can send personalized links to each person, track IP addresses, etc.

        2. HR Expat*

          I’ve had a lot of people mention this concern to me. In my company, it’s used to measure participation rates at a site (we work in a huge company). I’m the only one on site who can see the info, and I never break the data down any lower that site level so that it’s a representation of the entire site rather than smaller demographic groups.

        3. Mike C.*

          Our survey will aggregate the results and won’t show team detail if it’s smaller than a certain amount of people. I think what this is pointing to is that surveys aren’t really a great tool for small organizations.

    2. LW5*

      So they do a yearly survey as well, but it is also identifiable, if you at all know your co-workers and what they do. I think I’m extra-annoyed at this, as all the transparency attempts seem to be on the backs of the lower level staff- they present our thoughts in graphs and charts and put together our comments for us to read, but we never know what upper management is thinking or why certain changes happen or when a change is going to occur. It feels like transparency is yet another thing we have to do for them, vs. something they do for us (and, as a non-profit with retention problems, they talk the good talk about wanting to be a better company to retain workers, but I don’t see the talk being walked by anyone above my level).

      I’ve started to find the transparency talk frustrating, as I know it means my thoughts will be broadcast to all the company without my knowing it(they did not say that comments would be re-published, in their entirety, from the yearly survey), but god forbid upper management let us know when a policy change is coming that affects my day-to-day work.

      BTW, the first quarter they did this, everyone was blindsided by the exit interviews being published! Now at least I know about it in time to write to AAM.

    3. straws*

      We don’t do surveys very often for this reason, because we ARE quite small. Typically when we do, it’s mostly multiple choice and we make it very, very, very clear that anything in an open-ended response could identify the person and to choose their words carefully. We cite our small size, small departments, and we encourage anyone with specific feedback to speak with our HR person, their supervisor, or our senior staff depending on the issues. I feel like we miss out on a lot of constructive feedback due to our size. For example, we rarely get feedback on proposed new policy, but we get plenty of complaints after investing time in implementing them. I wish there were an easy way to get anonymous feedback up front!

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I feel like someone – possibly a very well-intentioned someone, but it’s hard to know – has misunderstood a fundamental point about exit interviews. If you want to use them to get candid feedback, you have to conduct them in a way that makes people feel they can speak freely. If you don’t do that, you aren’t going to get the most candid feedback. So no, you’re not crazy.

    1. Jennifer*

      Also, some people just like to put on a show of wanting “open” answers, but they don’t really.

    2. assistant professor (Humanities)*

      yes! I declined an exit interview at my last job because they were downsizing. I didn’t feel like they would take my comments seriously, based on previous interactions. So, you are not crazy, and you might give a very surface level exit interview if they push you on it.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Completely agree.

      In OP4’s situation, I would probably do what Alison suggests — make my first comment in the interview “I want to express my concern with this process and that it’s not possible for my answers to remain confidential if they could be quoted in front of the whole company, even if my name is not attached to them.”

      And then I’d give vague answers to every question after that. If pressed for a more specific response, I would say, “As I mentioned earlier, I’m not convinced my answers would remain confidential, so I don’t feel comfortable answering that.”

    4. Shadow*

      They’re not very useful even when you do use them correctly. its just really easy to say nothing and move on.

      1. myswtghst*

        It’s kind of a catch-22, because exit interviews are most useful in an organization which is already mostly functional, where departing employees believe their feedback will be considered and applied in a productive and effective way. Whereas plenty of organizations that could really benefit from candid feedback ignore it or misapply it when it is provided (or, purposefully or not, discourage departing employees from providing it).

  6. narratif*

    In the case of OP1, I wonder if it may also be that Jess isn’t comfortable with having attention drawn to her body, even if it’s kindly meant or in the spirit of “we both have [big butts/big boobs/curves/wide waists/big calves]!” There’s already a sense of being on display, and at someone’s disposal, when you’re a retail associate; having someone comment on your body can reinforce that you’re kind of more of a body than an actual person. I always hated that when I worked retail, though I swallowed most of it and just vented, quietly, to coworkers.

    (Even worse than women commenting on my body when I worked retail: having a guy tell me I was the same height or size as his wife/girlfriend, which I was not 99% of the time. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas were all nightmarish for that reason.)

      1. TL -*

        I don’t think statements like “big body part” is a stigma. I’m not plus-sized but I have big thighs and muscled calves. These are both just facts about my body. If someone around my size says “I also have bigger thighs, what brand of jeans do you wear?” that’s not an insult. It’s just a question.

        It *can* be an insult. I had a man who was easily 100-150 lbs overweight tell me I had bigger thighs exactly like him in a way that implied “this is what’s wrong with your body and you’re unattractive for it” and that was deliberately cruel. (but also didn’t work; I was just confused because I was much, much smaller than him and didn’t see the similarity.)

        In retail, I think it’s more shopping for a body part that can be hard to fit.

        1. Oryx*

          I am plus size and have big calves. One of my favorite plus size bloggers always puts out an annual post about her favorite wide-calf boots in the fall so I agree it depends a lot on the context of “big body part” conversation.

          1. Damn it, Hardison!*

            Oryx, would you share the blogger information? I inherited the calves of my paternal German peasant line. We are a sturdy people.

            1. Rookie Manager*

              Yes, please share! I am not plus sized but go to plus sized shops to try and find boots to fit. They are often still too small! Over the last 3 years I have only found one pair of knee highs to fit me, they are great casual boots but I want some smart ones too.

            2. Oryx*

              Authentically Emmie [dot] com

              You can probably go back through her archives for last couple of year’s posts

            3. General Ginger*

              Check out Ros Hommerson brand boots. They are a little pricey, but I usually got them at Zappos or 6PM. I used to wear them before I transitioned; my calves are 21″ in circumference, and they’re one of the few brands who go up that high.

            4. CEMgr*

              Oh yes, me too! Ankles and calves both are sturdy, even downright elephantine……… And I’m not plus-sized either. Flesner family from East Friesland. I’ve always assumed it took a lot of lower-body leverage and reinforcement to make it through the dense swamps and flooded farmlands of our ancestral home. As additional unrequested info, let me just say that the rest of my body is normal and my wrists are quite dainty.

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Man, if they’re wide-calf boots that are not also for wide-width feet, I am so there. What’s the blog?

            1. Oryx*

              I’m not so sure about the feet part, but it’s Authentically Emmie and you can probably go back through her archives to see.

            2. voluptuousfire*

              Earth Origins from QVC has really cute boots (reasonably priced and leather) with wide calves and I think medium widths. Worth a shot.

            3. Arjay*

              I have a wide foot too, and my Ros Hommerson’s are a little bit tight on me, so they may be just what you’re looking for.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            Zappos and Simply Be are good sources of wide-calf boots in different widths. Torrid has wide-calf boots but I believe they’re all wide-width.

            1. voluptuousfire*

              Yes, Torrid’s boots are cute but cheaply made. They don’t last long and aren’t leather. Fine if you’re committed to animal rights since they’re man made materials, but not if you want something that lasts and breathes. I’m a huge Torrid fangirl and will evangelize about their clothes (only jeans I wear!), but the shoes are crap.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Can’t argue with any of that. :-) I prefer leather boots myself (man-made material surrounding my foot is fine, man-made material wrapping my leg is not as fine) but lots of people don’t seem to have that issue. My favorite leather wide-calf boots are Fitzwell that I bought from Zappos, but they no longer carry that brand.

            2. veggiewolf*

              I own two pair of Simply Be wide-calf, medium-width boots, and they’re easily the best fitting boots I’ve owned. Definitely recommend!

            3. Ego Chamber*

              “Torrid has wide-calf boots but I believe they’re all wide-width.”

              Eh, only kind of. Most of Torrid’s shoes say they’re wide width but some of them seem narrow (I prefer wide but I can wear medium width if I go up one size), also their sizes can be off by up to 2 sizes—it is crucial to read the reviews and be prepared to return if you’re buying online.

          4. Puffyshirt*

            I’m plus sized and have at times felt the eyes of judgment when I enter a store for plus-sized clothing. I will agree that for a lot of people, the store feels a bit like a safer place free of chub-shame making people more comfortable to acknowledge their bodies. I’m sure I have made similar comments to another woman in the store in solidarity. It didn’t occur to me that it would possibly be hurtful!

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Agreed! I’m on the border of plus-size because I have big hips and a big butt. This is a fact, and when I’m shopping for clothes, I want this fact to be acknowledged so I can get clothes that fit and and look good. I also have big calves, and when I find a pair of boots that will go over said calves, I often share it with the world. Ignoring or downplaying my size just depresses me and keeps me out of cute and flattering clothes.

          A short story: I once went to a local trendy jeans store to see if I could get a pair of trendy jeans. The woman who helped me was so kind and sweet and eager to find something that worked, but she couldn’t grasp that just because I held up the jeans and they looked like they might fit, their circumference was a problem and I couldn’t get one thigh into them. It was not a humiliating experience– again, she was pretty great– but it ignored the facts about my body that kept me out of those jeans. It’s a lot easier to shop for jeans when the associate can identify certain issues that plus women present (they don’t have to be plus-sized themselves, of course, just conscientious).

          A plus-size clothing store is a place where women can be way more open than usual about the bigger parts of their bodies, and I completely get why these women are trying to connect with Jess about their bodies/fit issues. I agree with Alison that the disinclination to be helped by a slim woman is a big problem, but I don’t think there’s anything shameful about discussing plus-size issues in a plus-size clothing store.

          1. Kyrielle*

            I feel for Jess, though; she’s not comfortable with these exchanges, and where for each of these women it may be the only connection they have related to clothes shopping while fat (that day, or possibly that week/month), for Jess it happens over and over as each of them tries to make that connection.

            And the interesting thing is, I would bet that on average, it makes it easier to keep employees who are at the border or below it, and thus less likely to elicit comment. Also less likely to understand some issues with clothing fit, etc. Employees with whom the customers can really connect are more likely to get the comments, and more likely to overload on them, especially if they are in any way self-conscious or uncomfortable about their weight or body shape.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              “at the border or below it, and thus less likely to elicit comment.”

              Except that the slimmer employees get “you can’t help me [because you don’t understand what it’s like to be fat/what works on a fatter body than you have]” and “I want to be helped by the girl with the big butt [like mine].” I’m paraphrasing, but I’ve heard this crap at Torrid and Ashley Stewart (both of which just launched new denim btw, including skinny jeans).

              Keeping in mind that size 10 or 12 is the lower end for plus size, 16 or 18 is where most straight-sized retail stops, and even the more accommodating stores max out at 26 or 28, there’s a lot of (inexplicable/unnecessary) animosity being directed at “skinny fat” women by “real plus size” women. This dichotomy is almost as depressing to me as straight-sized vs plus size.

          2. Hedwig*

            There’s nothing shameful about it, of course, but in general it is more polite not to comment on someone else’s body period, whether it is about plus size issues or any other reason. Comment on your own, sure. Given that Jess is a salesperson at the store, there would be nothing wrong with saying, “Can you help me find some pants that will work with my large hips?” There is no need to add out loud, “because you clearly have large hips too,” even if that was your actual reason for choosing that person to ask.

        3. The IT Manger*

          I’m with you TL. It’s a fact that my fat makes me look fat. My wide hips require a larger size than my waist (meaning my pants gap oddly at the waist a lot of the time). That’s not a judgement; that’s a fact.

          But fat has been transformed into a dirty word – an insult – for a lot of people. It’s also a moral judgement for a lot of people.

          I try to fight fat as an insult.

          1. Compliance*

            It depends on what’s the context behind the use of “fat.” If you are saying you are fat because you have fat, and that makes it more difficult to find jeans/shirts/boots/whatever… that’s a statement and a fact, and not insulting. But way more often in our society, it’s “you are fat, so you are less worthy,” quickly followed by “but I’m just concerned for your health!” So I agree that in this case with the OP and her colleague, it’s easier to assume that a woman closer to your own body shape would understand the struggles of finding clothes. But even if customers are saying “you have a big butt like me so you can help me find jeans that will fit,” Jess could very easily hear “you have a big butt, so like me, you are less worthy.” I agree that we should take fat and change from an insult to fact, but it’s hard with all the social connotations and history behind fat shaming.

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          It reminds me of my neighbor who tries to commiserate with me about things I don’t view as negative and wasn’t upset about. Not body parts–I think body parts, which are so intrinsically a part of you, would make this twice as annoying. If the body part is pointed out in a negative “obviously you also hate your butt, how do you cover it” way, that would just wear one down.

          (Here I would ideally insert advice for OP and coworkers on what to do to politely inspire customers to stop doing this, and I have no ideas.)

          I will note that when I have had good shopping experiences with sales clerks figuring out an item that would work it was because they knew the store well, not because they had a physical aspect that matched myself or the person I was shopping for.

        5. Accountant*

          Yeah, my old roommate talked about how big my butt was a lot. She thought it was a compliment but I hate my big butt so it drove me crazy.

      2. August*

        From my experience working in retail, while some people can be nasty about that kind of thing, customers’ comments (especially in a specialized store like this) tend towards the “you look like me! That’s amazing, please help me find clothes like X!”. It’s usually more of a camaraderie, “finally I have someone to talk to”-type thing. The part that is especially annoying, and generally unavoidable in retail, is the frequency. When I first started working, I didn’t mind getting comments from other tall girls (I’m 6 feet) at all; half a year in, and every mention of my height made me grind my teeth, I’d heard it so many times.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Yes, exactly. I think the shoppers are expressing their relief at finding someone they think will be a kindred spirit, not realizing that the employee hears comments like these 20 times a day and is tired of hearing it.

          I don’t think there’s a lot OP and her colleague can do to make these comments stop — after all, if the customer feels uncomfortable because she’s just offended the staff, she’s probably not going to stick around and shop — but I do think the suggestions that OP and Jess should redirect and reassure customers that their smaller colleagues are just as capable of helping them out are good.

          1. Rat Racer*

            I have impossibly narrow shoulders. I’m thinking through whether I would say to a sales person “you have very narrow shoulders like me! can you please help me find a suit jacket that doesn’t make me look like I’m in a marching band?”

            Mmmaybe I would say that? Because society doesn’t punish people who are scrawny like it does people who are overweight? Is that the key difference? Would it be OK to call out a salesperson’s: long legs/ small waist/thin calves etc. or some other non-stigmatized trait? I am not sure that’s appropriate either, but I don’t know. I’m disinclined to comment on anyone else’s body under any circumstance.

            1. Emi.*

              I have long legs and a thin waist, and it’s not stigmatized but it is something people comment on, and it’s pretty annoying.

            2. Perse's Mom*

              If you’re comfortable with it, make it about you instead of the associate.
              “Do you have any suggestions on a jacket for narrow shoulders? I’ve tried on so many and end up looking like I’m in a marching band, which is NOT the look I want!”

              1. Rat Racer*

                Yes – this is probably the approach I would take if I were shopping. The hypothesis I was trying to test was whether it is ever appropriate to identify with a sales associate’s body type as a lever for finding clothes that fit. Here’s where I’ve landed: NO. But it’s worse if you call out a stranger for a phenotype that is socially charged – like having a big butt- than more neutral, like having big feet.

        2. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Same, I’m petite and have a bubble butt. When I worked for a retailer that specialized in jeans, ALL the girls with a booty wanted my help! Jeans are the #2 item customers say they hate to shop for (#1 is swimwear of course), so the whole shopping experience is already a little fraught with body image issues. I just kept reminding myself that every time someone commented on my butt!

          When I worked on the retail side of a salon, we often got comments from African American customers that they wanted an African American stylist because they didn’t believe that a white stylist would be properly knowledgeable about their hair. Our salon managers and receptionists had a whole script they were supposed to follow. I think OP and her coworkers should have something like that at the ready, maybe ask their store manager for help.

          1. lawyer*

            I used to work retail, selling lingerie and hosiery. The store was in a majority black community and I was both the only white team member and the youngest. I got a lot of questions from customers who were skeptical that I’d be able to help them pick nude hosiery. The older sales associates had become pretty protective of me (mostly because I was so young…I was a teenager and they were mostly in their 40s and above) and after a while what happened was that when a greeter or another sales associate brought someone over to the hosiery department, there was a preemptive, “Lawyer is a *genius* at helping find hosiery that’s a great match for skin tone! You’ll be in awesome hands!”

            And I get it. If you’ve had the experience of dealing with sales associates who seemed to think that “nude for a pale pink-undertoned-white person” = “nude for everyone regardless of skin tone,” you’re probably not psyched to see Teenage Me in the hosiery department. A good salesperson will be able to help people who are a different shape/size/height/color/gender/whatever than the salesperson is. But not everyone’s a good salesperson, and plus-sized customers already face a lot of crap in the fashion world. I appreciated my co-workers vouching for me (and everything else they did to help me learn to be a functioning adult and decent human).

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I love your example with “Lawyer is genius..”

              I worked in a nursery (early 1980s) when I was in my 20s. BOTH men and women would tell me that I could not possibly understand plants because I am a woman. (One woman who was quite certain I did not understand that I did not understand added further explanation in saying, “It’s biologically impossible for you to learn about plants.”) They would wait sometimes over a half hour to finally talk to a man about petunias. The men were wise to this and they would say, “Oh, you will have to go ask one of the women, I don’t know much about annuals.”

              The setting of my work place was I could just walk away once they said they wanted to talk to a man. You can’t walk away in your setting, OP.
              I really recommend using your store meeting time to develop a strategy for handling these situations. Get everyone on the same page and saying the same things. Lawyer, here, has a great example of a script you can use.

              In various retail jobs people have asked me about my shoes, my hair, my clothes, etc. It’s a public facing job so it kind of to be expected. (“You have reeeally wide feet like me, where did you get your shoes?” Yes, just call me Big Foot.)

              Do know where your lines are. People who are rude should be handled in a different manner than people who are sincerely looking for help and just expressing it poorly.

              And since I am part of the age group you are talking about, I will add that something happened when I turned 40. My give-a-damn broke. Permanently. I don’t care if someone thinks my butt is big, my hair is too grey, my feet are fat and so on. I. don’t. care. This is very liberating, OP. And the candor you are seeing might be a result of that liberation that others may be experiencing.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                Biologically impossible for a woman to learn about plants? What… how… my brain hurts.

              2. Llama Wrangler*

                I don’t know what it is about turning 40 and going completely IDGAF about what other people think about everything but you are not alone….as I sit here in my mid thigh length shorts that expose my veiny, pasty, fat legs.

              3. Ego Chamber*

                “I will add that something happened when I turned 40. My give-a-damn broke.”

                It can happen earlier that 40! I’m 33 and I’m officially all out of f#cks to give for anything that falls into the realm of “stupid sh!t not worth my time.”

                My parents always said I was advanced, but I doubt this was their meaning?

              4. Rana*

                “My give-a-damn broke.”

                That is a wonderful way to put it. And it’s one of the most awesome things about being in my 40s, I have to admit.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            That’s an interesting corollary. As a curly-haired person, I always try to get a stylist who has curls, because I don’t know how many people have told me “I can cut ALL types of hair” but do not understand how much curly hair shrinks when it dries.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              Yesss I’m sorry but I’ve just been burned so many times! Curly specific salon (they have those in big cities!) or curly haired stylists only.

            2. Anna*

              See, I would ask the stylist who cut THEIR hair because the stylist with curly hair doesn’t cut their own.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Agreed. I hate how the kids at the local beauty school with weird haircuts and dye jobs get shunned by clients. I’m fairly sure most of them didn’t wreck their own hair, you know?

