Treating people right

I’ve made it a mission in my life to praise people for doing right.  Especially employees in stores that give exceptional service.  I’ve worked in service industry jobs too long, and know that all too often the managers only hear what’s wrong with their employees.

So, many years ago, I started asking to talk to managers when I received exceptional service.  This created a very humorous occasion when I asked to speak to the manager about excellent service a gentleman gave me when I was trying to pick out a camera, only to find out the gentleman who gave me the excellent service was the store manager!  In that case, when I arrived home, I wrote a letter to corporate to give credit where it was due.

So, in that spirit, I want to talk about two recent interactions in stores I’ve had.

The first one was a local Target.  I hardly ever shop at Target.  It’s not that I have anything against them, just I never go there.  However, this last week, I needed to pick up a couple of things at a store, and the Target happened to be in the parking lot I was already in.

I’m having issues with walking and breathing (or talking and breathing, or standing and breathing, or really, doing anything and breathing) right now, due to the air quality we’ve had for the past couple of weeks.  I’ve seen a doctor, and it’s just a matter of resting and healing now.  :\

Walking around a big store, and the Target I’m talking about is a Super T, is just not something I can handle well.  However, I feel very self-conscious about using the carts some stores provide for people to use.  I’ve seen too many comments of “That fat person is keeping those carts from people with REAL disabilities” or “Being fat isn’t a disability” or “If you’d exercise, you wouldn’t need to use that cart!”  So, I do my best to never use one of those (not even when I was on crutches after the surgery in ’07).  This time, however, I had to use the cart.

Since this was a brand new store to me, I had no idea where anything was.  So I was zipping all over the store, looking for the things I needed, and things that interested me (because, hey, shopping, amirite?).

The first time I saw a store employee, he asked me if I needed help with anything.  I thanked him and said no, and kept truckin’ on.  I was astonished by the offer because I was in two invisible demographics at this point:  fat, and using the mechanical cart (showing some sort of disability).  But then I thought maybe he had a family member who was disabled, or he’d been temporarily disabled at some point, and was more conscious of it.

But then it happened again, with a different employee in an entirely different area of the store.  And then, yet again by a third employee, in yet another area of the store.  At one point I actually did need help (to find Conall, who’d gone looking around someplace else, and whom I couldn’t find since I was shorter than I usually was), and the lady I approached did not try to avoid me, walked towards me when she saw I was driving towards her, and started to walk me to where they could page Conall (as she didn’t have a way to page over the intercom system herself).

It became obvious to me that the employees are trained to not discriminate against ability factors in their offers of help.  Seriously, I’d go back to that Target again, even though it’s a bit more expensive on some stuff than even my regular grocery store, because the service is excellent.

I don’t know if this is a Target wide policy, but I will sure be calling Target home offices and complimenting them on the helpfulness of the employees there.

The other place is a store I go into semi-regularly, and is Whole Foods.  There are two stores near me, and depending on what side of town I’m at, I make use of both of them.

Now, I know  Whole Foods does discriminate against fat employees.

In a letter to employees, Mr. Mackey claims that “Supporting Team Member Happiness and Excellence is a very important core value.”   While there is certainly evidence that generally suggests that high cholesterol, high BMI, and cigarette smoking are detrimental to a person’s well-being, there are many happy, healthy, active, fat people that are conscious of their food choices that do not fall within the prevailing acceptable range for BMI that Whole Foods will use to determine health.  There are not, however, many truly happy people that suffer from self-hatred, body dysmorphia, unreasonable expectations of beauty, or working against a body’s biology to comply with over-generalized definitions of health.

So, yeah.  I know.  And usually, I won’t give my money to a corporation that tries to punish it’s employees for being fat.  However, it’s the only place in town I can get a few things I need (like fair trade baking chocolate).  I’m in a Catch-22 here.

