Sorry, I Can’t Hear You Over the Sound of How Awesome I Am

Five reasons why America’s values are going to Hell in a hand basket (and why Abercrombie & Fitch is holding the handle!)

Once upon a time, the word ‘value’ instinctively referred to what a person believed in – their ideals and morals. Skip ahead to present day and you will find that the term ‘value’ is simply a word to inadequately describe the menu at your favorite artery-clogging fast-food joint. No one really cares about your beliefs; all that matters is that you didn’t break the bank while ingesting your future heart attack.

Where there once used to be quaint neighborhoods and corner stores, we have now erected massive malls, each a clone of the next. Various trends make us believe we need to shop certain places and buy specific things that will make us “cool” and socially acceptable.

Like any fast-food restaurant, stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) and it’s nearly identical counterparts serve up a predictable selection of clothing that help the Average Joe blend with the crowd. However, A&F has yet to embrace ‘value’ in any sense of the word. Instead, this chain of stores accompanies its shoddy products with “better than you” attitudes, all at a price you can’t afford.

Perhaps the old adage is no longer appropriate; perhaps the customer is not “always right” anymore. But if that is true, then A&F’s practices are beyond wrong.

~

You can smell that something ‘Fierce’ – You know you’re approaching your mall’s Abercrombie & Fitch store when the sickening scent of perfume and cologne come wafting at you from 50-ft. down the corridor. Without any consideration for people who may have terrible allergies, A&F employees go around the store spraying the various product displays with exorbitant amounts of the signature scents they just can’t seem to sell. (Why would anyone need to buy the product when they can just peruse the store and come out smelling like the perfume for free?) Offices all over America have made it a rule that employees working within close proximity to one another cannot wear strong scents because so many have allergies to such smells. Those entering an A&F are more than likely there for clothing, so why must everyone be accosted by the overwhelming odor?

Size doesn’t matter (as long as you’re young and thin) – Even though this is a free country, and anyone can shop at A&F, they make a point of subtly letting customers know who they cater to and who they’d rather just see pass by the doorway. For instance, women’s jeans range from size 00 to size 12 – only sizes 00-4 are within easy reach. Size 6 may be reachable if you’re tall, but anyone sizes 8-12 has no choice but to ask for assistance. Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes, but putting the larger sizes out of reach is A&F’s way of telling you you’re not wanted. Anyone with a little meat on their bones or a few extra years under their belt is given a lukewarm greeting and treated like an infant for even stepping foot inside the store… though one would hope such discriminating behavior isn’t included in their job training.

Put a shirt on – Reminder: Abercrombie & Fitch is a clothing store. Yes, that fact can be hard to remember considering none of the models actually wear the products they represent. Instead, their models (and occasionally their store employees) romp around half naked as if to say that wearing A&F clothing will make you so attractive that you’ll be stripping your new duds in no time. (I’ve never seen any half-naked men for sale, so I certainly can’t leave wearing one of those.) But despite the fact that sex supposedly sells, nothing is more repulsive than seeing a prepubescent boy strutting around at the doorway with his shirt off. Wear a shirt that grabs my attention and makes me want to buy one for my boyfriend, because if you wear nothing, you sell nothing.

Everything’s on sale, except for that – If you walk into a store and are greeted by a sign that says ALL jeans are on sale, isn’t it safe to say that EVERY pair of jeans in said store would be marked down in price to some extent? Not for A&F. Despite the fact that “all” alternately means “any”, “every”, and “the whole quantity of” (dictionary.com), A&F feels that by putting the words “as shown” below such an offer will get them off the hook when you discover not every pair is on sale. However, when the “as shown” price reflects the original cost, there is no sale. Just say SELECT jeans are on sale, that way no one is made to look like a fool.