      3. Shay*

        I think there’s such incredible relief to have clothes tailored for your size after not even being spoken to or curtly cut down in regular stores.

        1. OxfordComma*

          Yes. I had such a bad experience with a clerk in a national department store that I still to this day won’t buy from them. Mostly, I buy online because it’s less traumatic, but there are certain things in brick-and-mortar stores I’d rather get there. So if you go to a place where they not only have actual plus-sized clothes for you, but you know, understand issues that plus-sized women may have with fit and cut, it’s just such a relief.

          I never really thought about what it must be like to hear that kind of thing, though, so I’ll have to watch myself in the future.

          1. veggiewolf*

            “…So if you go to a place where they not only have actual plus-sized clothes for you, but you know, understand issues that plus-sized women may have with fit and cut, it’s just such a relief.”

            This. I’m a (US) 22W and not ashamed of my body most of the time. I am suck of people who think I should be, though.

      4. Specialk9*

        I disagree. You can be ok with your own body, but figure that all the people with a wildly different body shape won’t get what you need.

        Still not ok to talk about a stranger’s body.

    1. Dinosaur*

      I worked at an adult boutique that sold lingerie and got that “my wife is the same size as you” bit constantly, except they usually said “my wife is the same size as you… well, maybe a bit taller, and she has more of a butt… she’s smaller around the waist now that I think about it…” LIKE BUDDY, you’re describing a completely different person! This is just rude! Luckily I was allowed by management to be a bit prickly and would usually say “So, she doesn’t sound like she’s my size at all. What size t-shirt/bra/pants does she wear?” I’m sorry you’ve experienced this particular hell, too.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        These comments never really bothered me when I worked retail. A lot of guys are kind of hopeless when it comes to knowing their wife’s size and I would even sometimes ask them “is she bigger or smaller than me?” I mean who cares about sizes anyway… he certainly doesn’t. It’s just a number. And my job is to help this guy find something for his wife. He’s not being purposefully rude or insensitive so I won’t take offense. (To be fair though I’ve never struggled with weight or body image, so I don’t have any sensitivity around my own size.)

        1. Mookie*

          Eh. He doesn’t care about sizes when he’s shopping for himself even? The least anybody can do, if they’re going to spontaneously surprise someone else with clothing, is figure out if what they’re planning to buy’ll fit. Check your wife’s labels, why aren’t you doing this before you come in? This learned helplessness in adult men — an endless snake-eating-it’s-own-tail cliché of women-be-shopping and things associated with women are too boring or mysterious to get right — chafes me, personally.

          1. CoffeeLover*

            I mean whether they should know the size or not is a totally different subject. Fact is a lot don’t. I always tried to steer them towards a sizeless item (ie a scarf) anyway since women’s cloths tend to fit differently depending on designer, waist height, material, etc. I mean *I* barely know my size. I don’t expect hubby to.

            Side note: a few men would come in and buy whatever (flattering) size and knew their wife would exchange it anyway. Was never sure whether that was smart or totally inconsiderate.

          2. paul*

            I can check her size on clothing she has on hand, but women’s clothing seems to vary across brands even worse than men’s.

            I’ve opted out of clothing as gifts partly because of that

          3. Nan*

            checking labels isn’t going to work. I have sizes from XXS to 2XL in my closet, and they all fit. Women’s clothing sizes are wishy-washy. And I’m not itty-bitty, there really is no way an XXS should fit me. In “normally” sized women’s clothes I still run between an M and XL, though.

            1. Risha*

              Yes, I wear anything from a 20 to 28 depending on the brand), and at 6′ and half an inch, a majority of things that properly fit my circumference will still be too short in at least one measurement. With that said, on average if you buy me something short sleeved and longish looking in a 24-26, it’ll be acceptably sized. Checking labels is at least a decent start. Just don’t let them buy something that can’t be exchanged.

            2. many bells down*

              My *loosest* pair of pants are some Old Navy “boyfriend” jeans in size 6. The rest of my pants are 10/12.

              I always think it’s hilarious when detective shows immediately spot a suspect by her clothing or shoe size. I’ve got 6 different clothing sizes and 3 different shoe sizes in my closet that all fit. If you find a size 8 footprint and a size 16 dress at the scene, I’ll happily show you the size 7 shoes and 10 dress that I own. Must not have been me!

            3. The New Wanderer*

              when I was trying on clothes a few days ago, I had an epiphany. I may fit into a size X pant but size X+2 just looked better on me so that’s what I bought. I’m not even talking muffin top, just a comfort level with slim cut or skinny pants – I don’t need them to be as snug as my regular size would suggest. For that reason I love clothing sites that recommend size X for close fitting, and sizing up for a looser fit. Not that we can’t figure this out on our own, but if you’re used to being an X in the brand it might not be something you think about.

              Weirdly it even happens with kids clothes. Some brands just run small or slender cut compared to others for the same size. At any given time, my toddlers have had 18M through 3T clothes with essentially the same fit. For the uninitiated, sizing approximates age, so effectively those clothes fit a large 1.5 yr old or a small 3 yr old.

          4. Jayn*

            When my husband goes clothes shopping for himself (admittedly not very often) he often asks me what size to look for. Which is weird enough with pants but how do you forget you wear a medium shirt?

          5. Lynn Whitehat*

            Around Valentine’s Day, I always shake my head at the lingerie ads that promise “we’ll help you find something with only her height and approximate weight”. If you have access to her underwear drawer, look at the labels. If you don’t, you don’t know her well enough to buy lingerie for her.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Maybe they have an advanced program on the store’s supercomputer that takes height and weight correlated with approximate body type and spits out relevant sizes?

                Alternate theory: it’s a bait-and-switch to get him in the store to buy overpriced, uncomfortable flimsy lacy things that she’s going to wear once to acknowledge the gesture and then shove into the “at least he tried” corner of the underwear drawer.

              2. TL -*

                It’s a rough approximation of size.
                *Very* rough, but you can assumed someone who is 5’2″ and 100 pounds should probably be looking on the smaller end of straight sizes and someone who is 5’2″ and 200 lbs is probably in the plus sizes.

                1. Julia*

                  Maybe for sizes, but for bra sizes? Weight can be distributed in all kinds of ways, plus with bras, fit is extremely important, so I would never dare to buy a bra for someone.

          6. Not So NewReader*

            There are women that can’t do this, it’s not just men.
            I would point blank ask, “If you bring home the wrong size gift what will happen?” Some people would instantly cringe and others would just laugh and indicate they’d be back.
            I recommended gift certificates rather than deal with guessing the wrong size. People seemed relieved with this idea.
            There is also the idea of lunch and then shopping excursion, some people do this for the gift recipient rather than guess.

            I sold leather goods for a while. Certain manufacturers ran small sized. 95% of the customers had to get a size larger than they normally wore. Clerks know this stuff and it helps the customer get to what they want faster. It goes with the job but no one tells you it’s part of the job.

        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Even if a man looked in his female partner’s closet, many times he still wouldn’t know her size. I have items US size 2-10 that I wear regularly, which can get you in the same neighborhood as the ballpark, but doesn’t help much with a specific item.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            Men’s sizes are much easier because there’s less variation in their clothing and the sizes are more standardized. I can buy my husband a t-shirt, polo, or dress shirt and know exactly what size to get. On the other hand, I wear a lot of knit blouses and dresses, so there’s everything from S to XL in my closet. I recently ordered a party dress online and had several different styles sent me to from different brands, all wildly different sizes. Women’s clothes sizes suck.

            1. CoffeeLover*

              This is kind of going down a tangent but I went to a shop recently that I swear had taken a “flattering number” approach to sizing. It’s a big retailer of dresses across the US and Canada. I’m a US 4 (sometimes 2 or 6) but the 00 fit me at this place. It was bizarre… and kind of insulting in a weird way. Almost like they were saying women are more likely to buy things if the number on the cloths is smaller than their usual size.

              1. Bookkeeper*

                There has definitely been size creep over the 20 years or so. When I was a teenager (in the late 70s) I wore an 8 and occasionally a 6. Now? People that size are wearing 0 or 2. I think your last sentence says it all.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                I remember back in the 60s my mother laughing at the flattering sizes. She said, the more expensive garments were usually a size smaller than our usual sizes. This has gotten worse over the years.

                1. Grapey*

                  Agreed, even now when I buy marginally “nicer” clothes like Tommy Hilfiger, I find the 14s fit me with some wiggle room. Everything else I’m a 16 or more commonly an 18.

              3. MegaMoose, Esq.*

                Yeah, once you get into plus sizes, the “vanity sizing” is out of control, and even less standardized than the smaller sizes. It’s a nightmare.

                1. K*

                  They find stores that have real sizes. I love Anne Taylor, but their size creep is ridiculous. I’m a size 4 most places, but their 00s are sometimes too big. And it sucks because then I can’t get the dresses I want.

                2. sap*

                  cry a lot, in my experience. The women in my family all naturally are extremely slim on th w bottom (as in, get harassed about how we must have eating disorders) until mid-twenties. I literally could not by jeans that cost less than about $90 until I was 25 because most stores’ 00 size could fit two of me. Even cheaper stores that claimed their jeans were 24-25 were clearly lying. I cried a lot while shopping as a teen.

              4. Lora*

                One of my friends sews quite a bit. Usually she deconstructs clothes she likes to make a pattern, so she rarely actually buys a pattern, recently for a costume thing she had to buy a pattern, which have not adjusted their sizes downwards since 1930. Her regular modern store size is 6; her sewing pattern size is 14.

                My…ummm. top and bottom… are different sizes. Knit stretch tops are my friends.

            2. Grapey*

              “Women’s clothes sizes suck.”

              Women (on the whole) are more conscious of fit than guys are, but the guys that go for well fit clothes have the same issues. It’s all a factor of trying to roll up different measurements (bust, waist, inseam, hips etc) into one number, especially for dresses. My husband is the kind of guy that will look at a label and buy it if its Tall Large without trying it on, but some of his shirts just look better than others based on his exact body shape.

              Women’s dressy pants at least have waist + inseam and I’m seeing more mid-tier jeans with this measurement too (beyond “tall” “regular” “short” which you don’t see on men’s pants); I wish more clothes had these options.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Women also have more dimensions to ‘fit’ than guys usually do, or at least more extreme variations on those dimensions.

              2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

                I’m going to push back a little on that, because of my point about women’s clothing being much more varied. A man may choose to put a little more work in to have well fit, stylish clothing, but the range of available cuts are still going to be much, much smaller than the options available to women. Think about how many different necklines women’s blouses have and how many types of material women’s clothing is generally made of, to name a couple of major factors.

                1. Julia*

                  I agree depending on the item. I have bought t-shirts for my husband several times, and they all fit, although one is a little too short for his liking. My mother also tends to buy my father (and now my husband…) shirts.

                  I would never buy pants/trousers for anyone, though. But I could see someone buying me an a-line skirt.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            This. It’s really discouraging when I am returning to the same store to buy the same basic shirt that I am wearing right at that moment in a couple more colors, and this season’s sizes are completely different.

            1. Nan*

              gah!!yes!! or when I’m jeans shopping and pick up the same pair of jeans, same cut/model, same size, and one color fits perfectly and the other color (usually the darker one) wouldn’t fit my piggy toe. Really?

                1. Emi.*

                  I assumed that was a manufacturing defect, tbh, and that Old Navy jeans were all just badly-made.

                2. Jenna*

                  Different dies can change how the fabric behaves, even when you start from the same raw fabric. Black dye, for example, is quite harsh and can mean the finished fabric has less “give”. Some dyes also help kill the elasthane you usually find in jeans more than others, so more of the “bounce back into shape” factor will be gone in some colours more than others.

                  The manufacturer will still cut to the same pattern in each fabric, however. So technically the garment measurements will be the same, but the way the fabric behaves on your body will be different.

                  That said, lower-tier manufacturers such as Old Navy just don’t have the quality control processes to ensure consistent sizing. This is usually because they cut too many of the same pattern piece at one time, which means the bottom piece in a stack that is theoretically all the same size will be larger than the one on top.

              1. veggiewolf*

                One word: bras.

                If the nude bra fits perfectly, the black one in the same size, same style, same manufacturer should NOT be an entire cup too small.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  I thought that was why black makes people look smaller: it is literally sucking you in one size smaller. ;P

              2. Pathfinder Ryder*

                Former department store worker here: I was told that different colors fit differently because the dyes affect the fabric in different ways.

                1. Candi*

                  (Hard side eye to inventor of that explanation)

                  Fabric can be dyed at one of three points:

                  1) After it’s harvested and cleaned (i.e., “dyed in the wool”)

                  2) After it’s spun into thread

                  3) After the thread is woven into cloth

                  The size of the fabric after dying can be affected -but that is well before it is crafted into garments. Size should not be affected by the dying process!

                  (Price, on the other hand…)

          3. Mpls*

            Eh – I’m halfways convinced this is a smaller size problem. I’m pretty solidly one of the double-digit sizes in whatever mall brand I try – even the ones that get flack for being inconsistent with sizing. I might go down a size on top, or up a size on the bottom, but it’s pretty consistent. That being said, I’ve been that size most of my adult life….and I have definitely gained weight in the process – so it’s possible my clothing size has grown with me – it just hasn’t changed over the course of a season.

            1. oldbiddy*

              Me too. I’m 48. At the lower end of my weight range I’m a size 12, and at the higher end a 16-18, and have been mostly size 14/same weight for most of my adult life. Once in a great while I’ll encounter something with either strange vanity sizing or things sized way smaller than normal (hello women’s novelty t-shirts, no way in hell I’m a 3XL.) It’s been like this since the 80’s, and I’ve had several weight gain/loss cycles in there. I suspect there’s been an increase of an inch or two in the measurements for a size 14, which keeps pace with the slow migration of my weight to my midsection, but it’s not like I was a size 14 in college and now I’m a size 6.

            2. Yeah I'm Commenting!!*

              Same here. Maybe a size up or down. I think my husband could figure it out looking at my clothes well enough without having to be all weird with the sales associate and comparing our bodies.

            3. ceiswyn*

              I have actually been noticing this recently (I’ve lost a massive amount of weight this last year).

              When I was a size 26, I was consistently a 26. I could just order a 26 over the internet and be sure it would fit. This held true down all the sizes until I started moving out of specialist plus sizes and into large normal sizes.

              I’m now a 16 – probably. On average. I have size 16 dresses that are too small, and size 14 dresses that fit beautifully. I even have a size 10 that looks great on me. WHAT EVEN IS THIS MADNESS?!

            4. Consistent Size*

              I’m consistently a size 8/10 or a M, but I say this as someone who only shops at about 4 places (online) that carry tall sizes. I used to be a size 2 in my teens and early 20s, so I know how big that size is and there’s no way my current wardrobe is comparable at all.

              As someone who has been both sizes, I don’t get how the same person can wear a size 2 and size 10. Where are these clothes coming from?

          4. ACS*

            I can’t even get consistency in shoes–I wear a 7 in one brand, an 8 in another brand, 7 1/2 in a third brand…

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I have no idea what I actually look like, so I am not sure I would expect a man to be able to identify my body double. (Although my husband looks at me more than I do.)

      3. Mirax*

        When I worked at Victoria’s Secret back in the day “my wife is just your size” was a red flag for creepers! Plenty of those guys didn’t even have a wife and were just there trying to hit on us, make us hold the merch up against our bodies–I remember once one of them used “my wife is just your size, can you try it on so I can be sure?” on a new girl one day and she hadn’t been warned yet about those guys. Thank god I was running the fitting rooms and stopped her!

        Working there made me really strict about shutting down or redirecting customers’ focus on my body. “Hmm, well, everyone is different, so let’s figure out what works best FOR YOU.” And thankfully, our managers gave us free rein to hand those dudes over to the male sales associates if we felt creeped-on. You could always tell by how fast they bailed what they were really there for.

        1. former VS associate*

          Did you guys have male sales associates? When I worked at VS, men could only work in the perfume department, the cashier desk, or the non-lingerie clothing departments, but not in the lingerie sections. (I guess one of the male associates from perfume could have gone with a male customer to lingerie, but we didn’t have men whose primary position was in lingerie.) The result was that we only ever had like one guy working at the store.

          I actually never had anyone ask me to try something on, but I did have to help a lot of clueless people figure out women’s sizing, which did sometimes involve “more like me, or more like her?” questions.

          1. Mirax*

            We had a male manager who jumped into lingerie because his primary concern was Protecting His Employees, and when it was time for the Christmas rush he insisted on hiring a couple guys to the sales floor. The guys were instructed to pass off female lingerie customers to us female associates, work beauty and clothing themselves, and take any dude who was making us uncomfortable off our hands. It was GREAT and when I transferred to another store across the country I was dismayed to find out it wasn’t SOP.

    2. Roseberriesmaybe*

      I also got a good bit of that- “I’m trying to buy something for my niece, she’s like you, what size are you?” Or even “Can you try this coat on so I’ll know it fits her?” It seems to come with the territory in retail

    3. Wildlife Rehabber*

      I was going to say the same thing-even if it’s in the tone/attitude of “well we are both plus-sized, so you know how I feel!” comments about size can be uncomfortable for anyone who has grown up/spent time being self conscious about their weight or size, particularly hips or stomach area. I think the customer’s phrasing is rude. I’d be okay with something like “You look about my size, so which items of clothing would you recommend” as opposed to “We both have big hips!”. At the same time, I could see the ladies making the comments not really thinking about how what they are saying could be stressful/hurtful, since, as Allison says, it is a relief to be in a shopping environment for plus-sized women, and it’s probably easier to relate to the plus-sized associate..
      That being said, I don’t know what kind of push back you could have against customers saying these things, especially in retail. If they say they’d rather have help from Jess specifically because of her size, and she isn’t standing right there, maybe “She looks busy right now. We both know the store’s inventory really well, and even though I’m not your size [don’t mention smaller], I can definitely help you find clothes that will fit well/be flattering/stylish/your size [whatever works best]”.
      The skinny jean comments just make me sad. I wouldn’t know how to respond to those without getting on a body positivity, anyone can wear anything and look fabulous soapbox.

      1. Wildlife Rehabber*

        Submitted my comment and then had a thought-if Jess feels comfortable saying something like this, especially to repeat customers, she could say something along the lines of “well, I don’t think either of us have a big butt-I think we have just the right size!” with a nice customer service smile or laugh. Maybe not that exact line-but something else that seems natural for her.
        Maybe this is just my jet-lagged brain, but to me it seems like a way to correct the customer without offending her or seeming rude.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          I think the problem is it will be constant correction, day in and day out, which will be wearing for Jess. Half the time even repeat customers won’t even remember Jess helped them before, much less what she said. OP, maybe help Jess reframe the comments? The customers are likely feeling a great sense of relief being able to enter a store that doesn’t judge them for size. People who experience the lifting of stigma can get a little giddy and say off the wall, occasionally wildly inappropriate, things*. Maybe reframing it as “drunk on acceptance/giddy with relief” and it will sting less?

          * based on experience setting up safe spaces for people with certain medical conditions. May not apply to this situation at all

          1. Wildlife Rehabber*

            This is much better than what I suggested! I mostly just wanted the OP to be able to have something to suggest to Jess to stop her feeling stressed and worn out by all the comments-and you and other people have hit the nail on the head much better than me! Yet another reason why it’s good I quit retail.