Even though the company CEO seems to want to punish it’s fat employees (also those who smoke), I’ve always been treated well in both local stores.  Considering that the “earthy crunchy” type (at least, many whom I’ve talked to in real life) tend to treat me as if I am at best exaggerating and at worst outright lying about my exercise and eating habits, when I first started going to the Whole Foods stores, I expected bad service.

I can say 100% that I’ve never received bad service, or felt like I was inconveniencing an employee for just being fat in their store.  I once even had a manager at the north store offer to hire me because I found the product I’d asked for help in finding (he’d taken me to the correct area, but then he couldn’t find it in it’s cubby, and I did).

Last night took the level of service up another notch.

I’d gone to the doctor for a follow up to the smoke inhalation issues I’ve been having, and was basically told that there really isn’t any more that can be done.  If I can get out of the area to where there isn’t a bunch of smoke and particulates in the air, I will probably do better, but just about all of Colorado has smoke from either local fires or from the wind pushing the smoke from other states to us.  Denver has bad air quality right now from the fires in Wyoming.

So, I decided I’d done Conall’s way, now it was time to do my way.*

Do you know there are a lot of supplements out there?  And that even doing your homework before going and searching for products doesn’t always help when none of the products you are looking at has the ingredients you’ve seen mentioned a lot when doing your homework?

Yeah, it can be confusing, even when you attempt to educate yourself about what has been shown to work and what is just snake oil.

After looking at things for about 15 minutes, I found an employee (department manager of the herbal supplements department) and explained what I was looking for.  I was a bit nervous, because, you know, fatty can’t breath.  And while I’ve always been treated well before, I’d also always asked for things like almond meal (for baking for gluten free friends) or where they get their honey from, what city is their “western slope” honey out of (for the honey caramels I make).

The employee last night was wonderful, talking about how he was having issues due to the air quality as well (and he was the tall, naturally skinny kind of guy).  We talked about options, and then he said, “Just a minute, I’ll be right back.”  He went around a corner and came back a couple minutes later with a bottle of “respiratory help” herbal treatment.  It’s made of an herb I’d researched a few months back (because Conall’s boss started to sell some coffee made with this stuff, and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to hurt Conall to drink it), so I knew the basic properties of the herb.

The employee told me he was going to give me the bottle (over $25 retail cost) because it was a brand new product they had, and he had no feedback from people taking it, only what the company had sent.**  I asked him if he was sure, because that’s a lot of product to just give away, and he said he was absolutely sure.  He didn’t even ask that I come back and tell him how the product worked, although I offered that immediately.

Actually, what I said was, “What kind of input do you want me to give you about this, since you are giving me this product for free?”

He didn’t ask, and so still doesn’t know, that I write a blog.  So me talking up this product online wasn’t even something he thought about.

He was just being very nice, and trying to help a person struggling with a situational health problem get better faster.

I always try to give credit where credit is due.  Both of these things happened at chain stores, where I’ve come to expect bad service as the norm.  Not because I’m fat, but just because many chain store corporate headquarters seem to think that “customer service” starts and ends with the customer having to find an employee, and then still being lost when the employee says, “Oh, that product is down that aisle” (pointing vaguely towards the middle of the store).  And yes, I’ve had that level of service all too often.

These two local stores have distinguished themselves in my book.  As always, your mileage may vary, but I’d be interested to hear if this level of service is consistent with other places around the country (for Whole Foods) or world (for Target).

*Conall is much more traditional medicine than me.  I am much more alternative medicine than him.  It can be an interesting balancing act sometimes.

**I am (obviously) not a celebrity, and so never expect to just be given items for free.  Matter of fact, I had to ask the gentleman 3 times if he was sure, because, well, you know, unasked for semi-expensive FREE item. This just never, EVER happens to me.

Each One Thank One (or a dozen)

I’ve written a post over at Fierce, Freethinking Fatties this week that touched on my struggles about the fire inhalation I’m dealing with from the Waldo Canyon Fire that was here in Colorado Springs.

