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.


I can’t believe I have to say this again

For those of you who are new to reading my blog, here are some tips if you want to see your comments come out of moderation:

1) Do NOT assume I’m stupid.  If I write something (like my last post) where I extol eating whatever you damn well please, do not think that because I don’t put “in moderation” behind every other sentence, I’m saying that all people everywhere (especially fat people) should eat candy all day every day!

2) Do NOT be a concern troll.  It’s not about my, or anybody’s, health.  If it was, discussions of “health” wouldn’t ever become discussions of numbers.

3) Be polite.   I don’t mind disagreement, as long as the people disagreeing remember to be polite about it.

4) Do not try to bring in the same tired stereotypes that are blatantly not true.   Fat people are no more or less likely to be lazy slobs than normal-sized or skinny people.  We all, individually, have lazy days and productive days, and just as people don’t commonly say, “Look at that lazy skinny person just sitting around watching tv all day.  Typical!  Most skinny people just sit around and watch tv all day!” DON’T think that anything like that will be allowed out of moderation here.

5) This is my space.  No, you do not have any rights towards being able to say what you want, unless they are rights I give you.  You want to proclaim the evils of all the things I’m saying are good and right?  Do it on your own blog.  I will not willingly give you a platform here.

6) (or maybe 5b)  I do everything I can to make this a safe space.  To that end, I do not allow “diet for the sake of losing weight” talk here.  (Diet in the manner of whatever you eat is a diet, or in the manner of gluten-free or whatever, is not forbidden, however.)  I know that there are things I talk about that can be triggering for people who are recovering from Eating Disorders, and I try to remember to post Trigger Warnings for them.  If I forget, please let me know and I will rectify it.

7)  I come from a US-centric way of thinking.  Even though I have a few online acquaintances who are not USians, I am one, and my viewpoints do come from there.  As with the above, if I’m being particularly obtuse in my US-centricity, please let me know and I will evaluate my standpoint.  That doesn’t mean I will change my standpoint, but I will thoughtfully consider your viewpoint.

8 ) Douchebags will never be allowed out of moderation.  If you are abusive, if you engage in any kind of name calling, if you engage in any kind of threats, the only person who will ever see your words will be me.  And I will only see them for as long as it takes to hit the “delete” button.  I have dealt with many trolls this way, and have always, ALWAYS won the battle of wills with them.  I will always win this battle because I really don’t care that some random internet user calls me fat ass (or whatever).

I hope that you, new reader to my blog, will take to heart these few tips on what will keep your responses from being permanently deleted.  If you don’t, well, nobody but you and I will ever know what you said.

Oh, one more thing.  If you start out rational and get past moderation, and then you start doing any of the above, you WILL be put on immediate and permanent ban from responding to any of my posts.

Are we clear?  Good.

Getting it together

2010 has been a very busy and interesting year for me so far.

My husband and I have moved into our own place.  It was a very tough decision to make, especially since his mother really needs the care I was providing, but for our emotional and marital well being, we had to do it.   The apartment we are in is a great place, relatively quiet (today when somebody in a different building had their stereo so loud I could hear and feel the bass in my apartment being the exception), and, best of all, ours.

This has necessitated a few changes in our lifestyles, though.  I’m still not working an out of the house job.  We still only have one car, and with Conall’s work schedule (really confused) there’s no way for me to be able to commute unless the job is within walking distance.   I’ve applied at all of the places within walking distance (that is, within a mile and a half) of the complex, but not had any bites on my applications yet.

That’s okay, I’m a resourceful woman, and have found some ways to make a bit of money on the internet.  Unfortunately, they were all very time consuming.

Which is the long reason why I’ve not been keeping up on here as much as I had been.

However, I’ve been hired on as, basically, a researcher for an internet company.  I will be able to work a lot less hours making more money than I was making working 80+ hours a week doing the other things I was.  What that means is, you will start seeing more of my writing again!  Yay!  (Or, in the case of the trolls, probably Boo!)

If there’s anything I’ve missed that’s really spectacular in the past couple of months, let me know.  Otherwise, start looking for regular writings here again!