          2. Rocky*

            Oh yes, that’s exactly my feeling the other day when I walked into a lingerie shop. I had bought from them before and been disappointed that the ‘bra experts’ seemed uncomfortable about my fitting. This time they had a woman doing the fittings who was clearly big busted and really understood how important thigns like wide straps are for comfort. I was giddy with relief! But managed to not comment on her proportions.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I think the other problem is the context – telling me my butt is just the right size doesn’t help me find an article of clothing that fits said butt.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          Eh, that could come off really condescending. Maybe the right size butt is a relatively large one! If someone tries to tell me that I don’t know what shape and size I am, I don’t want them helping me pick out pants.

          1. TL -*

            Yes! There was a brief period where long, frilly layered skirts were in fashion. I am 5’3″. They make me look like a cupcake because I am short.
            I don’t want to be told I’m the right height, I want you to help me find a skirt that doesn’t make me look like a cupcake. Which means acknowledging that I am short.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Exactly. In my opinion, the best salespeople are the ones who say things like, “You know, that dress hits you in a weird spot on your legs and kind of cuts you off. Try this one, it’s a little shorter and might be more flattering.”

              1. Decima Dewey*

                Former plus sizer here. Now I’m svelte, but I still have a built for childbirth pelvis. If a rack of jeans has arbitrary sizes, like 10s or 12s, I can probably find something that fits. If the sizing is by my waist, then even the biggest pair on the rack won’t zip up.

        4. ThatGirl*

          Eh, I’d be annoyed if someone with a smaller butt than mine tried to tell me it wasn’t big. Facts are facts. I am the size I am. As long as you’re not using it as an insult (oh my gosh, I don’t think we have any jeans that fit your gigantic rear) it’s fine.

          1. Murphy*

            My husband had a comment like that from a sales associate. I was with my husband once when he was buying jeans and the associate helping him said “This cut is great for people with big thighs like you.” He was too nice to say anything, but when we were leaving (with the jeans) he said “Did you hear that???”

            1. Ego Chamber*

              I’m probably missing some context, but how is that in any way judgmental or rude? The associate acknowledged a valid point in a factual way and affirmed that the suggested jean style worked with a part of his body that could otherwise possibly be difficult to dress.

        5. Squeeble*

          That’s based on the thought that being a bigger size than [some arbitrary standard] or having a big butt/thighs/stomach is somehow bad or wrong, though.

        6. Ego Chamber*

          “she could say something along the lines of “well, I don’t think either of us have a big butt-I think we have just the right size!” with a nice customer service smile or laugh.”

          Whereas I’m more in favor of “Girl, I love my big fat ass. High-five!” (… and this is why I don’t work retail.)

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I could see the ladies making the comments not really thinking about how what they are saying could be stressful/hurtful.

        It reminds me of the scattered female office bonding procedure “we’re all going to talk about how fat we believe we are.” Except those office cliques deliver themselves to Jess.

        1. Kiki*

          >It reminds me of the scattered female office bonding procedure “we’re all going to talk about how fat we believe we are.”

          I HATE THIS SO MUCH. It has happened in every office I’ve ever worked in. Lunch cannot proceed until there’s been sufficient conversation about which diet someone is on, how their clothing size has changed, or how someone is eating something “bad”. I hate it and just sit there silently munching and try to bring up a different topic when there’s a pause.

        2. narratif*

          It reminds me of the scattered female office bonding procedure “we’re all going to talk about how fat we believe we are.” Except those office cliques deliver themselves to Jess.

          Yes, this is what I was thinking when writing my initial comment–that it’s an attempt at bonding or that weird sort of “we’re going to joke/laugh about this, but we know it’s horrible and shameful!” vocal coding that women can do these kinds of situations. I wonder if Jess hasn’t been the recipient of that kind of behavior in the past and that’s coloring her reactions now.

          That said, I think these comments are coming at Jess from a multitude of possible motivations, but regardless of those motivations, Jess is experiencing them as hurtful/insulting and awkward. She may need to develop the kind of filter that another commenter refers to, where she only processes the information she needs to know to help her customer, or else work on reframing her own emotional reactions to the comments that she gets.

    4. Anon for this*

      Yeah, I’m sure it does make Jess uncomfortable to have customers drawing attention to her body and her size! I must say, I’m a bit surprised and disappointed that plus-sized women are making these comments, because as a plus-sized woman, I know how self-conscious I am about my body and I wouldn’t want to make another woman (especially another plus-sized woman) feel self-conscious.

      I think Allison hit the nail on the head that these customers are making the comments because they feel relieved to shop at a place that caters to them, and maybe it makes them feel free to talk about size because they think of it as a judgment-free zone or something. I have to admit that I do prefer to deal with employees closer to my size when I shop, just because I am self-conscious and I feel like someone my size will be less likely to look down on my body. But my goodness, I would never come right out and say that! I’m sorry you and Jess have to deal with this.

      1. Look, a bee!*

        I imagine that for a plus sized customer, a plus sized store is the kind of place they expect to be able to embrace and own and maybe even celebrate their size, compared to how they feel going into regular sized stores that have nothing in stock for them. I can see customers thinking that issues around acknowledging weight are out in the open in this store and it being a relief not to have to dance around it. They maybe even think that an associate working there is very body positive about their own size given that they work someplace that celebrates it.

        I’m not plus sized so I don’t know how I’d feel, but it doesn’t seem much different to a woman preferring a woman serve her in a bra-fitting shop rather than a guy, perceiving (probably incorrectly) that having similar assets or being a similar size makes them more able to know which items are good and which to avoid.

        However, customers in all industries can be rude and hurtful, it’s just part of dealing with customers to absorb hurtful comments as long as they’re not meant with malice, and to maintain a professional stance.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Yeah, part of the clothing retail experience is having customers make rude and awkward comments about your body and theirs.

          1. Look, a bee!*

            Absolutely. It sucks and you have to try find ways to handle it and stay sane but you can’t control what comes out of the mouths of customers. Working with the public is incredibly hard, though in recent years I’m seeing a turn away from ‘the customer is always right’ and towards backing staff up a little more than in the past thankfully.

            Seriously though, your sarcasm aside, it doesn’t sound like the OP is talking about customers coming into the store to blatantly fat-shame or set out to be nasty. Jess has every right to be upset by those comments but I’m not seeing any evidence of malice and I don’t have any suggestions for how to make them stop, do you?

            1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              When I worked retail I developed “customer ear”, i.e. one that only heard the necessary information and filtered out everything else. “I like those jeans you are wearing but my butt isn’t as big as yours, do you think they would still look good?” became “I like those jeans, would they look good on me?”. Aside from that I got nothing. Retail isn’t a job for everyone and requires developing a pretty thick skin.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I imagine that for a plus sized customer, a plus sized store is the kind of place they expect to be able to embrace and own and maybe even celebrate their size, compared to how they feel going into regular sized stores that have nothing in stock for them. I can see customers thinking that issues around acknowledging weight are out in the open in this store and it being a relief not to have to dance around it.

          Nail on head.

        3. Perse's Mom*

          Retailers that cater to non plus sized women have, for a very long time, had a VERY limited selection of things for the plus sized among us. Often there’s one or two racks and most of it is hideous and anything that isn’t is not there in your size (as a chubby kid from a small town, I owned a few *maternity* tops to avoid paisley monstrosities in cloth form).

          So going into a store where not only are you going to finally have some actual options that will actually fit, possibly in more than one color!, and by jove they will probably even have bras that truly fit! (GLORIOUS DAY), but the sales associates even look like you! They literally know your pain! It’s kind of amazing.

        4. Arjay*

          I’m fine shopping at plus-size stores. And I’m fine with standard-size stores that I know don’t have anything that will fit me. But the department stores that hide the plus-size clothes in some remote corner, far away from the “misses” sizes are so irritating. It tends to communicate, intentionally or not, “If you don’t wear misses sizes, you aren’t actually a woman, so we won’t put your clothes anywhere near the women’s clothes.” My local Macy’s has plus size clothes on the third floor, in the back, behind the children’s section. I don’t shop at my local Macy’s any more for just that reason.

          1. OxfordComma*

            I went looking once for a very basic piece of work attire in black. I made the mistake of going to Macy’s. I was in their plus-sized section. If I had wanted leopard print or something in purple with sequins, I would have had no problems. Alas, no. I made the comment aloud that it was so frustrating to find stuff and the clerk who I think worked in another department, but had gotten stuck helping us (hidden way way back by the children’s section), said to me, “If you lost some weight, you would have more options.”

            It really is horrible out there. And we haven’t even addressed the paucity of options (for that, I point you to Tim Gunn’s thoughts on the subject).

      2. Temperance*

        FWIW, I have kind of a weird body type (short, overweight, very curvy, really big boobs), so I would approach a woman who had curves and big boobs and ask her opinion before I would approach a flat-chested woman (for example). I also don’t necessarily see it as being hurtful or offensive to ask a woman with a bigger butt / larger chest how she wears things in the store where she’s selling clothes. Then again, to further your point, I wouldn’t ever ask a woman how she hides her apple shape, so maybe you’re on to something?

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Ah, see, I’d say “what dresses do you have here that would flatter an apple shape?” Because really, the whole thing is as much about proportion as it is size. If I saw Jess, and she were apple-shaped, I might specifically ask her which pants would work on an apple-shaped figure. But on the other hand, if I saw the OP working at the store, and she were an hourglass, I’d expect to be able to ask her the same question and get a helpful answer. You don’t have to share the same waist/hip ratio to know that Pant X works better for hourglass figures and Pant Y works better for apples. A clerk should know these things.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Should… and yet, I’ve had so many experiences with clerks who didn’t know how to handle body types different from their own. I’d go to someone close to my own shape before I went to someone dramatically different.

        2. Annabelle*

          I have a similar body shape and I would do the same thing. I wouldn’t be crass about it, but it’s hard to find clothes when your hips/butt/bust are dramatically larger than your waist. Asking someone with a similar shape what works for them can be a big help.

      3. Gadfly*

        Well, and for the smaller employees, I know that there is currently quite a bit of resentment in many of the larger circles that we’ve actually been pushed out of the stores so that they could expand their lines to smaller sizes than they used to carry and expand the selection for the smaller sizes. And no, having it online and making me buy it and pay shipping to try it on is not at all the same (in fact I refuse to order from any click and mortar store playing that game–I’ll go to online only stores instead.) So seeing the store staffed with people who seem to all be in that new trendy end of plus sized (where you get to be the smallest of the fat people seems to be the draw) when struggling to just find a pair of pants just really is kind of insult on top of injury. I’m going to be looking for some evidence I am welcome in the store–not like the max size 18 (6′) models on the displays do it. A staff member closer to me in size is going to be some evidence that I might actually be able to shop, and I’m going to cling to that. Because it is rare. It is damn near a miracle.

        And seriously,OP1, you might want to pause a moment and ask how it is that apparently in a plus sized store, almost all the employees seem to be the small end of plus at best. Because studies and surveys strongly suggest that wasn’t an accident. Perhaps if Jess didn’t stand out as the only larger plus sized associate, your customers wouldn’t be treating her like a token.

      1. narratif*

        I will never grow (at)tired of puns.

        (Though I did, for the most part, enjoy retail. I had really great managers and co-workers, and the majority of the customers were pretty cool.)

    5. nonymous*

      From a practical perspective, I would recommend Jess loop Andrea or OP in casually in the moment. I used to work in a boutique-y retail chain, and this was a common tactic to train staff, if we were bored, another co-worker knew the section better, etc. Basically, instead of a 1-on-1 sales experience, it turns into a friendly gaggle of women shopping together (where some people really know the store).

      This won’t stop Jess’ problem with customers new to the store reacting “OMG! pant-twinsies!!” But, it will facilitate the experience of positive interaction with the skinnier staff. This is good b/c if the customer comes back they hopefully will remember helpfulness from not-Jess and seek them out, and other customers will overhear the positive exchanges and not be intimidated by skinnier staff. It may also serve to give Andrea and OP some insight into why certain parts of their spiel don’t ring true.

    6. JanetInSC*

      I am plus size, apple shaped unfortunately, and really, really appreciate getting help from a stylish retail person with a similar body shape…in fact, I would be much, much more likely to shop at that store because of her! Please tell your colleague, OP1, that her customers like both her body shape and her style, and are seeking expert advice from her. It’s a compliment.

  7. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I am not quite plus-sized and I don’t claim to know what that’s like. But – and please nobody jump on me, this is just my personal experience and I can’t make it not so even if you don’t like what I’m saying – I wasn’t particularly surprised to see which group was making the comments.

    When I worked in retail (fashion but not plus-size), I am sorry to say that of the people who were rude or unkind to staff, almost all of them were from that group. I have no idea why. (I’m actually struggling to remember any examples not from that group.) Whereas I never had any problems with teenagers, for example. They were always polite.

    Anyway. These comments are really unkind. Whatever happened to: do as you would be done by? I don’t know what to advise, but I do wonder if you could kill them with kindness.

    1. JamieS*

      Not to over generalize but I’ve gotta agree here. I don’t think most middle aged women are difficult customers but based on my experience and observation a disproportionate number of difficult customers are middle aged women.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Women are more statistically more likely to do shopping for other family members, especially during middle age. So maybe there are just more middle-aged women shopping.

        1. JamieS*

          Doubt it. Other demographics still shop but they’re more likely to be shopping for themselves than others.

          1. Cambridge Comma*

            Women end up doing their shopping and shopping for others, and so shop more. Look at how much general advertising is clearly targeted at women.

            1. JamieS*

              They buy more things when they shop but I don’t think the number of times they shop are significantly higher than all other demographics. Probably higher than middle aged men though.

              I agree they often shop in more stressful situations than others though. I know I’d be more stressed shopping for other people than just myself.

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      The “I’d like to speak with the manager” meme exists for a reason.

      There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to how women interact with each other, but my sense is that when a woman has endured objectification and poor treatment throughout her lifetime, she may feel she’s earned the right to foist that upon someone else. “I dealt with it. You can deal with it too.” It’s not like her “abusers” ever apologized to her, so there’s no need to fear comeuppance. Of course, my response is always Dude, be a better person.

      1. JamieS*

        I don’t think this has to do with a lifetime of enduring objectification but rather the mindset inappropriate comments/behavior are acceptable because we both share some common trait. I call it the “we’re both women” mindset.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          There is definitely a phenomenon of oppressed or victimized people thinking that other people need to “pay their dues.” Ideally they’d think, “I went through this; no one else should have to,” but misery loves company.

          1. JamieS*

            I’m not going to make an argument about the world as a whole. In the specific instance we’re referring to, OP’s letter, it doesn’t sound like the women are making the comments because they feel Jess should “pay dues”. They’re probably doing it because they think the comments are acceptable since they’re also plus sized.

            1. Soon to be former fed*

              That’s all. Nothing nefarious going on. I am a big woman and always have been, but my shopping style is, you leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone until I’m ready to check out.

          2. small biz owner*

            I think it’s a bit strong to use words like abuse, oppressed, and victims. Rudeness is not abuse. It’s just rude!

        2. Mookie*

          Handmaiden effect. Instead of “I’ve got mine, fuck you,” it’s “I’ve got nothing and you get even less.”

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        I’m actually almost in this group myself now (I’ll be 40 in a few years and my experiences are from working retail in Britain in the mid noughties). I don’t know if it’s a generational thing or what.

        I just personally think people say a lot of things to retail staff that they shouldn’t say to anyone. The power differential really sucks.

        1. RW87*

          Yes THIS +1

          I hated being the captive audience for difficult customers when I worked in retail. See also: Luring/creepy men, lonely old dears who were desperate for a chat, people who want to complain at length about something that has literally nothing to do with you or your shop, people who are ANGERY and want to belittle you to make themselves feel better etc. etc.

          1. Purplesaurus*

            Totally. Working in a department store as a teen, I absolutely dealt with creepy men (“if you were ten years older”), customers who thought I intentionally made the price ring up incorrectly (they told me so), and people who angrily complained that the [single random item] they came for wasn’t at the front of the store with a beam of light shining down upon it just for them.

            1. NaoNao*

              Ha ha!! “a beam of light shining down upon it just for them”. Been there. I worked retail for over 10 years throughout school and on and off for most of my working life and the public! I used to have a ton of war stories but have forgotten most of them. I have “resting therapist face” and people would tell me their life stories almost immediately upon meeting me, which could be very challenging.

        2. Soon to be former fed*

          No, its an individual personality thing, nothing more. I imagine all jobs serving the general public suck to some degree, which is why I never had one after high school. Power differentials exist in all jobs unless you own your own business. Working in a hierarchy can suck period.

          1. Kate 2*

            The retail power differential is wildly different though, much worse than any other job I have had serving the public, mostly as receptionists and office manager. As a retail person I had many people be rude to me, and more than one person tell me to my face that I was stupid and other nasty things. People have the moronic idea that retail workers are less intelligent than people in any other position, and that they work in retail because they were too dumb to do any better. Not that they like retail or that they have a degree or that there’s a bad economy.

            1. Howdy Do*

              Exactly. Retail work is seen as low status (much lower than basically any office job) and the crappier people of the world get off on treating people of a lower status badly so it is a specific kind of power differential than just “I have a boss, they have a boss” kind of hierarchy hassles almost all jobs have. I’ve worked a lot of retail (didn’t have the privilege to never work it after high school) and I’m a librarian now which is also customer service and I always say 95% of customers/patrons are totally cool but it’s that 5% that really ruin your day.

            2. Anna*

              Yep! There’s a reason there are listicles that talk about rude customers at retail stores getting their come uppance for being terrible. Or that a lot of shoppers believe to their dying breath that “the customer is always right.”

        3. paul*

          Yep. Easily the worst part of working retail. I had everything from men/women occasionally hitting on me, to religious conversion, to people haranguing religion, to the odd threat, to people trying to make you feel bad about your stores return policies, to people trying to bond over how awful XYZ group was…gag.

        4. Wannabe Disney Princess*

          Oh, man. I could tell A TON of stories. I have had people grab actual body parts of mine. Or say things you’d never say to anyone. Quickest example that encompasses both: I have psoriasis. I was helping a woman and I reached across the table. She grabs my arm and screeches, “OHMYGOD! Honey, what is wrong with you?”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            “Although I am immune to it, it’s almost always fatal to others when they touch me.”

            There were days where I wore duct tape on my mouth. sigh.

        5. oldbiddy*

          I’m in that demographic. My peers tend to be more prone to speaking bluntly about their own bodies than they used to – perhaps this is part of it? I haven’t noticed more rudeness to others, though.

      3. Gloucesterina*

        For my work just a couple days ago, I sat in on a college class dealing with authority and power in consumer interactions. There’s some interesting scholarship on who holds power in these types of interactions, and how consumers in more recent years have adapted to a shifting corporate script that has begun to lean more towards cultivating “natural” or affective types of interactions. In other words, less “let me speak to your supervisor,” which I encountered almost daily when I was working retail. As far as I learned from this one lecture, researchers in this area tend to see the power dynamics as shifting, rather than fixed, as opposed to psychologizing the consumer (e.g. this type of person probably has this type of experiences in other social contexts, so they’ll tend to behave X way in a consumer interaction.)

        I’m sure many more folks here are far schooled on this topic than I am, having listened to a grand total of one lecture!

    3. Sylvan (Sylvia)*

      I have had a lot of inappropriate weight-related comments from other women while at work. I am tall and curvy. At any weight, even underweight, I’m a big person.