The fire started on June 23, about noon.  At least, that’s when many people in Colorado Springs and surrounding areas saw the plume of smoke.  I happened to be out, buying supplies to make the caramel I was supposed to deliver the following Friday to a local store I’m in.  I’d stopped at a McDonald’s, and in the time it took me to order, obtain my food and drink, and sit down, the sky to the west went from perfectly clear to a plume of smoke that appeared to be about a yard wide.  Considering the distance the fire was, I knew that was a big fire already.

As the afternoon went on, the plume grew so big, people at the grocery store were stopping and looking.

Yes, I called the fire department.  Along with many, many people.  I was told they knew about it and were working on it.  Even so, it was concerning that the plume of smoke kept growing.

When I arrived home, I turned on the tv, and found the area my mother-in-law lived in was under voluntary evacuations.  So I called her to get her to leave.  It took her a while to believe there was a danger.  She didn’t finally start to be serious about it until just before the authorities changed the voluntary evacuation to a mandatory one.  She left the house about a half hour after the mandatory evacuation was called.

That was the last time she ever saw her house standing.  (This picture shows my mother-in-law’s neighborhood as it is now.  This is a small portion of the affected area.)

Tuesday, June 26, the perfect conditions happened for a firestorm.  At that point, 32,000 + people were put on mandatory evacuation, with many more on “pre-evac” status.  Whole towns (Manitou Springs, Cascade, Green Mountain Falls) were evacuated, with other towns (Woodland Park) partially evacuated.  For a while on Tuesday, I-25 (a major north-south highway through the west) was closed through Colorado Springs southbound.  SH 24, the only direct route up the mountain to the towns listed above, was closed for over a week.

That Tuesday, the growth of the fire was exponential.  It went from about 6,000 acres to preliminary reports of 24,000 acres (which was later downsized, the reality was more like 15,000 acres).  The mountains were literally on fire.

At this point, the statistics are:  18,247 acres of land were consumed in the fire, 347 houses totally destroyed and an untold number will need to be bulldozed and built back up from the ground due to heat damage, 2 lives lost.  We had 8 C130s that had been fitted for dropping water, slurry, or retardant on the fire, and at least 10 helicopters also dropping water or slurry.  The cost to the city for JUST the firefighting efforts is currently at $14.5 million.  This is not accounting for the loss of property yet.

And, we had 1500 firefighters (as well as additional personnel from the military) from all over the country here, helping local fire fighters fight this blaze and keep it from doing any more damage.

Colorado Springs and neighboring communities have been amazing in this.  Over 1 ton of food and supplies have been collected and dropped off for evacuees and firefighters.  While there were many Red Cross Evacuee stations open, none of them were filled due to the generosity of friends of evacuees (or friends of friends of friends).  Water, gatorade, snacks that are easy to eat (like granola bars) were dropped off for the fire fighters use to such an extent, people were being told, “We have enough for now, we’ll have the media announce when we need more, because their is no room to store this stuff!”

Waldo fire Incident Commander Rich Harvey said that in his 30+ years of firefighting, he’d never seen such an outpouring of support and appreciation by the citizens toward the firefighters.

We’ve done well, here, showing our appreciation.  It was bad, yes.  So many homes destroyed.  So much acreage of national forest gone.  Two lives lost.  But whole towns are still standing that may not have been if not for the heroism of the firefighters.  Our water supply was NOT contaminated, even though the fire was right on our lakes.

We have a lot to be thankful for, and those of us living here know it.  It was so bad, but it could have been so much worse.   So of course we’ve been showing our appreciation.

However, the words of the Incident Commander sadden me.

EVERYBODY who lives in the US is protected as heroically as my area has been.  Everybody who lives in the US has either a municipal (means paid) or a volunteer fire department in their area.  Men and women who are willing to go into danger to protect somebody else’s home and property.  Who are willing to put their lives and health at risk to save other people’s lives and homes.

