Work Place Entrapment

Not asking for it

“I did work at a mall in college- I think working retail/customer service is one of the most hideous jobs in the world.” – Jayma Mays (Actress/Singer)

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so. I have in worked in retail since high school, in almost every capacity. While I made some great connections while working at those places, the job of putting on a happy face and trying to help everyone is exhausting. And what made it worse? Even after I was at my job for two years and was trained as a manager, no one believed I, a young woman, knew anything.

They would ask to speak with the department managers, or in a few cases, ask if there was a man they could speak to. Both men and women have done this and are probably doing it somewhere right now, much to my chagrin. Most of us are familiar with this narrative, but unless you’ve worked a service job or talked intimately with someone who has faced these issues, you can’t imagine how retail employees feel trapped. I think it’s high time to shed a little light on this.

Every retailer store I’ve worked at uses the classic model “the customer is always right”. That’s not a bad way to treat people who have gotten a bum product or have questions, but it is very seldom true. The customer is not always right.

Correcting customers in the wrong is like herding cats. They could just go with it, they might realize what you’re trying to do, but most of them will go their own way or may snap at you. This creates fear of the customer, especially when they change very quickly.

You’re probably thinking, but wait, isn’t the company supposed to protect employees? Can’t management handle these situations?

Companies, say they can and managers can only handle so much and most of them aren’t even prepared to handle situations. Training videos might describe and demonstrate how to handle a grumpy customer or when to get a manager, but every situation is unique and management just can’t always be there. This creates both a feeling of independence and one of isolation.

Now for the most part there is hope—grumpy customers usually just vent or go to Customer Service or can be handed off to a department. The problem I have faced as a woman is when primarily male customers start to get to friendly, flirt, ask out, or in a few cases make blatantly sexual advancements. In my case, I’m lucky none of them have gotten physical, but that is not always the case.

I worked with a girl, we’ll call her Gene. Gene worked in a clothing store, and she was helping a man find some pants. Management was in a meeting and while we all had our radios on, we all had different projects in a fairly large store. Gene helped the man even though she could “feel his eyes wandering.” They talked for a while, because in the world of retail you want to get to know your customers to help them. He started making comments, trying to flirt. Gene felt uncomfortable but was polite, trying to keep things professional. He took this politeness as an invitation to ask her out. She declined. He got very mad and started yelling all sorts of obscenities which I heard, and I rushed over to ask the man as politely as possible to leave. He called me and the other mostly female workers other obscenities, and then management escorted him out of the building.

Now if you’re wondering why Gene didn’t radio for back-up initially, let me remind you. In retail/customer service positions, politeness is key. Presentation is key. You cannot be rude to a customer unless it is a last resort, because bad behavior on your part reflects poorly on the store, and in many places can get you into trouble. We had a good management team but it’s hard to call for back-up when your customer is standing right there watching your every move. In some cases, it’s genuinely terrifying. So radioing for back-up vaguely usually results in “What do you need?” “Is it a question I can answer?”, and when you don’t have a radio, you can’t just hand a customer off to someone else in the same way at all.

I can tell you that after this, we developed phrases, we had signals, and for a while we tried to help customers in pairs because it was so scary. There is no one you protect more than your friends at work, because they really do become your family.

The worst thing is though, while not to this extreme those little microaggressions that have made me as a woman uncomfortable happen every day, and retail workers have to put up with them. Eyes will look everywhere they shouldn’t, people will get asked if they have significant others, what they’re doing later, when they get off, etc. Certain regulars will pick you and go only through your line and say “See you later” in an all-too-familiar tone. The worst things that happened to me were verbal, but I refused to interact with those customers again, and I told my management so. Did I still have to interact with them if there was no one else around? Yes. Did I plan my quickest escape route as soon as I registered they were in the store? Yes. Did I smile and do my job despite my skin crawling? Yes.

Is politeness while someone working a reason to flirt with that person?

No, it is not. It never is. They’re doing their jobs and their job should not include compromising themselves so that you leave happy.

Or at least that’s what every retail handbook says.

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“Healthy Masculinity”

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A picture of a rainbow colored White House

By Dave Eubank 

Ahhh. That elusive concept. What is it? What does it look like? How do you know if you possess it? How can you tell if someone else does? What examples in current times or past ones do we have?

I thought about this subject a lot before writing today. I consulted with some highly esteemed colleagues that I work with. I listened to some talks given by scholars on the psychologies of humans. I remembered films I had watched, books I had read, and, finally, I remembered my own life…where I have come from, how I started out, what got me here, who I am right now, and how far I must go. I am still thinking. (Ha-ha)

However, here is what I have to say about the concept and what I have learned works for me, so far.

“To Thine Own Self Be True”

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Picture of a statue of Hamlet

Shakespeare’s words from Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3, still resonate for me. I know this is the chief thing I have done in living my life to this point. I have gone inside of me and keep returning there to spend time with myself. Time where I ask and ponder the difficult questions: “Who am I?” “What do I want?” “What is true for me?” “What do I believe?” Time spent waiting for the answers to come bubbling up within me. Time analyzing and thinking about these answers and how I can manifest them in my outside world. If I cannot be authentic with myself, then how can I be honest with anyone else? Continue reading ““Healthy Masculinity””

Pro Planned Parenthood

By Makayla Sundquist

Let’s talk about Planned Parenthood.