      Unfortunately, commentary is usually from older women who I otherwise look up to. (Well, literally look down to.) I don’t know why that is and I’ve never found a good way to respond. Annoying comments seem to be part of the deal when you’re working with people whose behavior you don’t have any way to change – like people you’re interacting with too briefly for a “Can we not?” to be worthwhile.

    4. Jeanne*

      I don’t know if there is much she can do. She can’t say what she’s really thinking without getting complaints. Kindess is good. I’m thinking maybe a redirecting of sorts. “We have these shorts which tend to look best on that type of body.” It’s hard to ignore what feels like an insult at times. I just don’t know any way to tell customers to shut up.

      The other part you should all have a line to say. I’m not great at this. Maybe “I know the products well that we have to offer and I will do my best to help you. What can I help you find?” If anyone says skinny people shouldn’t work there, I think you should say that the store does not discriminate in hiring.

    5. Mookie*

      I think the fact that the LW works in fashion-related retail and that your experiences were also in fashion may be one of several variables contributing to this phenomenon, although when I worked at a tailor’s the most difficult customers tended to lean to middle-class and male (young and old). Clothes and the clothes-shopping experience are marketed very differently to women compared to men, of course, and this is especially true of disposable, off-the-rack clothing, where the women bear the burden of both high-cost and low-quality as well as the social expectations that their clothing look pleasing, affect a sense of personal ‘style,’ and conceal ‘unsightly,’ ‘unbecoming,’ ‘displeasing’ flaws rather than that they offer comfort, easy maintenance, and value for money.

      What LW1 describes sounds to me like, in addition to treating them like peons, her customers are expecting salespeople working the floor to act as aspirational models for them, along the lines of fast fashion marketed to young, ‘hip’ folk, who buy their clothes from people who could and probably do do or have done some bona fide print and catalog modeling. There’s not a lot the LW or her manager can necessarily do, on a micro-level, to eradicate that expectation, but prepping salespeople on how to handle that kind of interaction with scripts that feel good, even empowering (ugh, I know) for them, like a bland “yup, as you can see from our salespeople, we offer attire from size x to size y, hark at us,” might help. I do like it when people, having just had something personally insulting thrown their way but they’re in public and can’t make ‘a scene’ pull a Whatever Do You Mean, I Don’t Get It? routine. “Whose big butt? Where? Do I? Really? I can’t say that I’ve noticed. And you do, too, do you? Fascinating. Let’s get you some jeans for that.” And then just sell them everything. “Your big butt’s going to love this! And it comes in five colors and two prints!”

    6. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      When I worked retail it was the no filter elders who made the rudest personal comments. 40-50 year old women were usually the frustrated and rushed shoppers, so their rudeness was generally rooted in impatience and not personal. I will always value my retail experience because it taught me a lot about people, society, consumption, etc., but I was so glad to leave it behind after I got my EMT certification and switched tracks in my massive college loan avoidance mission.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I always thought that I had to be in tune to if the customer was hurried or under time pressures. If a sales person can pick up on that early in the conversation, it can be used to their advantage. “This belt goes with these pants, and it’s only $9.99. Do you want me to add it on for you?” Usually they would say yes.

    7. Temperance*

      It’s probably because these women have gone shopping in the past and have been met with negativity and snide comments from shop employees, so they’ve developed a strategy where they strike first.

      1. Anna*

        I don’t think it’s a defense mechanism. I think it’s crappy people who feel the need to thrust their insecurities on retail employees in the worst ways possible.

    8. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I usually enjoy your comments on this site, but this is incredibly judgmental and uncalled for. And I think you know that or you wouldn’t have prefaced it with “please don’t jump on me”.

      You admit you don’t know what it’s like to be plus-sized and yet you’re willing to make broad statements about how plus-sized people act when they shop. You’ve never broken down in tears in a dressing room because you can’t find something that fits well and flatters. You’ve never faced the derision and mocking of ‘regular sized’ people.

      1. SignalLost*

        My favourite is being unable to go shopping with friends because there are four stores that carry your size and it sucks to stand around in stores you can’t shop in. It gets depressing when you want to do a theme thing as a joke and the other two have something cute and you look like a frump because your size means OBVIOUSLY you want a slipcover.

        1. Almond Milk Latte*


          “Oh, here’s an extra-large, you can’t be bigger than that!” says the clueless friend, as I let out a 3xl sigh.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I so get this. I remember shopping in Caldor’s and Bradlees (both now defunct) and there was nothing, nothing, nothing. And my size 0 cousin was grabbing random things off the rack, “here this will look great on you”. Uh. I believe that shirt should come together and button, but not on me. After saying it a thousand times, I gave up.

            I remember in my late 20s sitting down and crying because I had tried on so many shoes and nothing came close to fitting.

        2. Lala*

          This is why my best friends and I actually love to go shopping at Maurices when we’re all in town (a rarity these days since we all live in different cities). They have regular and plus sizes, and my friends and I are at both ends (and the middle) of that spectrum. It’s the one place we all get to do that “oh, let me see what that shirt/dress/etc. looks like on you! Dude, you are rocking that look!” thing together. Ren faires are about the only other place we can easily find clothes in sizes that fit all of us.

          The rest of the time, I just shop on my own, ’cause it’s a lot less depressing to just go to the 1 or 2 stores you know have plus-sizes that will fit you. I hate regular department stores because even their plus size sections are pretty awful.

          1. Anna*

            My sister and I love it there. I just got a super cute dress with a flowy flowery thing to wear over it a couple of weekends ago. But can we just lose the “cold-shoulder” look? I call it the fat woman’s “I want to show off my shoulders but I hate everything under them” look.

      2. Lehigh*

        Ohhh. I was sure that the group she was referring to women was in their 40s and 50s, not plus-sized people in particular. In reading her replies, I still think that’s the case. I can see why you would think it was the other way around, though.

        1. Anna*

          That…doesn’t make it okay. We all know she was referring to middle-aged women and it’s still a shitty stereotyping.

      3. Myrin*

        I’m pretty sure Ramona is refering to OP’s understanding that these are “mainly women in their 40s-50s”, not to the fact that they’re plus-sized (as in “most of the unkind customers I know are women in their 40s and 50s, so I’m not surprised that that’s the rude group in a plus-sized store, too”, although I agree with others here that in this particular instance, I doubt that these women are intending to be rude with their comments towards OP’s colleague, but that’s beside the point).
        Which is in accordance with my own experience in a restaurant and my sister’s in a supermarket, although they’re usually second behind “men in their fourties and fifties in suits”.

      4. Purplesaurus*

        You’ve never faced the derision and mocking of ‘regular sized’ people.

        Plus-sized people aren’t the sole targets of weight-mocking. I don’t think a “regular sized” person exists.

        1. Gadfly*

          Please. Let me guess, you are going to try skinny shamming arguments next? Being mocked and dealing with the STRUCTURAL issues connected with being plus sized are very different things.

          And perhaps if you were plus sized, you’d know there is such a thing as a ‘regular sized person’. They may get pressure to be model thin, but they don’t get hit with the psuedo science of not being one pretty much constantly. It just is usually listed as ‘normal’ instead of regular on all the paperwork, and in the ad, and in the articles in both fashion magazines and more respected publications.

          1. Eloise*

            I was squarely in the Overweight camp last year, and lost a significant amount of weight through diet and exercise. I can assure you that I faced a significant amount of backlash about being “skin and bones”, “eating like a bird”, “quit starving yourself, don’t you know men actually like some meat on their women?” and actually once had a woman say about me (while speaking to another woman) “No no, I don’t want to look like her, she’s just some skinny little thing, I’d rather look like you”.
            I’m not saying my experience is the same as yours, but this isn’t the suffering olympics-my experience was equally as hurtful, and people shouldn’t be saying anything about other’s bodies regardless of which end of the spectrum you fall on.

    9. my two cents*

      Over a decade ago while in college, I worked full time at the Buckle for nearly a year.
      I’ve always had an edgier look (bright hair, piercings, some tattoos), and I was pretty used to being poked/prodded/etc. Hands down, middle-aged women were the grabbiest. I was pinning some jeans to be hemmed, and the mother exclaims OH YOU HAVE A TATTOO ON YOUR BACK and pulls the collar of my t-shirt so she can peer down my back. She was literally looking down (the back of) my shirt. Another woman seemed to be sizing me up around back-to-school time… “can I help you find something? different size?” “Oh…well…I…I don’t mean to offend, but you’re about the same size as my 12 yr old son…would you be willing to throw this sweatshirt on and see if it would fit?”
      I’ve had a middle aged woman ‘zing’ her fingertip up the back of my ear, as though she was playing my multiple 12g rings like a xylophone, and so many would come up to touch my spikey (white) hair without even saying a word to me.

      1. Bookkeeper*

        Wow, that’s some really invasive stuff! I thought my eyebrows were going to shoot right off the top of my head, especially with that ear thing.

        1. JeanB in NC*

          Oops, forgot to change username. Also, to add to my comment, it’s just not that hard to learn that you don’t touch other people without their permission! Why do so many people think they can do that to strangers?

          1. Jenny*

            Well, in fairness most women have been touched their whole lives without consent on a regular basis including getting hugs at work instead of handshakes and so on so maybe they have less boundaries themselves sometimes

            1. NaoNao*

              Wellllll then they should be extra aware of how weird and unsettling it can be and how unwelcome, not visit that same annoyance on others.
              People treating you one way as a young adult doesn’t usually mean that you then decide that weird, intrusive behavior is okay, normal, and acceptable. Maybe as a *kid* if your family was super touchy feely or something. But I think that while it is true that women get touched without permission all the time, I don’t think it follows that they then extrapolate “oh, it’s okay to touch a stranger!”

  8. Jennifer*

    In my industry, they’ve started giving us the interview questions in advance, though it’s usually right before the interview starts. I really like having the warning, actually. I’d be delighted to get them even further in advance! I actually collect interview questions and have rehearsed responses just in case–sometimes this works out and sometimes I’m still surprised.

  9. Chaperon Rouge*

    I worked retail as a student – I’m very pale, and I was told I should get a tan on a regular basis. Never mind the fact that I look utterly ridiculous with a fake tan, my first thought was always, if I was from a different ethnic background would you think it appropriate to tell me I would look better with a different skin colour? (I was young and never dared to voice this to customers though! Now I’d probably reply “I think everyone looks great with the skin colour they were born with” or something along those lines.)

    1. MK*

      Oh, god, the obsession with tanning. I find it really weird that in a fundamentally racist society the ideal is to be a white person who has artificially (either by deliberately exposing yourself to the sun or with chemicals) made themselves browner.

      1. Mookie*

        There’s a class element there, of course. In olden times and in white places, a golden-hued fieldhand could not help but demonstrate their station with the unmistakeable signposts of freckles and burns. Now it’s who can achieve a deep suntan in winter through expansive and exclusive holidaying in literal and figurative hotspots. Milky pale has no currency anymore.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          >Milky pale has no currency anymore.

          Careful with that. It still goes in the ‘white’ category which carries considerable currency in the US.

          1. Lehigh*

            I mean, yeah, if we’re talking about opportunities and safety, it’s great. But when it comes to “Does this person look okay?” both extremes off skin tone (very dark or very light) are oddly stigmatized.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Just chiming in as another person whose natural options are very pale and hot pink–yes, people feel weirdly free to suggest that you need to spray paint yourself a nice medium brown.

              (This does seem to have improved in the past few years–maybe the slowly growing diversity of models is leaking outward?)

              1. Risha*

                That, and I think skin cancer awareness is finally gaining some traction over the “tan = active in outdoor sports = healthy and wealthy” correlation. We went as a society from real tans to fake tans first in response, but ditching it altogether has its advantages, plus we’re now more aware of how sun causes wrinkles and heavy moisturizing is popular.

          2. fposte*

            And there are definitely countries where milky pale does have currency. I’m not sure fetishizing any skin color is a great move, but at least the preservation of milky pale isn’t as likely to give you skin cancer.

            1. Julia*

              People in Japan oooh and aaaah over my white skin. I loved it at first, because I was so used to hearing “get a tan, you effing goth” (I’m not remotely goth, and even if I were, wth), but now it’s getting old. I can’t even tell them how I am so white – I was just born with it, I don’t tan, and I wear SPF so I won’t burn.

              It’s weird that Japan never had that same “we all work indoors (and way too much), so being pale means someone doesn’t have the time for a luxurious tan”, but I guess they have stronger work ethics?

              1. Anna*

                I don’t think it’s about work ethic; it’s just about cultural value given to different standards. Status symbols exist in Japan, it’s just that one of those symbols isn’t so tan because you’re rich enough to lay around on the beach.

                1. Julia*

                  I know – most people are really into branded goods like designer bags. I just find it curious.

        2. Allison*

          Unless you’re a freaky goth chick like I used to be! I took pride in maintaining my paleness throughout summer. My acne was horrible though, go figure.

        3. Kate 2*

          Yep, just like the weight issue! In cultures where food is more expensive and/or scarcer, heavier = rich and doesn’t have to work a lot, thinner = poor and has to work a lot.

        4. Pathfinder Ryder*

          It does in South East Asia, where most beauty products right down to antiperspirant and sunscreen have whitening agents.

        1. Anna*

          From what I’ve seen, the dyes used are much better than they used to be, but they are still not a natural color.

    2. Gen*

      I used to get that a lot (I’m a goth with classic Irish skin tone so tanning is pretty much out even if I hadn’t had skin cancer) when I was a bartender. “You should get a tan, you look like death!”, “you wouldn’t look so awful with a tan!” Etc. Fortunately we were very much allowed to talk back/argue with customers so I used to just look sadly at the floor and say “oh, well… not after the skin cancer…”. Honestly watching their face go from ‘snide busybody’ to ‘oh no I effed up’ was gratifying. If helps them learn not to give unsolicited comments on appearance I’m not above embarrassing them.

      1. Lehigh*

        Wow, that’s good. I have literally had skin cancer and it still didn’t occur to me to use that–like, somehow I assumed the reaction would be, “Well, get a fake tan!”

        1. Xarcady*

          Well, sometimes it is. As another very fair-skinned person, I have also received the “you need a tan” lines. And the “they have fake tan now, you know” lines.

          I work up a quizzical expression and ask, “Are you saying there’s something wrong with the color of my skin?” and most people shut down pretty quickly.

          Seriously, I am not risking skin cancer or tangerine-orange skin because “fashion” has decided a pink-and-white complexion is out of style.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I say that to anyone who tells me I need a tan! I’ve had melanoma, so I sunscreen up, wear a hat, take lots of breaks in the shade, etc.

        I feel like we get more serious about sun safety as we age, if only from a vanity point of view. So thankfully now that I’m in my mid-thirties, I hear less about tanning and more about how young my skin looks!

        1. Chaordic One*

          My supervisor, who is about my age, is one of those people who is obsessed with a having a tan all the time. Most of the time people think she’s about 20 years older than I am. Behind her back I’ve heard coworkers say things like “why isn’t she retired?” and they call her “Melanoma Woman.” The really odd thing (to me) is that she has a background in healthcare and you’d think she’d be a bit more aware of self-care (like using a sun screen).

  10. Dee*

    I work in education (in Australia) and only once have I not been given the interview questions in advance, almost always with preperation time. That was across a whole range of positions as well, classroom teacher, university lecturer, leading/head teacher, department head etc.

  11. bluesboy*

    I find the situation with number 1 to be really sad. I mean, I get that someone might feel happier about getting advice from someone with a similar body shape – you assume they understand your problems better (although this is not necessarily the case).

    But to actually complain about slim people working in a plus-size store I find really disappointing. It’s basically saying that your expertise is worth nothing if you don’t fit the physical/visual image that I expect of you. Would these women expect plus-size women to be excluded from jobs in non-plus size stores because they aren’t the same size/shape as their clients? Or black hairdressers not work on white hair (or vice versa)? Or men not be gynaecologists?

    My tailor isn’t my shape, it doesn’t stop me from going to him – he’s an expert. And I suspect that Andrea, working in a plus-size store, understands the most flattering clothes better than many plus-size people.

    As I say, I kind of get that you might instinctively ask the person more similar to you for help. But to actually go to the trouble, to take the time out of your day to make a complaint about a staff member just because they are a different shape from you, and without regard to the expertise they might have – just makes me sad that people will do that.

    1. Chaperon Rouge*

      As you suggest, this sort of approach is really misguided. I’m very pale and by far the best makeup advice I’ve ever had was from an awesome, black make-up artist who helped me find suitable products before my wedding. Sure, she probably didn’t use any of those shades herself, but she knew her stuff. (On the other hand, I have found staff closer to my own coloring typically try to sell me foundation that’s way too dark for me.)

      1. Demon Llama*

        Sadly this is also true for male-presenting make-up artists. My incredibly talented friend has no trouble booking prestige fashion shoots, but has found when working in-store or at wedding fairs that general consumers often have the attitude, “I can’t imagine having a man do my make-up, I don’t trust that you know what will work for me.”

        More fool them – when he did my make-up at my wedding I have never looked better nor felt more comfortable with my face.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Oh, one of the best makeup consultations I ever got was a male makeup artist, he’d been Patti Labelle’s makeup artist for years! I learned SO much from him.

        2. Chaordic One*

          I’m afraid that a lot of this is probably homophobia.

          People often assume that a male makeup artist or a hairdresser or even a clerk in a women’s store or department is going to be gay and they are irrationally afraid. Even if a makeup artist or hairdresser or sales clerk is gay, they shouldn’t be afraid or feel uncomfortable, but it is hard to overcome 2000 years of cultural prejudice. People are stupid.

      2. Temperance*

        I think this is not the same thing, though. A sales clerk isn’t really comparable to a makeup artist. A WOC working as a makeup artist is probably an expert, as she’s had to work around products that are frankly not made for her and she makes it work. So of course she would know all the best stuff.

        I wouldn’t assume the same of a thin person working in a plus-sized store. I of course wouldn’t think that she was inept or anything like that, but I’d feel better approaching a woman who clearly had personal experience dressing a body like mine if I needed an honest opinion on whether something flattered. There’s something particularly embarrassing, at least to me, about the idea of trying to explain to a person who has probably never dealt with the issue that certain cuts of shirts and dresses make me look pregnant, or how I just can’t wear a button-down shirt ever unless it’s 4 sizes too large and sags everywhere else. Obviously YMMV.

        1. ByLetters*

          Personally, even if that were the case, I don’t know that I would feel comfortable so blatantly stating that, or complaining about other workers not being capable of giving that advice. I think that’s the larger issue — not that a certain subset of customers feel more comfortable with her, but they use her as a venting board to complain about the body types of other workers or use their preference as an excuse to comment on HER body, which is where it crosses the line and becomes inappropriate.

          Maybe I was just raised differently — but sure, if I walked into a lingerie store, I’d feel more comfortable getting a fitting from a female-identifying employee. And if the employee who offered a fitting was male, I might politely ask if another employee was available — but I wouldn’t then start a conversation with the female employee about how “UGH, at least YOU understand what it’s like to have BREASTS!” or complain to her about the presence of the male employee. I’d just thank her for the fitting.

          The fact that I’m not comfortable with the male employee doing a fitting isn’t a reflection of his capabilities. He may be AMAZING at his job. I am just not comfortable being touched by men, and that’s not his fault, so why should I complain about him being there?

        2. Kate 2*

          A lot of people in retail, the vast majority, take great pride in their work, just like anyone else, and they strive to become experts in whatever their field is, even doing research outside of work sometimes, for no extra pay.