*  *  *  *  *

When I was a little girl, I had massive physical health problems. From the time I was 2 months old until I was 3.5 years old, in winter I would get “strep throat” or “tonsillitis attacks” every other month. I’d have fevers of 106*F. The fevers would come on suddenly, going from normal to “OMG she’s going to DIE” levels in 1/2 hour or less. Of course my family would call the ambulance (part of the fire department in that city, in the late 60′s). Of course they would always get me and rush me to the hospital, where they’d treat my symptoms and release me when the fever was gone (until I was three and they could operate, that is).

When I was a bit older, we had an almost house fire in our house. (Somebody had thrown cigarettes that weren’t completely out into the trash, which caused a smoldering toxic fire to start.) I remember being woken up and carried downstairs and outside the house (my bedroom, was on the second floor) by a strange man. I remember him being gentle and considerate of a scared little girl crying because a strange man was carrying her out of her bed.

Sometime after this, I remember going with my grandmother to our local fire house, the one where the ambulances always came from to take me to the hospital, the one where the fire truck came from to save our house, and our lives. One spring, at least once a month, Grandma and I would go to the fire house and drop off cookies, or apple slices, or some other baked good that my grandmother had made. The reason was to say, “Thank you.” “Thank you for saving my granddaughter all those times. And thank you for saving my house and all of our lives.”

Conall’s Mom’s house was one that was destroyed by the Waldo Canyon fire. There were 1500 firefighters working the fire before it was all over (not counting military personnel), from all over the country. There’s no way I can bake goods for all the people who helped protect my city, and the towns and cities around me. However, when things are more settled, I will be going to my local fire house, with baked goods, to say, “Thank you.”

Even if you all have never had to use fire fighters or EMS services (and I bet everybody reading this knows somebody who’s either had a house burn or somebody who’s been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance), I would challenge you to take something to your local Fire Department, just to say “thank you.” Because of their willingness to sacrifice themselves, your house, your city, has protection. If you’ve ever had to use their services, I double challenge you to do something to show your appreciation.

Because these people give so much, and receive so little.  They are the reason we don’t have to think about things like what happened in Colorado Springs (where a fire destroyed a whole neighborhood and came close to destroying multiple towns and cities).

So, again, I challenge you, I *dare* you, to do something for your local fire department, to show that you, specifically, appreciate their daily sacrifice.  It doesn’t need to be a home baked good (though that’s what I’m going to do when I’m more recovered from my smoke inhalation).  It could be as simple as a “thank you” card.  Or a posted sign in your front yard that reads, “Thank you Fire Fighters!”

Just show them that you care.

One Tin Soldier

Yesterday morning, I participated in my usual morning routine to help me wake up — I read through my facebook feed while I waited for the caffeine to kick in.  As I read, I came across an image a friend shared:

Now, I don’t want anybody to think I’m comparing homosexuality to being fat.  That’s not the focus of this post.

The focus of this post is that hate is a choice.

For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to put aside the issue of fat being a choice.  I’m not saying being fat is a choice, mind you, but I’m putting aside that point for this discussion.

However, even if being fat was a choice, hating is also a choice.

You have a choice to engage in hate.  You have a choice to engage in snarking on people when they are eating in a restaurant (whatever restaurant it may be, from the lowliest McDonald’s to the most posh gourmet restaurant).  You have a choice to throw things at people who are exercising.  You have a choice to hurl epitaphs at people.  You have a choice to level death threats at people.

Notice I wrote “people” there, and not “fat people”.  That’s because “fat” is just a descriptor, and the real issue is that we are people.  So, people who do all of the above, and more, are not doing it to “fat people”, they are doing it to people.

People like your mother.  Your brother.  Your best friend.  You know.  People.

If you wouldn’t engage in that type hatred with your mother, your brother, or your best friend, why do you engage in that kind of hatred with people you don’t know?

In 1971, an anti-war song One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack) by the Original Caste was a one hit wonder.  The refrain says:

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgement day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.

Is hate really all you have?  All of you who think threatening and ridiculing fat people is the best thing in the world, what are you getting from the hate?  Is the sense of artificial superiority really worth the repulsive way you are acting?  Because let’s get this one thing straight:  You hating another does not make you superior to them.  In my thought process, it just makes me think you must lead a very sad and small life that you feel you have to show how much better you are by denigrating and hurting another, based on something as superficial as the way a person looks.

