Big-name corporations are notorious for awful practices and general exercises in anti-consumerism. Whether it's Microsoft's metaphorical middle finger to the public with the Xbox One, Apple's continued insistence on swearing off of Flash, or the black hole that is the textbook industry, anti-consumerism is evident and rampant.
Of course, there are some companies that are miles worse than others; Microsoft made (admittedly minimalistic) amends, Apple continues to offer innovation for the public on a large scale while caring about the integrity of its products, and I won't even try to defend the textbook industry — but there's another company that's a malignant scourge on everything notions of diversity, inclusion and tolerance stand for.
Abercrombie & Fitch.
Abercrombie, in my humble opinion, is the high-functioning standard for the impediment of social progress. In case you aren't aware as to why, here's a nice little quote from the clothing retailer’s CEO Mike Jeffries that scrapes the surface of their anti-consumer sentiment:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
By “exclusionary,” what he means is refusing to sell jeans larger than a size 10 — three sizes under the national average — or women's extra-large clothing. Sure, anti-consumerism is a genuine problem, but rarely is it so overwhelmingly sexist, body fascist and generally intolerant.
Unfortunately, marketing to the “cool kids” isn't where it ends. Abercrombie is infamous for placing incredibly offensive slogans on T-shirts, such as “It's All Relative In West Virginia,” an attack on the stereotype that rural areas of the country engage in incestuous practices; “Wong Brothers Laundry Service — Two Wongs Can Make It White,” a not-so-thinly veiled insult at the Asian-American community; and “Eye Candy” and “Wink-Wink,” which might not be the worst buzzwords to plaster on a T-shirt, but is an exemplary exercise in abhorrence when laced on the front of thong underwear for kids under 13.
Then there's the company's hiring practices. Abercrombie & Fitch (and its offshoot brand Hollister) is known for referring to their employees as “models” and for only hiring people they self-righteously deem “beautiful.” Ignoring their self-affirmed position as the savant of all things beautiful, there's a more pressing issue — their distorted image of what can be considered beautiful is notably sexist, racist and probably any other prejudicial “-ist” you could think of. Take the 2013 case of an Abercrombie employee who wore a hijab to work and was fired for not complying to take the garment off.
Sadly, there's even more nonsense they find themselves neck-deep in, but I'm sure the point's incredibly clear. Not only is A&F incredibly anti-consumer, they're also exclusionary along lines of religion, sex and body, and such practices infringe on diversity in an incredibly malignant way. To their credit, they admit it, but for some curious reason, a shocking number of people feel like their admission of being terrible is cause for forgiveness. Being self-aware of being horrible doesn't make you any less horrible; it just makes you self-aware.
Now, there's a sunny, shimmery bright side to all this, and that can be found in the relationship between a consumer and a producer. Supply and demand is a two-way street, after all; for example, Microsoft rescinded its anti-consumer pricing and products after a massive public outcry. The outcry against Abercrombie has been a big one, and it hasn't stopped. I'm not exactly business-oriented, but headlines like “Teens ditch Abercrombie & Fitch, stocks tank 18%” and “Is Anyone Still Shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch? Apparently Not” still make my day.
Needless to say, never forget the power of you, the consumer. The consuming public has a significant source of power that often goes underutilized — its voice and its purchasing power — and it's high time such powers are used for a common good. Thankfully, in the case of Abercrombie & Fitch, that's exactly what happened, and hopefully, it will continue.
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