    2. Temperance*

      It very often happens in the other direction, though. Think about the last time you saw a person who was obviously plus-sized working at a store that doesn’t sell larger clothing.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        A LOT of retail stores require you to wear their brand which automatically cuts larger people out of the running because of where their sizes end.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Incorrect, at least in the US. There was a lawsuit against Abercrombie and Fitch back when I worked in retail (not for them). Retailers can’t require you to wear their clothing brand unless they give you an allowance or provide the clothing for you. Ex: Gap used to give their employees something like 6 items of clothing every season for free. So they could require that their employees wear the Gap brand, because if nothing else they have 6 items of clothing to rotate. I worked for Express, which gave us a generous discount but since they were not providing clothing items for free, they could not require that we only wear their brand. They could require that we wear all-black or that we not wear anything with any obvious logos of other retailers on them.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            (My experience with Gap was over 15 years ago, so that may no longer be their policy but it was at one point in time.)

          2. Lala*

            Yeah, but if they can’t provide you clothes in their size, it doesn’t matter if they’re going to give you 6 items to rotate. You can’t wear what you literally can’t fit into.

          3. Ego Chamber*

            “Retailers can’t require you to wear their clothing brand unless they give you an allowance or provide the clothing for you.”

            How is this enforced/who do I complain to?

            I was turned down for a seasonal retail sales job last year because the store requires all employees to wear their brand every day, and I said I couldn’t afford to buy new clothes for the job. The interviewer said they had a short list (7 items) of things that I could buy to get me through the season if money was tight, but it still totaled over $300. I said I couldn’t afford that and she said she couldn’t give me the job.

        2. Andi*

          When I was working in retail (admittedly, quite some time ago), we were required to wear clothing from the store.

          I think part of the larger customers’ frustration may have something to do with the fact that it’s SO MUCH HARDER to get hired as a fat woman (I can dig up study data on request), and seeing a thin woman working in a plus-size store may feel like one of the few jobs that are specifically “open” to fat women are being taken.

          With that said, obviously it’s completely inappropriate to complain about/criticize thin women working there — but I can see why some people might feel negatively about it.

          (I’m a size 18/20, but I’ve been all over the map size-wise due to health reasons — and I have no personal issues with people of any size helping me shop… although I’d love to find a similarly-busty person to compare bra tips with me! WITHOUT, I should add, making inappropriate comments about her body.)

          1. Gadfly*

            Notice that apparently there is only one in this store? No wonder she’s being treated like a token.

      2. PizzaDog*

        I honestly felt like crying when I saw someone who looked like me working in Topshop recently. It’s honestly the first time I’ve ever had that happen to me – I picked her brain apart for like 20 minutes for stuff there that could fit me that wasn’t just t-shirts or shoes.

      3. Former Retail Manager*

        This statement couldn’t be more true! On rare occasions, I’ve seen someone who might be plus sized, but they’re typically the store manager and may have worked there for quite a while, including at a time when they were smaller and gradually gained weight.

    3. Fishcakes*

      I feel a little nervous when a slim person assists me in a plus-size clothing store. I’m not rude to them, of course, but I am on alert for signals of contempt or mocking. Shopping for clothes can be a vulnerable experience, especially if you have a body that society despises.

      1. Annabelle*

        I feel the same way. Even when I was thinner, maybe like a size 6 but still very curvy, slim sales associates had a hard time helping me and were sometimes pretty rude about it. That’s not to say that only bigger, curvy people understand how clothes fit my body, but they’re certainly more likely to.

    4. nnn*

      I think part of it might be that, in many clothing stores, employees aren’t given much training about how to fit people etc., and only have what they themselves bring to the job as a person who wears clothes.

      I think if stores do have actual trained, expert employees who actually, truly can help you find things that will work well for you (as opposed to just telling you “You should wear skinny jeans because they’re in this season!”) they need to make that known. Because empirical evidence collected to date leads me to conclude that they can’t necessarily help me.

    5. ACS*

      Actually, I do refuse to go to a male gynaecologist. I got tired of them dismissing my concerns regarding pain, and it wasn’t until I saw a female gynaecologist that my dysmenorrhea was properly diagnosed. I’m no longer willing to see a doctor in that field who isn’t capable of understanding what I’m going through.

      1. Becky*

        I actually had the opposite experience, I had three female gynecologists who completely disregarded my pain and then finally my new male gynecologist actually listened and diagnosed me with endometriosis.

        1. Julia*

          I saw three female gynecologists until the fourth one, also a woman, diagnosed me with endometriosis. I think a lot of doctors, no matter their gender, dismiss women’s pain, unfortunately.

      2. Kate 2*

        So you would only go to a diabetes specialist who has diabetes? An oncologist who has/had cancer? I don’t think you are going to have much luck digging into the private medical histories of your doctors, but okay.

        1. SSS*

          I had uncontrollable asthma for decades. Every night I would wake up several times to use an inhaler. I had been to various doctors and specialists over the years for various treatment of my asthma. One day, I ended up seeing a new doctor and SHE had asthma and she said that she had found that taking an anti-reflux drug stopped her asthma from kicking in while she was sleeping. Within a week, I was not only sleeping through the entire night, I was going up to 2 weeks without using an emergency inhaler which was an absolute miracle. The only reason that I was able to finally get some peace was because of going to a doctor with the same malady as me.

        2. veggiewolf*

          A good doctor is a good doctor, regardless of gender.

          That said, my PCP, my gynecologist, and my gastroenterologist are all female-identified. It just worked out that way.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        My husband changed over from all male doctors to mostly female doctors. His thinking was that he might get the attention to detail that he wanted. His health was not doing that great and he decided to look at what he was doing and make some changes. This is one of many changes he made.

    6. Former Retail Manager*

      I agree with some of your arguments and others I don’t. I’ve been both thin and plus-sized. I’m currently plus size. I assure you that when I was thin, I was clueless as to “the struggle” of trying to dress fashionably as a larger lady and would have been utterly useless to any large woman in a retail environment. Of course, I could rattle off whatever the specials were and whatever I saw in styling articles/blogs and the like, but actually having experienced it yourself is a whole other matter. Thin women typically don’t get chub rub and most don’t wear Spanx with any regularity. And if they do, their preferences and challenges with those garments are different than those of a larger lady. If I’m asking for a shapewear recommendation I frankly don’t care what the petite 125 pound employee thinks because my experience with that garment will NOT be like hers. I wouldn’t go so far as to encourage a store to refrain from hiring non plus size employees, but they need to be aware that most larger women feel the same way that these women OP is dealing with feel, but most of us are just too polite to make such rude statements (and I completely agree that these ladies are being rude to the employees.) And most of us don’t prefer to engage with employees that we feel cannot relate to us. On your topic of hairdressers….find me a white hairdresser with a plethora of black clients…go on, I’ll wait.
      There may be the odd rarity, but the fact is most black clients want a black hairdresser because they know their hair intimately because they have the same hair. The bottom line is we like people who are like us. For some people that means race, body size, age, gender, education level, or socioeconomic background. It affects our friendships, relationships, and even shopping habits.

      As for OP, if you stay with this retailer, I’d either develop a thicker skin and decide that you don’t care about these haters or consider moving on. I don’t expect that these comments will cease.

      1. Kate 2*

        Just because someone is thin doesn’t mean they can’t help plus-size people.

        I am a relatively thin person who used to be a size 0. I was flat chested and very short and had to buy clothes in the children’s section sometimes and cried from the humiliation of it. I was terrified that my classmates (male and female) would see me. Male classmate who I wanted to like me, female classmates I was jealous of who could actually wear bras, who went on dates. I was a young woman who looked like a 12 year old boy and never had a date during that period. So I get hating your body and trying to find clothing that fits and looks good.

        My mom was plus-size, I heard and saw her struggles. I can’t say everything I want to say about that here, it would be too long, suffice it to say I adore my mother and empathize with her extremely.

        I gained a ton of weight in my early twenties and struggled to find clothes that fit. Now I have lost some of that weight but not all and I still have trouble with clothing.

      2. bluesboy*

        I’m not quite sure which bit you’re disagreeing with! I mean, I think I made it clear that I get why someone would prefer instinctively someone more similar to them – the issue I have is with people taking the trouble to actually complain about Andrea’s presence, and I think it’s clear that you wouldn’t do that.

        And yes, Andrea has probably never felt chub rub (although I don’t think we know that she’s always been thin, do we?) But my point is still about the complaining. You wouldn’t!

        On hairdressing, the vast majority of hair and make up specialists in fashion are white, and they deal with models of all colours. And if a black woman complained about a white woman having a job in a ‘black’ hairdresser (or vice versa) without taking the time to understand whether that person knows their job or not…well, I think she’d be wrong too. Don’t you?

    7. Kate 2*

      Oh my gosh, yes! I used to work in a fabric store, and I had a sewing mother and I sew. I know a fair amount. But when an elderly female coworker and I worked the cutting counter a couple of (older female) customers would insist they wanted her to cut their fabric. Because I was too young and ignorant to know how to do it properly.

      Well the joke’s on them! My coworker was very careless. She often scanted people on their fabric by a few inches, and she refused to tear the fabrics that needed, wouldn’t cut woven plaids on the weave, etc.

      1. tigerlily*

        Okay, but clearly there’s a difference between seeing an older woman and a younger woman and assuming one has more sewing knowledge than the other, and seeing a plus-sized woman and a non plus-sized woman and assuming one has more experience dressing plus-sized woman. One is a guess based on stereotypes, the other is looking at a person and assuming she can dress herself.

    8. Kate the Purple*

      I find it disappointing as well. I worked retail for a number of years at a women’s clothing store, and I’m thin and petite, but the part of I loved most about my job was helping women of all shapes and sizes find clothes that made them happy. I enjoyed the variety and putting together clothing combinations that looked amazing on these people, which is more varied that what I could just come up with for myself.

    9. AdamsOffOx*

      I think the reasoning is that there are thousands of stores a Size 2 can work at, but someone who’s Size 14 is going to get laughed out of those places if they apply, so the slimmer woman is taking a job away from the larger woman.

  12. Interviewer*

    Question 2 What about asking the COO if you could conduct phone interviews prior, that way you can ask the questions you’d like to ask as well as get a feel for the candidates ahead of time since your COO for some reason wants to do the hiring even though these will be your reports? If you’re not being allowed to sit in or conduct a face-to-face interview with the COO’s top candidates, doing a phone/skype interview may allow you a chance to have some say in the matter.

    1. Interviewer*

      I re-read your question and may have misunderstood. I missed the part where you said the COO wants to do the screening themselves, but you didn’t say that excluded you entirely from the interviewing process. So I’m going to bow how with my comment and just defer to Alison’s advice! haha.

  13. sssssssssss*

    I’ve had only one official exit interview. I was told that my data would be collected and then presented in an aggregate, to make it more anonymous and presented only to the upper echelons…but since people didn’t leave that often, and I was the first leaving that year, well, it would have been easy to guess who said what! Knowing that it was not going to be globally shared, I was brutally honest about my issues with my department. Was anything done? Not likely, but I felt better when I left.

  14. Anononon*

    As a fat woman, I somewhat understand the shoppers in question 1. Fat stigma is real and overwhelming. I’ve felt embarrassment in the past to go into plus size retailers because heaven forbid people see me in there. So, they can become a safe place.

  15. RW87*

    LW #3 – For what it’s worth I’d be offended and creeped out if someone handed me a resume at my home. Presumably the lawn guy only interacts with the HM at their home(?), so I think this is a really bad idea!

  16. Is This Still Lawn Boy?*

    #3 – I wonder how the conversation even came up in the first place, but I have a pretty good guess. My neighborhood has has the same lawn guy for the whole 10 or so years I’ve lived in my house. He does our lawns, gardens, and plowing so we all see him pretty frequently. He knows I work in the jam-filled teapot industry because in the last 10-ish years we’ve chatted in passing. If he came to me and said, “my cousin, who has a degree in jam-pots (that’s what we call it in the biz) just moved to town, can I connect him with you?” I’d probably agree to talk to the cousin and if I thought he was potentially a good fit I’d ask him to follow the right channels. And it seems likely the cousin would understand that this is networking and follow the procedure.

    Where this becomes a mess is where someone gets hired ONLY because of a recommendation across the fence and the person is hired because the boss doesn’t want to upset the referral source. I worked at such a place and could reel off six separate hires that happened this way, all of which turned out to be complete dumpster fires. So, I think there should be a balance – if Boss and Lawn Guy connect and it turns out the referral is independently a good fit, that’s great because Boss may not have known about the candidate. If it doesn’t fit, proceed no further.

    1. Zathras*

      This is good language – simply offer to make the connection. This assumes the lawn guy has a reasonably friendly relationship with the hiring manager, so that it wouldn’t be weird or unusual to approach him for a friendly chat.

      The key is making sure it doesn’t come across as an attempt to *bypass* the formal hiring process – just an expression of your friend’s interest in that process. I think the industry and company make a difference too – if it’s one that people are *constantly* trying to get into the boss may be less receptive to this kind of approach.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s a personality thing–some people are good at being hubs.

      My brother-in-law–extrovert, successful business owner, friends and contacts across many fields–found a landscaper for my mil’s deep-rural place by noticing a truck with yard equipment at a nearby gas station. He reasoned that they clearly were willing to drive out here so he went up and interviewed them.

  17. Nox*

    #1 This is also why many plus size stores have gotten into trouble over the years when they are using plus size models that don’t capture what different types of plus size people look like. I’m plus size and I will admit that I do get slightly uncomfortable in plus size spaces getting assistance from folks that do not know what it’s like to deal with some of the crap that comes with the territory. There’s one location of a PS clothing chain I don’t go to because they appear to intentionally avoid hiring plus size women over the size 16 and it’s weird. I rely on getting advice on what I can wear that will flatter my body type from fellow plus size women and I pay the higher price at the specialty stores for that experience. I got other plus size friends that find places like Torrid to be safe spaces where for a few minutes/hours they won’t be subjected to stares or sneers. [I’m explaining this because this is something that many non plus size people do not understand that there are aspects of having the privilege to not be health trolled or looked at differently due to size in public places]

    That being said, there’s a difference between discomfort vs complaining or making awful comments about non plus size people or making inappropriate comments to plus size people even if you are as well. I don’t really think there’s much that can be done to push back because it’s coming from customers and we live in a society where the customer is always right and always wins (which isn’t true and should not be the case)

    These folks are just rude.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The boss of the store could set guidelines down for how much garbage the employees have to put up with. I have worked a few retail jobs that did this. Some were total reasonable and humane. Other places let the customer really abuse the help, before the employee could shut down the conversation.

  18. Nox*

    #1 This is also why many plus size stores have gotten into trouble over the years when they are using plus size models that don’t capture what different types of plus size people look like. I’m plus size and I will admit that I do get slightly uncomfortable in plus size spaces getting assistance from folks that do not know what it’s like to deal with some of the crap that comes with the territory. There’s one location of a lane Bryant chain I don’t go to because they appear to intentionally avoid hiring plus size women over the size 16 and it’s weird. I rely on getting advice on what I can wear that will flatter my body type from fellow plus size women and I pay the higher price at the specialty stores for that experience. I got other plus size friends that find these places to be safe spaces where for a few minutes/hours they won’t be subjected to stares or sneers. [I’m explaining this because this is something that many non plus size people do not understand that there are aspects of having the privilege to not be health trolled or looked at differently due to size in public places]

    That being said, there’s a difference between discomfort vs complaining or making awful comments about non plus size people or making inappropriate comments to plus size people even if you are as well. I don’t really think there’s much that can be done to push back because it’s coming from customers and we live in a society where the customer is always right and always wins (which isn’t true and should not be the case)

    These folks are just rude.

  19. saffytaffy*

    I work PT at a national plus-size chain here in the northeast, and I’ve heard these kinds of comments exactly ONCE, from an obviously intoxicated woman. I’m really alarmed that multiple people are making these comments, and it’s making me wonder if there’s a culture thing going on, where it’s acceptable in that area to say these things, but either you or Jess aren’t from there originally and find the comments offensive.

  20. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    As someone who for most of my life could shop only at the plus-size stores and now straddle the line between plus and misses, I totally get why Jess gets the attention from customers. I, personally, would never in a million years have said, “Oh your stomach is huge like mine so help me find something that hides it.” But, yes, I definitely gravitated to the workers who looked more like me. Alison is right in that I found comfort and relief in the fact that I had found a store that catered to people like me and clothing actually fit and looked good, and that women who looked like me were there to help me. When I saw smaller workers on the floor, I felt that they really didn’t get how awful and frustrating clothes shopping can be when you wear a 30/32 or a 4X. Of course, that was a big assumption on my part based on their appearance (I know, bad!) and not based in fact; I never encountered a smaller worker who was anything other than helpful and understanding.

    I think it’s on management to help employees with dealing with customers that shy away from the smaller employees. I don’t think you can really do much about it, though. Perhaps Jess could just reframe it in her mind that customers like her and find a helpful resource in her, and that it’s part of making the customer feel welcome? I know it sucks to have someone comment on your appearance, but lots of people just don’t think and they don’t mean any malice or ill intent.

  21. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#2. I’ve done the interview questions in advance thing as an applicant before, and it was a list of questions regarding experience with specific pieces of equipment. It was quite useful for both me and the interviewer because I could list specific projects and expertise levels for the equipment I was experienced with ahead of time rather than having to come up with it all on the spot. In the interview, the interviewer picked a couple particularly interesting projects and asked me about those to determine how well my assessment of my expertise stacked up to his understanding of the techniques. It was a really fruitful interview, in my opinion.

    I got the job, so I might be biased, though.

  22. Frustrated Optimist*

    I have been given interview questions in advance twice within the past year – but it was for different positions within the same organization. Curiously, the first time, I received the questions several days in advance. I went in extremely prepared and felt like I knocked it out of the park. Then, the second time (different position), I was told I could arrive 15 minutes early and view the questions. That wasn’t nearly as helpful.

    However, in both cases, the interview process seemed extremely canned. The panel took turns asking me the questions verbatim. There was almost zero follow-up to anything I said; they simply took notes and proceeded to the next question.

    In neither case did I get a second interview. In hindsight, I believe they already knew who they were going to hire, and the pro forma nature of the interviews suggested (to me, at least) that I was a “filler” candidate.

  23. Polymer Phil*

    OP 3 – In my technical field, bypassing the clunky Taleo software and HR department is considered a good idea. First-stage screening is often done by some HR person who has no idea what any of the technical terms in the job description mean, and is just blindly matching keywords. Technical hiring managers understand this, but you should only contact them directly if you know you’re a fit – save your resume spamming for the automated systems.

  24. Detective Amy Santiago*

    As a plus size gal, I’m going to be honest and say that if I go to a shop that is supposed to cater to me, I would not be pleased to discover they hire sales people who aren’t plus sized. It is extremely difficult to shop for flattering clothes when you don’t wear standard sizes and a sales person who doesn’t also wear the clothes/understand how difficult that is will be less than effective. I probably wouldn’t patronize such a shop.

    1. Lehigh*

      But is it impossible to think that non-plus-sized person could understand how difficult it is, could be trained and attentive to what is flattering and the particular difficulties of shopping for plus-sized clothes? That seems like a premature judgment, until you have actually allowed one of the non-plus-sized associates to attempt to help you shop.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think it’s impossible, but it comes at a risk. And somebody spending their own money and in a vulnerable position may prefer not to take that risk.

        (I’m personally stunned at how many people here know stores where they pick out clothes for you. In my experience it’s a big day if they’ll find you the next size up.)