It certainly doesn’t make me think you are superior to me when you do that to me.  It does, however, make me pity you, once the danger of the situation is over.

Strong4Life Shame Campaign – How You Can Help

I’ve posted a bit about the Strong4Life ad campaign shaming fat children for being fat.  I’ve posted on their facebook page over and over in the past month, calling them out on their wrong headed assumption that the best way to deal with the “child obesity problem” is to shame the kids and parents.  I, and others, have posted peer reviewed study after peer reviewed study, to receive more and more contempt from Strong4Life and their supporters.  (In one recent comment, Strong4Life stated that we needed to not use studies from 2005-2008 that we found on bigfatfacts.com — or some such non-existent website, totally ignoring that we’ve actually been using studies from all over the place, published in such auspicious publications as the JAMA and other medical journals, among other things.)

While we continue to engage on their facebook page, Shannon at Fierce, Freethinking Fatties has been writing well researched post after well researched post on the absurdity of what Strong4Life claims.  Their lack of documentation that “75% of parents in GA don’t know about the problem”, their inability to even define the “problem” (is the problem “fat children” or is the problem “health concerns”), their usage of healthy child actors without disclosing that the child actors don’t, in fact, have diabetes or whatever.

A bunch of us have adopted “STANDards”.  Marilynn Wann of FAT!SO? came up with an awesome counter to the pictures on the ads of the children.  Called STANDards, these are pictures of awesome people combating the idea that fat people (children and adults) should be humiliated, shamed, bullied, or punished for the way we look.  Go have a look, there’s some very awesome people pictured who have come up with fantastic messages.

Now, Shannon, Marilynn, and Ragen Chastain at Dances With Fat have joined together to start a media blitz of their own.  The goal is to put up as many billboards in Atlanta as they can afford to counteract the shame-based ads of Strong4Life.  More of Me to Love has generously agreed to match $5000 towards the purchase of one billboard (one billboard costs $10,000 per month).  Part of the matching requirements include that there be 1000 individual donors.

Here’s where you come in.  The first $5000 has already been attained (in less than 24 hours!), however, there’s only been about 200 individual donors.  If we have more than $10,000, the money will go to however many billboards we can afford, and if the overage comes to less than a $10,000 excess, all the extra money will go to posters and multimedia advertising.  Nothing will be kept for personal use.

As Ragen says:

Does $5,000 sound like a lot?  Let’s put some perspective on this number. If each of my followers gave $10, we would raise $21,220 – enough for 2 billboards and a large media campaign with the MOMTL match.  If each visitor to the blog from yesterday donated $10 we would raise $41,680, enough for four billboards and a massive media campaign.  To meet goal we only need $5,000.  We can do this!  And when those billboards go up and as the publicity around them gets our experts into the media talking about the Health at Every Size(r) Approach, we can all be proud.

Please, go donate.  Even $1.00 will help.  Let’s stop this shame based advertisement campaign that targets fat kids and leaves them open for more bullying!

Support All Kids

Please, give what you can!

Hate does not equal Health

By now, just about everybody in FA has heard about the Strong4Life’s advertising campaign to shame fat kids.   If you haven’t, I would suggest you read here, here, here, or well, just about everywhere.  I’ve not written on it so far because I’ve been sick with a really nasty sinus infection, and what energy I’ve had I’ve used to directly engage Strong4Life on both their twitter and facebook pages.

The synopsis is a hospital decided the best way to deal with the “obesity problem” in children was to shame them.  They had a multiphase campaign, but the first phase, which has lasted 8 months now, involved putting up billboards and TV commercials that shamed and blamed children for being fat.  The people who decided this was a great idea have defended their actions by saying it was never targeted at children, but Shannon at Fierce, Freethinking Fatties found evidence to the contrary:  that they were, in fact, targeting children with this shame campaign.  (Pro tip for advertising campaigns:  If there is a possibility you are going to ever deny your campaign was, indeed, intended to shame and bully people, don’t say on The Today Show that you are, in fact, targeting children.  Your words WILL be around for months and years to come and will come back to haunt you.  Just sayin’.)