You get what you pay for (usually) – People are losing their jobs and pinching pennies everywhere, yet Abercrombie & Fitch still has the nerve to charge $90 for a pair of “destroyed” jeans that will begin shredding the moment you turn on your washer. (Sadly, these jeans cost more than ones WITHOUT holes.) And it’s hard to think of the sale tables as actual sale tables when all you see are $50 sweaters marked down to $30. (If you’re going to spend $30, that tank top with significantly less material is definitely more worth the investment…) They’re unwillingness to bring down prices during economic hardship must be hurting their pockets more than their customers’. People may be willing to overlook some flaws, but their wallets are one thing they’ll always keep within view.

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    • Pete
    • February 20th, 2010

    You forgot to mention the loud, blaring music (if you can call it that) where you can only hear the pounding bass drum. Ugh, that store makes me want to move to Iceland or Papua New Guinea; at least the stores there are geared towards 1 thing: REAL PEOPLE

    • Anna Papachristos
    • February 20th, 2010

    Oh my gosh, yes! I was going to menton the music, but I wanted to keep it down to a simple 5 point list. (As it is, this was quite a lengthy rant, haha.) But I’m so glad someone else brought it up. Pretty sure they play it that loud so you can’t hear your own thoughts, that way you don’t realize you’ve spent your life savings ’til AFTER you leave the store.

  1. It’s a very similar story here in the UK and I suspect other parts of the world. Supposedly being accosted by hideous odours is a clever marketing ploy. Hmmm….we beg to differ…

    Sadly it seems that western society is one big sheep herd led around by the nose by several dubious shepherds promoting the latest must have clothes, fashion accessories or gizmos.

    But all you really have to do is take a step back and look around and you can recognise the tatty concepts and marketing ploys they use, unfortunately most people are members of the herd and so never actually take a good look.

    I think what I’m really trying to say is that marketing techniques and the like are used because they actually do work and at the end of the day all any business, store or anything else really cares about is the money and that always seems to come before the customer these days.

    Sigh………

    Emy

    • Mike Csorba
    • March 2nd, 2010

    Great blog Anna, I apologize I have not read it sooner. Things have been crazy recently.

    I think if you didn’t mention that this was A&F perpetrating these outlandish feats, then even A&F junkies would be disgusted at what they do.

    I have been into A&F probably three or four times, however due to the noise (aka music) and the price I have not bought anything.

    Though I am not an avid shopper the male instincts kick in when I pass and notice that there are rarely (if ever) any female models at the store. I am not advocating for more people, women, to sell their bodies, but just making a sexist observation.

    -Mike

    • Mary McCall
    • March 2nd, 2010

    Reading your post reminded me of an article I read about A&F on MSN Money:

    http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SmartSpending/ConsumerActionGuide/customer-service-hall-of-shame-companies-2009.aspx?slide-number=3

    Much like your post, this article states:

    “In a 2006 interview with Salon, Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries conceded that he used sexual attraction to create an “emotional experience” and hires “good-looking people . . . to market to cool, good-looking people.”

    “Candidly, we go after the cool kids,” Jeffries said. “A lot of people don’t belong (in our clothes), and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

    The strategy didn’t seem to hurt, and profits soared. But in a recession, value apparently trumps exclusivity. As the company refuses to slash prices, it has reported a drop of about 30% in sales at existing stores this year and is laying off workers at its Ohio headquarters.”

    And this was for 2009. I guess we’ll see what 2010 brings…

    • Anna Papachristos
    • March 2nd, 2010

    Thanks, Mike! It doesn’t matter if it took you a while to get to reading my blog. The important thing is that you’re enjoying what you’ve read!

    And Mary, that is the most amazingly ridiculous article ever and I’m so glad you posted it. The fact that the CEO could say something so blatantly offensive is simply shocking. With such a marketing attitude, stores such as A&F are creating a type of generation clique, where only the sexy, good-looking youth are welcome. They all dress alike and look alike, buying into the “holier than thou” attitude A&F is obviously aiming for — an attack of the retail clones, if you will. If you walk into one of their stores now, you’ll notice that the products have become unusually sparse. I, too, read an article where their sales are plummeting and that they are on the “stores to watch” list for potential bankruptcy and closure in 2010… I would not be shocked if this came true.

  1. January 6th, 2011

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