        1. Yomi*

          I admit, I’m having the same reaction as your last line. My experience with people in clothing stores has either been “overly attentive when I’m just browsing” or “rolling their eyes when I ask to actually check out.” But admittedly I almost always want to just be left alone when I’m shopping for clothes. I’ve got enough baggage when I walk into the store, I don’t need to add to it. Which is why I’d never end up paying attention to the salesperson’s body type, but I also don’t fault anybody who does.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        And tell me – when was the last time you walked into an American Eagle or Aeropostale store and allowed a plus-sized associate to help you find clothing?

        1. Lehigh*

          fposte’s reply makes sense. Although I would argue it’s a reason to seek out the plus-sized associate, not blacklist the store for their lack of discriminatory hiring practices.

          Yours…I’m not sure if your point is that they don’t hire plus sized associates or that you somehow know that I am small and discriminate based on size.

          I don’t actually shop at either of those stores and when I do go clothes shopping (which I typically avoid!) I prefer to be left alone. So yeah, I don’t “get it” on an experiential level. I can’t see myself refusing to deal with a store that hired women larger or smaller than me, or that hired men, but the truth is I’m usually not in situations where I notice those things much.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I walk into those stores with my children, or shopping on behalf of them. And I’ll take help from anyone who offers, on the theory they know the line.

          I specifically went to American Eagle yesterday because my daughter, shopping with a friend for the friend’s tall skinny teenaged brother, discovered that was the one store with jeans that didn’t fall off him. So we go there for jeans for her tall skinny teenaged brother. That neither my daughter nor her friend are as tall, as skinny, as male didn’t mean they were not the best people to figure out where the flattering clothing could be found.

        3. Episkey*

          I don’t shop at either of those stores myself, but I do shop at Maurice’s. They have a plus size line in addition to non-plus size clothing. I’m a size 6-8. I’ve often had plus size associates help me out there. I’m also 5’8″ and have no issues with a 5′ petite girl helping me. She might not ever have had to deal with a ridiculous long arm issue or a crotch rise problem, but I’m sure she can manage.

        4. swingbattabatta*

          Um… any time they are available to help me. Do you really think that people avoid plus-size sales associates in stores that don’t cater specifically to plus-size people?

      3. Marillenbaum*

        Given how little training is traditionally offered to retail employees on how to help customers find garments that fit and flatter, it is unlikely. I think one issue in this case is that some of these staff straddle the plus/miss sizing divide, or are plus size but shaped in such a way that they don’t automatically code as plus size to customers.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        If your shop targets a specific body type as your patrons, then it makes sense to hire associates who also fit that body type and can showcase your clothing and properly advise your customers.

        1. Sylvan (Sylvia)*

          It makes sense to hire people whose experience and references prove they’re good at the job. I don’t see myself changing my mind on the subject – that people shouldn’t be hired based on someone’s opinion of their body – so I should probably back out of the discussion.

        2. Shadow*

          this is what got Abercrombie aclass action lawsuit when they only hired white rich looking cool kids.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            If you can’t see the difference between hiring “people who actually need to wear our clothes” versus hiring “white rich looking cool kids” then I’m not sure what else I can say. I don’t have a problem with a retail establishment requiring their employees to be on brand (presuming they provide a hefty discount to allow said employees to purchase said clothing reasonably).

            1. Shadow*

              Problems always arise when your requirements have nothing to do with performing the job. what if the skinny girl has a medical issue that invokes ADA. At that point you can’t justify that being plus sized has anything to do with the actual job functions.

          2. Polymer Phil*

            I think the Abercrombie lawsuit wasn’t about only hiring rich white kids, but the fact that the kids ended up essentially working for free because most of their paychecks went to buying Abercrombie clothes. They changed “seasons” something like once a month, and the employees were required to wear on-brand apparel from the current “season” that they had to pay for themselves.

            1. Shadow*

              They got in trouble because minorities would only get hired in the back because they didn’t look the part to work up front.

        3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          I completely get what you are saying, but then by that logic no one plus sized should be hired to work in stores that don’t carry plus sized, which just doesn’t sit right with me. What I would rather see is hiring people of all sizes in all stores and actually training people to serve a diverse customer base.

          1. Red 5*

            I agree with you here, but I’m just thinking out loud about the fact that whenever I’ve worked in a retail environment that sold clothing, makeup, or accessories you were only allowed to wear the company’s products while you were at work. A place I worked had a very small line of nail polish they sold in store, and I wasn’t allowed to wear nail polish from any other company, even though that wasn’t even our main product.

            It does actually surprise me that the letter writer doesn’t have that kind of requirement. Is this something that’s been challenged enough that it doesn’t happen anymore? I admit I’ve been out of the retail game for a few years.

            1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              I have no idea. When I did retail you had to wear at least one item sold in your department, but it has been 10+ years since I have worked retail

        4. For real tho*

          Truly curious…if someone who’s plus sized works at a plus sized store, and then loses weight and is no longer plus sized, is your position that she should be fired?

    2. Shadow*

      You’re rationale is problematic. Do you also say plus sized shouldn’t work in stores that don’t cater to plus sized?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        If your store caters to petites, then you shouldn’t hire someone who is six foot tall because they don’t understand the unique challenges that short people face. If your store caters to tall people, then you shouldn’t hire someone who is only five foot tall.

        Niche stores exist for a reason.

        1. Shadow*

          This makes no sense. If I’m short I can’t ever learn the challenges that tall people face? Even if I’ve been successful selling to tall people in the past

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            I completely agree.

            I worked for a high end department store that had personal shoppers on staff. Those personal shoppers had customers of all genders, sizes, and lifestyles. They were able to help all of their customers find what they needed. Not only were they able to dress every body type, but then they could take them over to the shoes, jewelry or lingerie department and find them accessories to match. That’s part of being an expert in the fashion industry. You know what looks good on ANY body type, not just your own.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I’m assuming personal shoppers go through a heck of a lot more training on that type of thing than your basic retail store associate.

              1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                I think that is the heart of the problem: lack of training. I worked in a department store in a section that catered to women 10+ years older than me in a diverse city and had to figure everything out on the fly. I still remember some cringe worthy things I did and am forever grateful to the more experienced floor staff who mentored me. Everything from how to pick good colors, how each brand was cut, appropriate clothes for so many occasions (e.g. Orthodox Jewish wedding vs. Easter Sunday at AME church vs. quinceanera), etc.

        2. Shadow*

          Also if you screen by appearance you may also be adversely impacting whole groups that are protected by discrimination laws

          1. Emmylou*

            I’m very short. I’m a size 6-10 depending on where I’m shopping, and I often literally can try on 30 tops in my size and not one works. Another 5.1 woman my weight would have a completely different experience with those tips. Good salespeople know how clothes fit all body types and can steer you to what works, regardless of their own size.

        3. Anonygoose*

          That makes no sense – whether somebody is short or tall or skinny or plus-sized is out of their control. It has no bearing on their capabilities to know their products and customers really well. They can understand the challenges that people with different body shapes can face without facing those issues themselves, and as Shadow has stated, not hiring somebody because they don’t look exactly like your customers could run into discrimination territory.

    3. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      How can you know that a person who is at the moment not plus size can’t have personal experience about the topic? People’s sizes can change and someone who is skinny today may have been plus size at some point in their life.

      1. International Affairs Specialist*

        No one is entitled to a person in the shop who has lived their experience. I’ve dropped from plus size (18) to straight size (12). Shopping was easier when I was plus, because I knew my body and shopped only in a few places that had my size. I did sometimes get help from shop assistants and I don’t remember any of their body shapes or sizes. People who work in stores will be familiar with the stock and what items are similar. It doesn’t matter what size they are to have this expertise. I assumed they had eyes and could asses whether something looked okay on me.

    4. Kate 2*

      Unless you know someone’s personal history, please don’t assume you know anything about them. You don’t know me, or my weight history, or my plus-size family and friends. So if you told me I couldn’t understand how to fit plus-size people I would laugh and laugh, on the inside of course, then I would smile and find you another associate.

      1. NaoNao*

        A plus sized woman who has lost weight is in a different boat, so to speak, than a woman who has been slender or average/normal/straight sized her entire life.
        I don’t think that anyone is legitimately making the argument that *only* plus sized women can work at plus sized retailers and that being plus sized is a requirement for working there.
        People are saying that because of the sales associates’ personal, lived experience with *being* plus sized, they may be able to assist plus sized customers more readily, all other factors being equal.
        No one is saying that straight sized women *can’t* assist plus sized customers.
        I will say this:
        I am right on the edge of plus sized, and tall (almost 6″ in bare feet). When I was doing online dating, my slender/average/straight sized friends who were of average height *had no f-ing idea* what it was like to be rejected solely on body type alone. They were nice, sweet, friendly, helpful people…who would never understand at a gut level what that felt like.
        I still value their friendship and their love, but in some matters I privately roll my eyes and commiserate with women who are in the same boat.

    5. Forrest*

      I mean, women do lose weight. Just because there’s a thin salesperson doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to dress a bigger body.

  25. Imaginary Number*

    Nearly all clothing retail stores tend to hire people who look like their targeted market (or more attractive versions of their targeted market.) High-end department stores want fashionable, skinny women, except in the bra department (because people feel more comfortable stripping down in front of a woman in her fifties rather than someone their own age.) Hipster-looking twenty-somethings in fast fashion retail stores. Makeup stores are usually extremely diverse because they want to attract every sort of skin tone and skin type. And everyone selling to women wants fashionable gay men because of the “gay best friend” stereotype that they can play off of.

    Plus-size clothing retailers often hire plus-size employees because they want their customers to make those comparisons. That’s an unfortunate reality.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Oh, yes, those poor skinny people who can’t find jobs really need to work in a plus sized store.

        There are hiring biases against plus sized folks. They are far more likely to miss out on a job opportunity because of their size.

        (links to follow)

        1. Shadow*

          thats the answer, let’s not hire any skinny people because I don’t see them hiring anyone overweight. Give me a break.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          First, I don’t think Shadow was talking about “skinny people” specifically but about how this really narrows down the hiring pool generally.

          Also, can we not with snarky or sarcastic comments about people’s bodies? Sarcastic references to “poor skinny people” aren’t cool, even if you think people under whatever magic line you have in your head are better off.

      2. Yomi*

        The flip side though, why would you want to work at a store you can’t/wouldn’t shop at? In order to sell things you should probably at least care about the product, and first hand knowledge of it is invaluable to actually making sales. We wouldn’t expect a vegetarian to apply for a job in a butcher shop, or for an atheist to look for work at religious organizations.

        If you’re going to work retail, then it’s reasonable as a job seeker to be looking at places where you’d at least be willing/able to shop at. You can do a good job either way, I’ve known childfree people who work at children’s clothing stores and I hate coffee but did well as a barista for a while. It’s easier to sell a product and make money if you are also the type of person who would buy the product. That’s just the reality of retail work and sales in general.

        1. Anonygoose*

          The difference between a thin person working at a plus-sized store and a vegetarian working at a butcher shop is that the thin person is not morally opposed to plus-sized clothing.

          1. Yomi*

            It depends actually. There are a lot of thin people who believe and act as if being plus-size involves a moral or personal failing on the part of the plus sized person. And I’ve known vegetarians who aren’t vegetarian on moral grounds and have no problems with meat eaters or meat in general, it’s just not for them.

            And getting hung up on that specific example actually doesn’t address the entire rest of my point, which is that job seekers shouldn’t be expected to want to work in a place that sells things they dislike or even just have no interest in. If you couldn’t care less about cars, should you get pushed to apply at an auto parts shop, or encouraged to look for work selling something you care about?

            1. Anonygoose*

              But job seekers (especially in something like retail) are usually just taking whatever job they can get. I have sold alcohol when I don’t drink, given parking tickets when I don’t drive, promoted credit cards that I would never sign up for, and cleaned schools when I hate cleaning. People will probably avoid a job they morally disagree with, but most people just take any job that will pay the bills.

            2. Jessie the First (or second)*

              “t job seekers shouldn’t be expected to want to work in a place that sells things they dislike or even just have no interest in”

              Is anyone in these comments expecting people to work somewhere they dislike? I don’t see anyone talking about pushing unwilling workers into stores to work against their will. I’m going to assume if someone is working somewhere, then they have an interest in working there. Someone who thinks of weight as a moral issue wouldn’t apply at a plus-size store, or if they did (on some kind of moral crusade??) they’d not get hired, so that’s not really the issue, is it? It seems to me the issue is assumptions going the other way – as in the OP’s letter, with customers assuming Jess is the only one who can help them because they think her body resembles theirs. And that may not be true, if a person has a deeper understanding of sizing/used to look different and knows first-hand/ likes to help people/ received solid training/ what have you.

            3. Forrest*

              “There are a lot of thin people who believe and act as if being plus-size involves a moral or personal failing on the part of the plus sized person.”

              I’m having a hard time picturing people who don’t like fat people working a job that requires them to look at fat people all day.

        2. Shadow*

          Because it’s work or youre good at it or because you have respect for the company or product. I can guarantee you not everyone who’s good at selling a product or service can afford to buy it.

          1. Yomi*

            I’m not saying there aren’t people who would fit the job or want to work it, I’m saying they’re going to self select away from the job for the most part, and that’s why it’s not some sort of wide spread discrimination issue that job seekers are ignoring, but one that they probably don’t feel that strongly about.

        3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          You work there not because you believe in or even like the brand. You do it because they hired you. I worked in a department where I would not have shipped at the time (and probably not now either) because I needed the money to save for school and at the time even retail jobs were scare. Most retail employees are not working at a specific store out of love for the brand

        4. SSS*

          I have had vegetarian waiters/waitresses wait on me at a steak houses. I’ve asked “what’s your favorite thing here” and had them fidget and admit they can’t eat there.

  26. The IT Manger*

    LW#1 is trying to be helpful, but it’s wearing on Jess. It hasn’t happened to LW#1. Shouldn’t she let Jess deal with it? Shouldn’t she let Jess speak to the bosses and ask for help?

    I don’t think there’s anyway to make it stop. These are not co-workers but random customers who are different everyday. It’s near impossible to make them stop. The bosses could offer recommended responses, though.

  27. GigglyPuff*

    #1 First thing, this is horrible and it sucks. But as others and Alison mentioned I really do think it is about relief in some kind of way. (Still horrible and not something I would do!)

    I’m plus size, always have been. I’m also in my late twenties and it was just awful growing up. In elementary school I was the kid who wore stretch pants (before they were cool) and sometimes my parents clothes because that was all that would fit. Even when plus size retailers started they were not “trendy” clothes.

    Now I can imagine a woman in their 40s-50s having been plus size their entire life and being stuck with the clothes options that came before that, than right now. It must have been awful. I mean I almost cried the first time I found jeans that didn’t sag after wearing them for five minutes, or decorative lingerie, hallelujah! I can’t imagine going through most of your life and probably hating the clothes options you have. I mean, it probably wasn’t until college that I really started having options I actually liked.

    So I can understand the relief element of finally getting these options and then not knowing what to pick. But again seriously I wouldn’t say these things and it’s horribly rude. I definitely tend to talk about me, “amazing, the bra fits, it’s sexy and it’s comfortable!”, “something that covers my armpits!”, or “no more saggy butt!”. Your management can hopefully come up with ideas on how to redirect or phrases to deflect when the customers comment on coworkers bodies.

    #3 I’ve gotten questions 15 mins before the phone interview and it was an amazing help! While I was, and still kind of am, early in my career, I’d had enough phone interviews by then where I shouldn’t have been too frazzled. Except I have a really hard time thinking on my feet in these situations, even when I’ve prepared ahead of time, written down answers to possible questions, etc. So it was an amazing help, and just let me clean up my answers a little ahead of time. I think as long as the job doesn’t require the skill of really articulate, concise information on the spot, like a journalist/reporter, I don’t think giving out the questions in advance is a horrible thing.

  28. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    #1 – I’ve been plus size my whole life. I am definitely towards the larger end of what’s sold in stores. I imagine there are a few things at play here.

    1. I do not really want anyone “skinny” helping me find clothes. I’ve been made fun of , had snide comments, and dealt with critical attitudes from people who are thin my whole life. I have no way of knowing if the person working in the store is going to be someone who is kind or not, but the safest option is to pick someone close to my size. I wouldn’t complain that they hired someone who isn’t plus-size, but I wouldn’t want them helping me and I would probably tell a smaller associate that I didn’t need any help if someone closer to my size was available.

    2. Most people do not see themselves as how they really are. If you say to someone “you have big hips, you get it!”, you run the risk of the person making an automatic comparison between the two. I personally tend to “see” myself a bit smaller than I really am and get shocked when I find out someone is a couple of sizes smaller than me when I thought that we were the same. She is probably running into this. The customers think they are around her size, but they are actually a little bigger. This would be good for her to keep in mind that they aren’t really saying, “hey your butts huge like mine” but more, “I think you might get my struggle because I see a similarity, please help”.

    3. Laughing at the skinny jeans suggestion. I’d probably chuckle a bit too. It has *nothing* to do with the sales person and everything to do with how I see myself. I’m not wearing skinny jeans in this life time. I’ve seen several plus size women wear them and completely rock the look. But for me? It’s laughable and that’s completely on me and how I see myself.

    1. Chocolate lover*

      I share your perspective on all points. I wouldn’t complain about smaller sized staff, and I certainly wouldn’t say “you have a big butt like me” but I’m also more comfortable going to someone who looks more like me. And goodness, the skinny jeans. Look great on some women, but not me. Absolutely hate how thru look on me, and I laugh if sales people (any of them), suggest them.

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      I doubt someone who dislikes plus sized women would work at a plus sized store but that’s a good point. I’m skinny and I’ve never held ill will towards anyone plus sized but I have made some clueless comments before. I worked with a larger woman who forgot a shirt for an after work event we had. I (thinking I was being helpful) mentioned that I had an extra one in my car. At the time, I was probably a junior’s size small or medium and she was plus sized. I wasn’t trying to be insulting or put her in an awkward position. My young dumb brain just hadn’t registered that the two of us couldn’t share clothes. She laughed and pointed out that my tank top would likely cover half of one of her boobs. But she seemed pretty bummed after and I felt bad about being so clueless. I can totally see wanting to shop with someone who understands the struggle and won’t make clueless comments.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Why doubt it? People who hate children work as teachers, people who hate interacting with people work in customer service. All the time. I have definitely met some awful people in all kinds of places.

        To which I feel I should add, the opposite is true also. My uncle, who used to look like a member of Hell’s Angels with his muscles, heavy jewellery and glorious waist length hair, worked for years as a personal shopper helping women find bras. The best hair stylist I ever had was bald (I have literally never had nicer hair in my life). I remind myself of this every time I see a thin person in a plus size store and feel myself being judgemental. Still, it’s easy to be afraid when you’ve had lots of painful experiences.

    3. Shadow*

      That doesn’t make sense though when you think about it, does it? – to be worried that someone whose job it is to sell you stuff in a store that caters to you is going to be unkind simply because they look like someone else who was unkind.

      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s about protecting yourself from further emotional harm. How we feel about our bodies almost never makes sense.

        1. Shadow*

          I’m going to push back on that. This is how we develop unhealthy stereotypes. Not all skinny people are mean to overweight people, not all white people are racist, not all people dressed in saggy pants are punks, and people who look like us aren’t the only ones who can identify with us.