“Abortion Clinic!” you scream.

“Murderers!” you cry.

“They sell fetal tissue!” you claim.

(That last one has been proven false, read here).

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Common signed used to support Planned Parenthood.

There are many myths about Planned Parenthood, and there are people who believe their clinics should not be established because they perform abortions. Before we continue, abortion is legal in the United States. It has been since the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. Planned Parenthood provides women with legal abortions. Do you want women to die from coat hanger abortions? No? Neither do I, let’s move on. Some of the clinics only provide a medication abortion, a pill taken up to 10 weeks that blocks progesterone and causes the fetus to detach from the uterine wall, but other clinics provide surgical abortions. In case you were wondering, the Planned Parenthood in Pullman only provides a medication abortion. However, abortions are only a small piece of the services that Planned Parenthood provides. The most common reason people access Planned Parenthood is to receive STI testing/treatment. 

What makes Planned Parenthood so amazing is that it provides a wide variety of health-related services, and not all of them are related to sexual health. Fun Fact: you can go receive a sports physical at the Planned Parenthood in Pullman, WA. Then again, if you do need some “down there” assistance, Planned Parenthood is a fantastic resource. They provide STI tests, pap smears, pregnancy tests, UTI treatment, and even vasectomies. That’s right, men, Planned Parenthood can be your health center as well! And it is starting to be. In 2014, PP clinics served 250,000 men, which is a 76% increase from a decade ago. The Pullman Planned Parenthood helps men with erectile dysfunction, male infertility, premature ejaculation, and routine physicals. Other Planned Parenthood Clinics can screen men for testicular and prostate cancer.

Continue reading “Pro Planned Parenthood”

Has it Gotten Any Better?

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Measuring tape on a womans waist

By Delaney Hopen

In America’s fashion industry,  the “plus-size” identity has always been a prominent component. This “size” range is considered sizes 8 and above, and isn’t carried in every store. From my perspective, I never noticed any sort of shaming or disrespect towards women that don’t weigh 100 pounds in the media, but of course how could I? I was only a young teen in the grocery stores looking at the covers, I couldn’t possibly notice all the praise of major weight losses that are just subtle conditioning set in our societies to convince us losing weight is a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong, adjusting your life in order to be a healthy you is a great thing. Me being an exercise freak, I think it feels amazing to set a body goal and achieve it but I’ve never been told I had to change like a lot of women have in the fashion world. There are all types of trends today in the beauty and health industry that I’m sure the older generations might not legitimately believe are popular because advancements in makeup, skinny teas and dieting techniques, and online weight loss plans have become so accessible.

Continue reading “Has it Gotten Any Better?”

Women in Entrepreneurship

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It is no secret that women on average have to jump through more hoops to success than men. Even those who can find a decent career path for themselves still have to deal with the discrimination in the workplace and are constantly living under the glass ceiling. Despite all this, many women have made it past the hurdles and defied the odds. We can look at the list of the many women who have made it into CEO positions of Fortune 500 companies such as Mary Barra (General Motors), Meg Whitman (Hewlett-Packard), and Denise Morrison (Campbell Soup) and find inspiration and hope for our own endeavors. From a feminist lens, I still believe that these women and others like them are infinitely more powerful than men in similar positions. Not only did they have to do many of the same things that men did to get to the same position, they also dealt with the doubt, politics, and discrimination that comes from being a woman in business—obstacles that most men have no experience with. For some women, these added pressures can be discouraging and often times too much to handle. If you ever find yourself in a seemingly hopeless position, don’t give up! The women who have already been there know its worth every bit of the struggle. For those particularly adamant about their success, entrepreneurship is a great alternative. Take a detour past all the men standing in the way and be the business. Continue reading “Women in Entrepreneurship”

Book Review- Winning the War for Talent

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I had the recent pleasure of reading a book about women in business for my 300-level Integrated Seminar (ISEM) course titled Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women are the Solution by Ripa Rashid and Sylvia Ann HewlettThis book is about women in the “BRIC” countries; Brazil, China, Russia, India, and the United Arab Emirates; and how their skills are starting to become noticed. These BRIC countries have a rapidly growing GDP, which will impact the rest of the first world countries. Having women in key roles in these countries as they develop will assure women an almost equal playing field in the first world stage of development.

Continue reading “Book Review- Winning the War for Talent”

Women: The New Business Powerhouses (Who Knew? We Did.)

By Morgan Fisher

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For a Global Leadership class I’m taking, we’ve been reading a book about how women are the solution to winning the “war for talent” in global markets. The chapter I was assigned to read talked about 12 different initiatives that 12 different businesses are implementing to increase the amount of women in leadership roles. I was glad to read that something is being done to get female leaders noticed on a global scale, but I was also frustrated at the fact that we still have to take specific initiatives to ensure that women are being considered for roles that they rightfully deserve through sheer merit.

Then I remembered that our country is relatively progressive in comparison to some others around the world. Granted, we still have a lot of work to do, but getting female leaders to move ahead on a global scale is an entirely different story.

Continue reading “Women: The New Business Powerhouses (Who Knew? We Did.)”