The Canadian high-end men’s clothing chain, Harry Rosen, featured a new half-page newspaper ad this week, with disgraced financier and convicted felon, Conrad Black, front and center as a paragon of achievement and sartorial style. The company’s Facebook page was replete with negative reactions, including the Seinfeldesque, “Conrad Black…..really??”.
This is not disimilar to the larger, global reaction to Abercrombie & Fitch’s openness about only wanting young, fit, cool, All-American kids as its customers. See the latest ABC news story, here.
But I’ve got news for you: Companies don’t give a shit about your opinion! Voicing it on Facebook, in letters to the CEO, etc., does nothing! UNLESS….you also stop buying their products. That’s when they really get worried and start to come out with “damage control” in the form of half-hearted apologies and charitable donations to worthy causes. Remember, there’s an old saying that, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”. Not sure that’s always true these days (just ask Penn State University after the Gerry Sandusky affair), but many company executives still cling to the basic truth of that statement.
Here’s a practical case in point. Last year, my favorite national chain-store retailer of men’s casual clothing, decided to put the larger sizes of their t-shirts in a separate section at the very back of the store. I guess some young, thin, marketing asshole decided that fat people really want to have to ask for the larger sizes and be sent off to the back where they can really feel “special”. I spent an hour trying to find my size and only did so after the third employee I asked (the manager) was able to clue me in to the change.
I explained to her that this was a very bad idea, especially since even her staff didn’t know where the stuff was. She shrugged her shoulders either because she really didn’t give a shit, or assumed I was just another nut (or both). I wrote an email to the chain’s CEO. No response. Yesterday, I went back to the store and noticed that the large sizes were back among the living. I bumped into the manager and I sked her about the reprieve. Her reply: “Oh, we discovered over the months that it just wasn’t working…sales plummeted”.
That’s the bottom line: No amount of complaining will work unless you back it up with your feet, i.e., walk away and don’t spend your money there.