          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            I really don’t think these comparisons work. This isn’t about stereotyping. This is about the emotions that people have around how they look. Specifically when I posted this, the emotions that I have around how *I* look and how I deal with making shopping a little easier. You do not get to tell me how I feel about myself. Perhaps, if the world were perfect, it wouldn’t matter what size the tag on my clothes said. But as it stands now, I have to hope that every person I come into contact with doesn’t care so that I can get decent service. Or a fair chance at employment. Or just be treated like a human being. Being overweight is the one area that is still allowed to be made fun of, or worse, be discriminated against.

            1. Kate 2*

              But it is about stereotyping. It is actually the definition of stereotyping. Deciding that someone who looks a certain way is going to act a certain way. And it is wrong.

              1. tigerlily*

                The difference is who has privilege in the situation. It’s a problem for white people to say black people are not smart simply because they’re black. It’s far less of a problem for black to say I’ve experienced racism and oppression my whole life and now I am wary of white people. That’s what it happening here.

                People like to point out that thin women get body shamed too, and while that’s true, they do not experience discrimination the same way that fat woman do. They just don’t. Just like white people may be called crackers or have people of color resent or by wary of them simply for being white like I described above, but that is not the same thing as experiencing racism or racial discrimination.

                1. Shadow*

                  its not about who’s got it worse. It’s about getting as many people as possible to do the right thing.

          2. Former Retail Manager*

            I see your point and I think you’re coming from a good place, but the fact is, when we’re out engaging in relatively brief transactions with complete strangers there simply isn’t time to get to know them. Therefore, we make judgments based on what we know, which is really only what we can see. If we have sufficient time to give the thin salesperson/male makeup artist/or young techie kid a chance, we might be pleasantly surprised. But that just isn’t always a possibility so most of us default to what we know based on our past experiences.

            1. TL -*

              That’s super stereotyping and it’s exactly the rational cops use to justify higher rates of violence against people of color – they don’t know if *that* person of color is violent; they just “know” that a violent incident is more likely to occur with a person of color.
              Sometimes, they “know” this from past experiences working in predominately non-white neighborhoods with high crime rates.
              The cop is still in the wrong, but that line of thinking – well, I don’t have time to give people a chance and that’s reasonable – is part of why cop violence against POC is a huge ongoing issue.

      2. Amber Rose*

        It’s not about sense, it’s about the scars left by abuse. A woman hurt by a man may be afraid of all men for a long time. I am afraid of skinny people because of all the times I’ve been given cause to fear.

        Reason doesn’t work on emotions without years of therapy. But good luck finding a doctor who will take you seriously when you’re fat…

        1. Shadow*

          Oh it is about sense. You have to constantly question your own stereotypes or you’re just perpetuating the problem.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Dismissing the real and valid experiences and concerns of people who are oppressed is a far bigger problem.

            1. Shadow*

              If you think people being mean to you justifies you being mean to everyone who looks like them you’re doing it wrong.

              1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                Who said anything about being mean? If I go into a store and there are two salespeople working, I’m going to go to the one that I think can better help me. You do this also, even if you don’t admit it. If there are two people and you pick one to ask for help, you made that choice for a reason. You might not know the reason, but you made it.

                1. Shadow*

                  I’m not pushing back on preferences, just the idea that someone isn’t equipped to help you because of their appearnace

                2. Shadow*

                  I’m not sure everyone picks people based on appearance. At least when I go into most stores most everyone I know prefers the salesperson that is available and that sounds helpful without being pushy.

                3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                  And I don’t need a larger person to sell me a stereo, so that would be based on whose available and doesn’t act too pushy for me as well. But when it comes to my clothes, I want someone who understands how the clothes fit because they wear them too. A thin person can learn about the clothes, and certainly not all of them are going to be rude, but it’s still not the same as wearing the clothes yourself and really knowing how they fit.

          2. Amber Rose*

            Way to miss that bit about abuse and instinctive fear. If you challenge me to question my “stereotypes” (a word you should look up in the dictionary because you are using it wrong) then I challenge you to question your privilege: the privilege of a person who has not been abused, who does not feel that they are deserving of abuse for being themself, who does not have to endure each day afraid of other humans because of abuse.

            And for the record, flinching in fear from/avoiding thinner people is not being mean to them. I could give you examples of mean, but this is hardly the appropriate place.

            You sound a lot like the “not all men” group and there are a LOT of documented reasons why that group is literally awful. You really wanna be part of that?

            1. Shadow*

              More assumptions. I’ve just learned the hard way that not all people fit into stereotypes. I’ve got friends who are my friends despite my initial efforts to not be friends based on my stereotypes. I’ve learned that if I expect people not to stereotype me then i have to live up to that same standard

              1. Amber Rose*

                Ok, you clearly need some help here: “Stereotype: a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”

                That is not what this is. At all. We’re talking about literal chemical changes to the brain of a single person that cause a fear response to certain stimuli.

                How that works is linked if you click my name. It might be enlightening for you. Or maybe you’ll embrace your ignorance even tighter. I have no idea. Science also shows people hold tighter to their misconceptions the more they’re challenged, so maybe your blinders will narrow. Either way, this is the best I can do.

                1. Shadow*

                  Call it whatever you want. If you fear, avoid or treat people differently based on their appearance alone you are making the same error that people who are racist, mysoginist, and prejudiced make.

                2. 1.0*

                  Just to be clear:

                  I’m visibly gay. I have been called slurs, followed, and harassed. Recently a man on public transit looked at me, scooted in close, and explained that he could murder me and nobody would care. I’ve avoided any actual violence so far, but friends of mine have not been so lucky.

                  Are you saying that being wary around groups of men, because experience has taught me that they’re the most likely people to harass me for being a lesbian, I am making the same mistake as the men who have threatened me with rape and physical violence for existing as a visible lesbian in public?

      3. Yomi*

        You’re right that it doesn’t make sense, but by that logic (and it is logical) then you wouldn’t have rude salespeople in generally any store. If I go into say a tea shop, you would think the people there would be polite and kind and sell me tea, because it’s there job to sell me tea and if I’m in a tea shop it’s a reasonable assumption that I want to buy some tea. Same would go for a bike shop, a cupcake shop, a hat shop, or a grocery store or anything at all.

        And yet, rude salespeople are only slightly less common than rude customers. I’ve run into tons of unkind or thoughtless salespeople in my life. And it always baffles me, but it happens. So to assume that a salesperson is going to be polite just because they’re in a store that sells things that you would want, it actually does seem like a stretch when you’ve been ridiculed or insulted by similar salespeople in other stores.

        I have had salespeople in clothing stores treat me like dirt specifically because of my size. It didn’t cause me to mistrust anybody specifically (I just don’t like talking to salespeople in general) but I could easily see how it would have that effect on somebody else, and how that would become more universally applied. It’s awful for the salespeople who are good at their jobs and are kind and helpful that they have to try that much harder to fight against that, but I can’t think of a single industry that doesn’t have that problem where one or two bad experiences can ruin a person’s perception of the entire profession.

      4. anonforthis*

        I understand your point but please try to understand what it’s like for a plus-size person. My mother who is just a bit larger than average has been treated with contempt by skinny salespeople her entire life. Once when entering a designer store she was not greeted with ‘hello, how can I help you’ but with a sneer followed by ‘we don’t have anything in your size’. The irony was that their largest size fitted her just fine and she had bought items from another one of their stores before.

        I’m not surprised that LW’s colleague experienced more problems with middle aged women. Younger plus-size women have had more choices, have been treated with more respect and are less likely to have encountered horrible salespeople who think their skinniness make them superior human beings.

        None of this is LW’s colleague fault of course, but I completely understand where these older women are coming from.

    4. Sam Yao*

      I’ve been plus size most of my working life, and I have to say, one of the best retail employees I’ve ever dealt with was a slim straight-size employee working in a major plus-size chain. She helped me find the best jeans I’ve ever had. Before her, I would have felt the same way about having someone not my size help me, but since then I’ve learned not to dismiss it.

    5. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “Most people do not see themselves as how they really are. If you say to someone “you have big hips, you get it!”, you run the risk of the person making an automatic comparison between the two.”

      Yes. ANd it’s just… there is a not a way to make a comment about a stranger’s body that is okay. Being in a clothing store and getting help from an associate isn’t a good reason to start commenting on that associates body! You could be wrong about your size, their size, hit on a sensitive issue for them, unknowingly touch on a medical issue, who knows. It’d be great if customers would just say “I see a similarity, please help” rather than calling out an actual body part and describing its size. Ugh. But maybe filtering it in her head would work.

      I get body comments a lot from people, for reasons I cannot fathom, and regardless whether they are intended as commiserating or complimentary it actually never feels particularly good. Developing a filter and a selective ear would be a good skill for OP’s colleague to have.

  29. Cfelvr*

    I’m not plus-sized, but is it not human nature to gravitate towards people who you feel a sense of commradary with, especially over challenges in common?

    I’m a personal trainer (female, with children) and women with children feel much more comfortable with me because they think I understand better than a man or childless female. I think we’re all competent but when given a choice, customers choose who they relate to.

    1. Shadow*

      And that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean someone else can’t help you equally as well or that everyone shares those same preferences.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      And that is the logic that employers use to justify hiring less diverse work forces. Because if their customer base is X then they obviously can’t identify with an employee who is Y, so you can’t hire people who are You without hurting the business.

  30. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: I’m certain these women are speaking out of relief, although that doesn’t make what they say any less thoughtless. I’m not plus-sized but I’m super pear-shaped (seriously–my waist is only about four inches bigger than each of my thighs; I’m built like a bowling pin), so finding pants that even *begin* to fit is enough to make me dance in the aisles. I’ve had salespeople direct me to pants the cut of which they swear by . . . which inevitably don’t fit, and I admit I don’t want to get clothing recommendations any more from women with proportional thighs. I don’t wear skinny jeans because *normal jeans have always fit me that tightly*; there is no way I could even pull skinnies on without having eight inches of extra room in the waist. I haven’t really had jeans that fit since wide-legs were in in the 1990s.

    I hear that women with big posteriors are smarter and live longer, so apparently I’m an immortal genius?

    At some point, the only thing I could do to salvage my body image was to just wear a lot of skirts. And I don’t think there is really anything wrong with my body, but it’s hard to stay positive when you can’t buy clothes that fit at all, never mind fit well.

    But your employers need to pay attention to this and figure out how to help employees handle it. There is already so much emotion tied up in bodies and clothing that they shouldn’t expect this not to be a thing.

  31. Kyrielle*

    OP5 – I wouldn’t ask for that reassurance. I’d just say, to any further comments, “Only that I won’t be giving any. They are sent to the whole company, and it has been clear from many quotes in those emails who said what. I understand upper management needing to use them, but I’m not comfortable with them being sent to the entire company.”

    I wouldn’t ask for reassurance. I wouldn’t offer other thoughts. Because 1) they’ve given up the right to that by this, and 2) I would honestly still be trying to phrase everything as though it would get sent out, in case the person told me it wouldn’t but got overruled by someone else.

  32. Fifty Foot Commute*

    Please tell me who is featuring plus sized skinny jeans right now so that I can go there immediately.

    As far as the question, I think it’s been covered better than I can contribute to, but I’d just like to reiterate that in my experience, these comments are coming from place of relief and excitement, not unkindness.

    1. raisedeyebrow*

      Target’s Ava & Viv line has some cute plus sized skinny jeans. I own two pairs purchased at different times and really like them.

    2. Andi*

      I’ll second the recommendation for Torrid — my daughter and I have slightly different proportions, and we’ve both had great luck with jeans (skinny and bootcut) there.

      It’s the only place I buy pants anymore, although I get skirts and dresses from a number of different plus-size retailers.

  33. Workfromhome*

    #4- I think its useful to think about if you should do the exit interview at all (regardless of the comment issue). You are leaving so you should only do it if there is some clear benefit to doing so because there are certainly downsides to doing them. If the motivation is because it will make you feel good to know that you effected some change by giving your feedback that helps your co workers you leave behind that’s fine. BUT is there evidence this will actually happen? It sounds like they have been doing exit interviews for some time, sharing the feedback and that some common themes are obvious. That sounds like all the data you need to make some big changes to help retention. Did they actually make changes based on that feedback? If the answer is NO then its probably not useful to do the exit interview since you know they wont act on your feedback despite the risks you run by giving it.

    I declined the exit interview on my last job. I was aware of several high profile people who left several months apart and what their feedback was. They all had similar feedback (wage freezes, compensation plans changing at the 11th hour, VPs demanding meetings at all hours 7 days a week, abusive dialogue etc). All these practices continue to this day years later. It was very clear that despite being very clear on what the retention issues were that no changes would be made. So what benefit is there to sticking your neck out and calling out those same problems?

  34. Murphy*

    I’m also generally in the “I want to be left alone” camp when I’m shopping, but if I needed help, I can’t imagine rejecting an associate’s help because they don’t match my body size. Much less commenting on an associate’s body.

  35. Narise*

    For the exit interview even if they promise not to share your feedback you have no way of knowing what they’ll do after your gone. In this case I think silence will speak volumes.

  36. Amber Rose*

    #1: It is really, really hard to be a fat woman in society.

    I don’t know what size you are. But I do know that shopping with my more slender/average sized friends is the most heartbreaking and embarrassing experience in the world. So when I go into a plus size clothing store, although I have nothing against the more slender cashiers, I am instinctively slightly biased against them because they (probably) don’t know that feeling. So I really see these body comments coming from a place of admiration: you and I are similar but you look amazing, what do you think I should wear? And the ones where people want to “work with her” are more: She knows what fits this body type. She knows the struggle.

    And honestly, look at how fat women are treated. Everyone else gets to comment about our bodies apparently. We should at least feel free to comment about each other in a more positive way.

    Skinny jeans are surprisingly not as bad as I thought, by the way. I was talked into it by a salesperson at a clothing store even though I really doubted them, and I was impressed. Quite comfortable day to day. Somewhat uncomfortable in high humidity.

    1. Yomi*

      Agreed, the way these people are presenting the comments comes across quite backhanded (for goodness sakes, nobody wants to be told they have a big butt if they’re not already talking about it themselves) in the end it’s a problem of tact. The place they’re coming from is likely a deep, painful, and very honest place. I’ve had so many conversations with my thinner friends where they think they understand how hard it is for me to go shopping because “I have trouble finding things that fit too.” Yes, you do, but have you ever been to a gigantic mall and found only two stores that carried even one size that might fit you? Have you ever walked into a store and had a salesperson sneer at you and say that you won’t find anything in their store (imagine it in a “we don’t serve your kind here” kind of tone). Have you ever done the math to figure out how much more you’re paying for clothing than your thinner friends? Sure, you get frustrated in the dressing room, but how many times have you broken down crying because it’s just one more symbol of how you’re treated by the entire world?

      Every woman faces discrimination and faces problems related to her size. Every single one. I’m not trivializing that at all, but fat woman face a specific kind of pain and it goes all the way from clothing to medical care to employment discrimination. Sometimes you just need to talk to somebody you don’t need to explain that to.

      Yes, the customers should handle this better and not be rude about it. Absolutely. I just don’t see how to make that happen because having worked retail for a decade, I just don’t have the optimism I’d need to figure that out. I can see space for the company to try to find ways for the employees to expect this kind of thing and work with it (Our customers can see our associates as trusted confidants, and may come to them in a way that’s more vulnerable than in other stores. Here are the ways that we can make them feel more comfortable and make them feel that we’re listening to their voices and we’re here for them). And the company or the management at the store could also work to help turn this around for the employee getting the comments, by making sure that she knows that THEY know that she’s a valuable resource to them because of the way she can relate to these customers and help them in a unique way. Making this a valued contribution instead of a burden could help her face the rudeness. But customers are going to be rude always. Unfortunately.

      *I want to specify that at any place where I said “you” I’m not referring to any specific person but a generalized “you.” I’m not trying to put words in anybody’s mouths, just trying to speak from the heart on something emotional for me.

    2. Laura*

      Oh for crying out loud stop with all the emoting over clothes shopping! They’re salespeople not your therapist! It’s ‘heartbreaking’ not to be able to find stuff that caters for you? ‘Understands the struggle’? That’s some hyperbole!

      All the talk of how difficult it is to be ‘plus size’ (when did ‘fat’ become a taboo word?) yet it’s apparently still easier than actually doing something about it?

      If stores can’t refuse to hire based on looks, how is it there are people who think it’s okay to demand a certain ‘type’ of people serve them?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        You, and this comment, are exactly why plus size women do not trust non-plus size people to sell them clothing.

        1. Forrest*

          I’m plus sized and agree with Laura. You don’t speak for everyone.

          I think it’s a “comfortable in your body” kind of thing and salespeople are not equipped to rebuild people’s self-esteem.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            So you think fat people should “actually do something about it” or deal with abuse?

            1. Forrest*

              I’m sorry, limited clothing options is not abuse and as a rape and sexual assault survivor, I’m pretty offended that you would say that.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                I’m not conflating limited clothing options with abuse. I’m referring to the way that fat people are treated in society which absolutely can be abusive.

                1. Forrest*

                  Ah, so you’re redirecting the conversation away from plus sized clothing because….actually, I don’t know why.

                  You don’t get to respond to someone taking about clothing with “oh so we have to deal with abuse!” without someone saying you’re being ridiculous and offensive. Especially when that person responded to your comment that was only talking about plus sized clothing. Laura didn’t even talk about anything other than clothing.

                  And I want to see some examples of these “abuses” before I buy into that idea that society is abusing me because of my weight.

                2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  No, I’m talking about the fact that plus sized women have been abused by thinner women and are thus nervous about having thin women help them find clothes. It’s incredibly relevant to the conversation and the LW’s situation. There is a legitimate psychological reason that the patrons of the store prefer to deal with Jess.

                3. Forrest*

                  How have thin women abused plus sized women?

                  It is horribly horribly horribly offensive that you’re saying clothes shopping – clothes shopping at a store solely for plus size women no less – is abuse.

                  If you think you’re being abused because you can’t find something to wear, you need to go volunteer at a rape hotline and learn what actual abuse is.

                  I’ve heard some ridiculous things but thin women are so abusive to fat women that they can’t handle clothes shopping takes the cake.

              2. Sylvan (Sylvia)*

                Thank you.

                I have limited clothing options because of my size. It’s not abuse. It’s an inconvenience.

      2. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

        “Still easier than doing something about it.”

        … pray tell, what should they be doing? They’re in a store to purchase clothing. To wear on their body. What can happen between walking into the store and checking out to change that body?

        Oh, did you mean in general? How long should people work to change their bodies before they can buy clothes? What should they do? How should they eat? How should they move? What if the changes to their bodies don’t map on to what you think a body that eats that much and moves that much should look like?

          1. Forrest*

            “before they reach an acceptable size?”

            Oh come on. She didn’t say there’s an acceptable size. She’s saying if you’re not happy and if shopping for clothes makes you this miserable, then you should do something about it.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              She’s making a value judgment – that they are lazy, right? Because that’s why they complain, because it’s “easier” than losing weight? And she’s making enormous assumptions – that the weight is the problem – vs the issues that the commenter was calling out, which were discrimination and contemptuous treatment (but Laura’s answer is, apparently, that they wouldn’t face discrimination if they weren’t fat, so either be less fat or stop complaining?). And she’s making more assumptions by assuming that the people in question are doing nothing at all except complaining.

              So yeah, the message I got while reading this was that if someone is plus-size, they should either be not plus-size or sit down and shut up.

              1. Forrest*

                “plus-size, they should either be not plus-size or sit down and shut up.”

                So you got the idea that she didn’t say there’s an acceptable body type and yet you said she did?