In doing the research that turned up the evidence that the shame campaign was targeting children, Shannon also found that “Phase 2″, which are positive, upbeat messages, showing children (of all sizes) playing and enjoying themselves, has been finished since before the start of “Phase 1″.  Giving the positive message that movement is fun.  Movement is also what keeps one fit.

Wei et al. “Relationship Between Low Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Mortality in Normal-Weight, Overweight, and Obese Men.” JAMA. 1999;282: 1547-1553  (This image and source material comes from Dances With Fat on this post.)

This image shows that in 1999, there had been studies out proving that how FAT one was did not really have any significant effect on mortality.  However, how FIT one was did.  The normal sized and unfit people had double the effect on mortality than either the overweight and fit or the obese and fit categories.

So, it seems, FITNESS is more important that FATNESS (or lack there of).

And yet, Strong4Life, even when having links of peer reviewed and published study after peer reviewed and published study put on their walls, stubbornly insisted they were doing this “for the children.”

As a fat woman, as a teenager who was fat and who was bullied, as a child who was NOT fat, and yet was still bullied for being “fat”, I call bullshit.  Bullying (which is what this shame based campaign is and what it leads too) is never “for the children.”

Strong4Life, you’ve had 8 months of bullying fat kids.  Enough is enough already.  You’ve been denounced by many people and agencies.  Alton Brown has denounced you, for petes sake, and he likes ridiculing fat adults!  Dan Savage has denounced you!  When people like AB and Dan Savage (who have shamed and bullied fat adults many times) denounce what you are doing, you just may have crossed a line there.  Again, just sayin’.

Take down the shame based billboards.  Take the shame based TV commercials off the TV.  Put these ads up, instead.  Show REAL solutions to the problems of child hypertension, diabetes, and other child illnesses.  STOP shaming kids for something they have little or no control over.

Disappointed

I have a facebook account, like many people do these days.  Most of the people I follow are personal friends, people who play the same games I play, and a hand full of celebrities (mostly authors).

One celebrity I follow is George Takei, Sulu from the original Star Trek series and films.  He’s funny.  He’s usually inclusive.  He’s usually against bullying.  He’s usually against discrimination.

So you can imagine my disappointment today when I saw a picture he’d posted that involved fat bullying and ridicule.  The picture was a mock facebook status, where Santa’s Reindeer were talking about how hard it was to pull a “700 pound” person, and making fun of how fat Santa is.  The responses (the ones I saw anyway, I didn’t look at all 165 of them) were the typical “he’s so fat” variety.

Seriously?  Seriously, Mr. Takei?  You who are usually so against bullying didn’t recognize this for what it is?  You who are an activist for the GLBT community can allow a picture like this to be on your wall, even for a minute?  You can allow fat hate and fat bashing to be on your wall?  Even for a minute?

I am disappointed.

So far as I’ve seen, I’m the only person who has called him out on the picture spreading fat hate and fat discrimination.  While I don’t usually call to action, I think Mr. Takei needs to learn that what he posted is actually counter to what his life seems to be about; activism to breaking down bullying and discrimination, where ever they raise their ugly heads.  If you have a minute, and have a facebook account, and feel you can help to constructively educate Mr. Takei, please do so.

Under the cut is the picture he posted.   Continue reading

Definition of Irony

Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show today, said:

We’re going to have this talking plate.  If you’re a fat pig (emphasis his) and you eat too fast, the plate’s going to tell you to slow down.

Rush Limbaugh.  Rush Limbaugh.  You remember, the guy who took drugs illegally and that was the only way he could lose weight.  The guy who, the whole time he was thin due to using drugs, was being contemptuous of fat people.  The guy who regained all of the weight back once he was forced to be clean.

Yeah.  Him.

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