Saturday, June 7, 2008

Department Store Discrimination: The Sears Incident

Today I want to talk about discrimination, and in particular age discrimination (and no, this is not an article about John McCain). Recently, my girlfriend and I visited a Sears department store in our local mall. We were casually browsing, and looking around at various items when we noticed a woman, that worked in the store, was giving out coupons. There were numerous people shopping around the store, but we were the only twenty-year-olds. She passed out the coupons to three people in front of us, and then as she came closer to us veered off to give out another coupon to an older lady.

At first we didn't think anything of it, as we thought maybe she might have missed us, so we kept browsing. When we were ready to leave the store, we ran into the Sears employee again. This time she came face to face with us, and said "excuse me," and brushed passed us without even so much as stopping. My girlfriend and I were stunned. We thought to ourselves, "there is no way she missed us this time, that was age discrimination!"

This kind of discrimination has occurred to us before. We were at the mall once before looking around a jewelery store at rings, because my girlfriend was interested in a birthstone-ring. While we were there, the lady working there eyed us like we were going to steal something, and never even asked if we needed help. When we finally asked her, she seemed annoyed that we were interrupting her day or something.

We are both in our twenties and we both are customers that shop at the mall often. There is no reason why we should be discriminated against. We were both quite appalled at the Sears incident and the jewelery store poor customer service. We are both mature students, and the fact that someone thought we were not worthy to receive a coupon is a 'slap in the face.' We spend money just like everyone else, and our service should be worth as much as the next person's.

I just wonder how many other people in our age group did not receive coupons that day in Sears? For all the Sears employee knew, we could have been millionaires. People should think before they judge, especially when it comes to picking and choosing who gets good customer service. One thing I will say, is that this incident has put a black mark on the Sears 'brand' for me. It is hard to say if it was just that one employee being discriminating, but that's all it takes to tarnish a name brand.

Have you ever been targeted by age discrimination? I'd love to hear your stories, just leave a comment.

(Sears logo courtesy of )


Caledonian Jim said...

Age discrimination in reverse ? An interesting angle on a problem that's usually regarded as being applied to older people ( like me ! ) . Just put it down to the fact that the employee was older than you and probably quite bitter, twisted and jealous about your youth .

By the way, on a really serious note, if you're in shops with your girl looking for rings you're in trouble big time mate !

Michael L. Gooch said...

Yes. It happens and rather frequently. However, the offenders often do not know that they are engaged in this activity. Inappropriate behavior and off-hand remarks will sneak up to bite you. As a corporate director for a fortune 500 company, I have been blindsided many times by disparaging remarks made by your management team? The managers don’t realize at the time that they are in a discrimination mode. I detail these likely events in my management book, Wingtips with Spurs. Usually they will ‘get it’ when their depositions start. When you hear the following phrases, stop the offender, offer some education, and hope to goodness no one else heard them. If it happens again with the same person, it may be time to sell the cow. The courts and juries will decide if the remarks are ‘stray comments’ or direct evidence of a discrimination mindset.
• “We need sharp, young people.”
• “We need people who can come in early and stay late.”
• “They’re dinosaurs.”
• “They’re too old to learn something new”
• “We want employees who are young, lean, and mean.”
• “They wouldn’t be able to keep up with the fast company
• “We’re looking for longevity.”
• “We need some young blood in this department.”
If a manager allows a culture that tolerates remarks such as the ones above, then the manager will probably get what he or she is asking for. The great leader will remind management on a frequent basis that they should never forget silence is often the best answer. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR

DC said...

Jim: Yes, well I actually hope it was just a problem with HER, and not something that her manager told her to do.

Michael: I agree that ageism should not be tolerated by society and especially not in the workplace. Be it, mature or youth discrimination, no one deserves to be treated less than anyone else. Corporations, which deal with consumers on a constant basis, should know that good customer service goes a long way. People like being treated like human beings, and do not want to be confronted with preconceived notions and labels when they go to buy something.

Anonymous said...

i cant seem to e-mail you but i was wondering if i could use your story about the age discrimination in my school paper?
<thanks meaghan

DC said...

Meaghan: Sure! If you would like to cite my article in your school paper go right ahead. I hope this can help support your arguments.

Take care!