                Saying “fix your problem or stop complaining” isn’t saying “I hate your body.” It’s saying if something bothers you, try to fix it or accept it.

                I’m fat. I’m losing weight. Complaining about clothes *is* easier.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  So either fix that you’re fat or accept it and wear what exactly? The whole issue people are discussing is the lack of flattering clothing for larger women.

                2. Forrest*

                  And I’m saying they can do something about it.

                  Thousands of options of cute clothing isn’t a right or even a need. Out of all the things people – including fat people – have to deal with, I put that really low on my “we need to deal with this now!” list.

                  And the whole “wear what exactly?” is ridiculous and even more so on a post about *women working in a solely plus sized store.*

        1. Forrest*

          “How long should people work to change their bodies before they can buy clothes?”

          I’m plus sized and have never wandered around naked. I’ve seen other plus sized women walk around and they have clothes on too. The problem isn’t that there’s no plus side clothing, the problem the options that you have to pick from is smaller.

          “How should they eat? How should they move?”

          Beats me but I’ve lost 73 pounds so anyone is welcome to contact me if they have questions or need encouragement to start. It’s taken a year to get this far and I still have 50 pounds to go but clothes shopping is much smoother mentally because I know I’m fixing it by doing what’s best for me.

          1. EmilyAnn*

            I agree with you. Clothes shopping became much easier even when I was 20 lbs down because I was doing something.
            I think the plussize clothes market is rapidly growing, with more options than ever before.

      3. Yomi*

        Yeah, as Amy Santiago said, comments like this are the reason that people are looking for someone who looks like them to help them buy clothes.

        This is a textbook example of how you can be told point blank in clear terms what another person is going through from their own first person experiences and not even begin to understand it at all. Then it takes that lack of understanding and uses it to punish them for not being more like what you want and expect them to be. That kind of thing doesn’t help you sell clothes, that’s for sure.

        Also, fat is not a taboo word but some women don’t use it and since the clothing industry uses plus sized it’s probably just what everybody in thread has adopted as a common language. I use the word fat to describe myself, I don’t have a problem with it, but I don’t use it to describe other women until I know they’re comfortable with it, because it’s not my place to force my own feelings onto their experiences.

        If you’ve never had a heartbreaking experience shopping for clothes, then you don’t get it. And that’s fine not to get it, but maybe that means you should take a step back and not be needlessly insulting to people who have had that happen. You don’t know them, you don’t know their life, you don’t know their entire story. And with this kind of response, you’ll never know because they’ll stop talking.

      4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        This. This is why I look for someone closer to my size. How dare I, a fat woman, dare to go into public and purchase clothing when I should clearly not dare to show myself until I’ve “done something” about it. Done what? Make sure that I look how you think I should look?

      5. Amber Rose*

        We all have to wear clothes, Laura. It’s illegal to go out in public fully nude. And burlap sacks/tarps/togas made of bed sheets make it really hard to get a job.

      6. EmilyAnn*

        I was fat my whole life and am still working on losing, but I’m kind of with you. I did not have all these emotions over clothes. It is very difficult to be plus-size but it’s not about clothes. My emotions were about why I couldn’t get it together to live a healthier life, or why I was tired and depressed about what I was doing to myself. Store people aren’t therapists and they’re not going to make you feel better about having to shop in a plus size store where everything is more expensive and you see pictures of a body size you don’t want anymore and never wanted to begin with. Clothes, skinny friends and all these ancillary issues don’t have anything to with the rest of it.

        1. Lehigh*

          It’s fine to share that experience, but the problem is that Laura is generalizing this to everyone. I don’t think everyone who is plus size is unhealthy (or even fat.) There’s a really wide range of healthy bodies, and not being able to find good clothes at your natural size has to be maddening.

          1. Lehigh*

            And, to add to that, you could also be an unhealthy size and working on it or prioritizing something else at the moment or WHATEVER and still need to wear nice clothes. There are a lot of things to do in life and your body doesn’t always get top priority, for whatever reason. It can be depressing if you know you’d like to lose X pounds but first you really need to focus on your career or your family or your mental health…but meantime the weight you want to lose keeps getting thrown in your face like it’s the only thing that matters to the rest of the world.

          2. Forrest*

            “Laura is generalizing this to everyone”

            But everyone is generalizing in response by acting as if all plus sized women have this issue. We don’t.

            1. Lehigh*

              Okay, that’s true. I guess I softened my point so much that I killed it.

              A rant about “why can’t fat people just get it together?” is no more okay than “I won’t shop at plus-size stores that hire skinny people.”

              They’re not opposites. They’re two sides of the same presumptuous, body-shaming coin. And as someone who had just argued against the latter, I felt it incumbent upon me to disavow the former as well.

        2. Amber Rose*

          I do. My doctor has told me in more or less point blank terms that it’s unlikely I’ll ever be much thinner than I am. I live a healthy life, but I don’t get smaller, just more or less defined depending on how well my illness and treatment plan is going. I’m more soft right now because my current set of drugs has more or less crippled me for the last 4 months.

          I want to wear pretty clothes. It hurts when I can’t, and that people judge me for being big when this is the best I can do. I don’t make store clerks responsible for my feelings of misery and grief, but I do go to the ones I admire for being fashionable with a similar body type to get advice. That’s all. I don’t want therapy from them, I don’t want sympathy, I don’t want a group cry about it all, I want to know what shirt/bra I can wear that will make my boobs look as nice as hers, and whether the same pants will make my butt look that good. I may or may not be able to get that from a thinner person. I know I will get it from a bigger one with a similar body type.

        3. Julia*

          I also don’t really mind anymore when people complain about my pale skin, but that doesn’t mean that I think everyone should be subjected to comments about their skin. It’s called empathy and basic human decency.

            1. Julia*

              Making comments about her appearance? They are. And I said that just because some people might not be hurt by those comments, doesn’t mean that others aren’t, so the comments aren’t okay.

      7. Jessie the First (or second)*

        “All the talk of how difficult it is to be ‘plus size’ (when did ‘fat’ become a taboo word?) yet it’s apparently still easier than actually doing something about it?”

        So this is one of the more obnoxious things I’ve read on these comment boards in a little while. You are telegraphing your prejudices loud and clear.

      8. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Clothes shopping tends to poke at everyone’s body insecurities and the whole culture of “you are never good enough”. Depending on your experiences, this can make shopping a rollercoaster of emotions no matter your body type. People that are plus size are more likely to have had bad experiences related to their appearance which can make shopping more fraught for many. Even people who are happy with their size in general and don’t want to change can have shopping evoke bad memories. I remember having women of all sizes, ages, and stations in tears in our dressing room because they felt like they were missing the cultural ideal.

        1. EmilyAnn*

          I’m a strong believer that everyone is entitled to their emotions, but I can’t advise a rational human being getting upset about clothes shopping. Being realistic about your size (straight or plus or inbetween), finding stores that sell it, trying stuff on to see what looks nice. Getting excited when things look great. Feeling natural disappointment when they don’t. Crying in the fitting room and describing clothes shopping as traumatic is a bridge too far.

          1. EmilyAnn*

            To clarify, it’s a bridge too far because you’ve imbued the event with more importance than it needs. If you’re that upset about it, it’s not the clothes, it’s your own self-image. You’d be better served spending time on body acceptance than anything related to clothes shopping.

            1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              I agree, but even the strongest person can be caught out and managing this issues takes time, so even if someone is working on them they can still end up getting caught out. I know I have had some pretty awkward crying moments (e.g. being at a low point and reading something on and airplane that just hit me RIGHT THERE and ending up with tears streaming down my face) so I tend to be pretty understanding when people’s issues sometimes get the best of them

          2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            People are strange and varied. So much self esteem gets caught up in appearance and not everyone is in a great place when they go shopping. I’m pretty sure they didn’t plan on crying in the dressing room, which is technically a private space and thus an okay spot to be emotional, so I am not going to be judgemental. I have had low points and have cried over far sillier things in far less appropriate places.

            1. Librarianne*

              I’ve cried over clothes shopping before. Earlier in my pregnancy I had to attend a formal wedding. I’m 5 feet tall and normally wear a small size (I’m not fat or thin, but at my height an average looking weight makes for quite a small size). Very quickly none of my old clothes fit, but most maternity wear was still too big, and everything had the fit issues I always have (too long, proportioned incorrectly for my height). Combined with wanting desperately to look pretty for my husband and the pregnancy hormones and how rapidly my body was becoming alien to me, not to mention fatigue and morning sickness, I ended up having a sobbing meltdown in the fitting room.

              I don’t think that makes me irrational. I think it’s easy for all of us to get overwhelmed, as women in this culture, where body image is so screwed up. Add in the massive, fast body changes of pregnancy and suddenly you feel like an alien has taken over your skin.

      9. Elizabeth H.*

        I don’t necessarily agree with it being easier to discuss how difficult it is to be overweight than to lose weight, that is such a loaded idea, some people have a much harder time losing weight than others, not everyone wants to lose weight, some people are already losing weight that they want to, blah blah blah.

        However I agree with the emoting over clothes shopping. Clothes shopping sucks if you don’t look the way you want to look. But it’s not the biggest deal in life. It can be great when you have a great shopping experience, and it’s unfair that the size of some people’s bodies causes them to have more unpleasant shopping experiences bc of disappointment, rude salespeople, etc. When it comes down to it we are talking about a less than five minutes interaction. You don’t even know the person’s name. If I want to ask a salesperson a question about clothes shopping (rare) I usually pick in this order a) someone who already greeted me and asked if I needed any help b) the person who looks the friendliest c) the person nearest me. It is not a major life decision. We’re talking about a retail transaction in a mall not picking a personal shopper, assistant, therapist etc.

      10. NaoNao*

        This comment is really not very generous.
        One of the reasons I participate happily in AAM’s comment section is that direct attacks or dismissive, flippant remarks are limited or non existent.
        People are allowed to have emotions around clothing. People are allowed to use a term which describes the clothing (hence the word “size” in it) or any other term they see fit, they don’t have to use a culturally and socially loaded word to describe themselves.
        People are allowed to be human and struggle with weight, body acceptance, and fitness without your unduly harsh judgement of “doing something about it”.
        Furthermore, you seem to have missed the numerous comments from women who are sized 00, have to wear children’s clothing because they are so petite, or wear a size 6 and are curvy, who are also frustrated, heartbroken or feel it’s a struggle.
        If people being real, raw, human, compassionate, thoughtful, sensitive, and open bothers you, I suggest any of the thousands of websites that have completely “wild west” comment sections full of flame wars.

    3. Shadow*

      So what you’re saying is that even though you don’t want to be stereotyped, since they’re doing it to you you’re going to do it back.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Oh my god, stop. I can’t have a discussion with someone who refuses to comprehend basic concepts. It’s like trying to explain what blue looks like to the blind.

  37. Zoo Curator*

    As Alison and others have mentioned, advance questions can be beneficial in some situations. I’ve used specific animal management-related scenario questions in both in-person interviews, and as advanced questions for some more complex scenarios. In the latter case, they are frequently real-life challenges facing the department that the person would be dealing with if hired, so seeing a more thought-out, detailed response can be very helpful in evaluating that candidate. Basically advance questions are one tool to have in your hiring manager’s toolbox, to be used judiciously along with your other interview options.

  38. Red 5*

    A couple years ago the company I work for sent out a survey about work/life balance. They set it up in a way that it seemed reasonably certain it would be anonymized and I didn’t see a way for them to get easily identifiable information from it. Since there was no guidance about what was happening other than that HR was looking at ways to improve our company culture, I answered honestly and pointed out problems not just in my part of the organization but things I had heard from coworkers (while specifying it was second hand information).

    When the survey closed, they then proceeded to send out a report on the findings that included the _full responses_. As it was here, there was no identifying information, and I don’t think that anybody could identify those statements as being from me. But there is a vast difference on how I would communicate a problem to HR and how I would communicate it directly to a manager. If I had known the people involved were going to read it, I probably would have made the same points but used a completely different strategy for saying it to avoid defensive reactions, etc.

    The entire thing left such a bad taste in my mouth that I haven’t answered another survey since. So if you’re a manager, I think surveys can be a meaningful way to get information about how things are going. But please, be entirely up front with how this data will be used and how it will be released, and do not publish full comments from people without saying up front that those comments will be published, anon or not. Let people choose how they want to communicate most effectively.

    1. Chaordic One*

      Back at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. they had these surveys, too. They were sent to our business email addresses and we weren’t allowed to forward them to our home computers because they were afraid that people would fill out more than one survey. The survey results were predictably disappointing, with most employees having little positive to say about the place, but nothing much changed.

      When the survey was sent out the following year, results were considered “inconclusive” because too few people actually filled out the survey to draw any kind of conclusion at all.

  39. small biz owner*

    I think the salesperson needs some polite sample scripts to shut it down and still make a sale. Or even a script for herself– “I’m here to help the customer, and I am happy with how I look. Some customers don’t know that they are being hurtful, but I am going to smile and make the sale.”

    Also, I hope she is on commission.

  40. Bend & Snap*

    #4 I used to work for a place where the president was such a raging a-hole that when people left she was always cited as the reason why. HR kept the exit interview comments in a running document so it was hard to spot the new ones and easier to keep people anonymous, because the president was vengeful.

    President figured out it was me anyway and bad mouthed me to a client thinking of hiring me. She was a real peach. I have no clue why HR didn’t handle this above the president’s level (large global company and she was the president of one office) instead of waving goodbye to people in droves.

    1. Chaordic One*

      I guess it’s the retail business model that assumes the job is so easy to do that any warm body can do it, and besides there’s always a pipeline of unemployed (and/or gullible) people desperately looking for another job.

  41. Student*

    I don’t think that working in plus-size clothing retail means your co-worker has to tolerate rude comments about her body from anybody. I’m surprised that AAM is willing to say that such harassment just is a fact of life.

    Your colleague needs the manager’s backing to go to bat against clients here, and somebody more polite than me to suggest ways to correct clients. But she shouldn’t have to tolerate people commenting on her ass.

    It’s likely that the clients “mean well” in the sense that AAM gave – that they feel it’s okay to say such things to your co-worker because they identify her as “one of them” and feel comfortable with it given the clothing store setting – but it’s still firmly wrong to comment on stranger’s butt size. Part of why they feel comfortable violating this normal boundary, I’d argue, is that the co-worker is a retail employee whose job is dependent on keeping customers happy. Same power dynamic guys use to harass waitresses.

    In a first turn at correcting these incredibly rude people, I’d try something like, “I’m happy to help you find some clothes that make you look and feel great here at StoreCorp, but I’d appreciate it if we kept the focus on your clothing needs today and not on my body. I’m sure you meant well, and I know I’m no super-model, but it’s still hurtful to hear a stranger call my butt big. Thanks!”

    1. Grapey*

      Agreed. People all over this thread are saying they like seeing/asking for advice from fat employees but (as another fat woman) I’d never treat a retail employee like a living mannequin.

      The one caveat is if Lane Bryant actually requires their employees to wear the clothes – then they are in fact a living mannequin, but even so, customers bringing attention to the body under the clothes is just rude.

  42. Grocery Clerk*

    Regarding the customers feeling more comfortable with certain sized employees; this happens a ton in my area. I work around health products, and being in the Midwest, people often try to be friendly and relate. I think some of it is relief, and some of it is “here is common ground I can visually see!”.

    Not to justify the objectification, but when I lost 30lbs a select group of customers stopped wanting my insight/me attending to them as I “decided to get skinny”. I was very hurt and confused, and for awhile I had a hard time adjusting my professional commentary/demeanor to accommodate for that.

    I found it helped a lot to connect to others who fit whatever the client’s expectation was (versus what I was myself); “actually my mom is prediabetic and I definitely get how hard it can be to find clothes/items/personalized requirement _____” or “Oh, I know I look ____ but this is relatively recent; got really sick/had to try a new plan/ I have crohns” or “haha yeah it is surprising but my best friend is my go-to on this”. Anything that places the burden of insecurity off of me and the customer, and still leaves friendly room for conversing (terse but polite “I don’t discuss this” doesn’t do very well in the Midwest) has helped me a lot.

    I know it sounds weird, and I know you shouldn’t *have* to share this stuff by any means, but having learned that this is usually people’s insecurities has made it easier to gently rebuff or redirect. The redirection works best when it is something like “I relate to ____ product due to (personal connection/personal story)” since the Midwest is kind of known for that weird oversharing/overpersonal commentary as well. Same thing happens when I eat; everyone wants to force food on me etc.

    On a less professional note, having coworkers to vent to about this and being told it’s ok to have your professional commentary not necessarily line up with your beliefs (I don’t think I am too small, but I will agree with customers if it’ll stop a giant tirade on “you tiny folk” that they wont remember in a day) can be comforting. I had to have a manager remind me that I am allowed to politely disengage/remove myself when it got too weird, and also call ’em over if I can’t handle it myself.

    Again, maybe this is because I am younger but having worked in a store for 7 years that has so many customers frank about my appearance, it’s really a balance of “How can I respond professionally but not make it feel personal”.

    For the worst customers, I’d say the “grey rock” technique. I have a few customers that are belligerent or overtly rude, and giving one word (but polite) answers, seeming boring, and keeping things milquetoast as a whole, usually has them redirect. Some people come into a store looking to fight, and knowing how that looks (versus a curious and personal client) can have a steep curve in a place where people are sensitive to the products (food and clothing in particular).

  43. Willow Sunstar*

    Regarding #2, I work for a large corporation. While they don’t send us the exact questions, they do tell us the proficiencies for each job and example questions. Additionally, if you are interviewing for certain types of jobs, you tend to get the same questions.

  44. Woo Woo Girl*

    It was a terrible Saturday and a complete waste of time. I had gotten up early, instead of sleeping in like usual, and spent the entire day shopping for new clothes and shoes. I went to department stores downtown. I went to the garment district. I went to plus-size stores and outlet malls. And I came back home with nothing. Nada. Zilch. Well, I came home with the beginnings of a migraine.

    I don’t consider myself fat, but I am tall and large and I have big feet. You might politely say I’m “big-boned.” After getting home, I was lying on my bed crying to myself feeling exhausted, frustrated, ugly and freakish when I experienced either a spiritual encounter with the supernatural; or else a mild psychotic break from reality. Although I was completely alone in my apartment a voice, neither male or female but sounding very old, asked me:

    “Why do you hate your body and your feet?”

    Then, without waiting for an answer, the voice declared, “You should not hate your body. You should not hate your feet. They are holy.”

    I have no idea who the voice belonged to. No one else was in my apartment. I’ve never heard the voice again. Shopping for clothes and shoes is still a pain and hasn’t gotten a whole lot easier since.

  45. AW*

    they laugh at her for presumably suggesting that plus-size women can wear skinny jeans

    #1, I don’t have scripts for shutting down customers commenting on your co-worker’s body but I can tell you that the laugh is likely due to the fact that:

    * It sounds weird to refer to plus-size jeans as skinny
    * Not even the people who manufacture plus-size skinny jeans seem to think that plus-size women should be wearing them

    But I really do think you should talk to your co-worker before saying anything on her behalf. She might well rather deal with this than call more attention to it by asking management to get involved.

    #4, I agree with letting them know that the comments aren’t really anonymous. The good thing is that saying so won’t somehow reflect on you in anyway so you haven’t tipped your hand if they decide not to change things. It’s also likely to be a bit more anonymous that what you’ve been seeing since it’s very likely that everyone else seeing the comments realizes that they can tell that certain comments came from specific people.

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