“Not Pretty Enough” An Open Letter to Abercrombie From One Of Your Managers Part 1

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Hello,

My name is Nicole and I have worked for your company as an assistant manager at the same store in Tallahassee Governors Square Mall for two years now. You may know me better as one of the “uglies” who help run your stores. Over my two years as a manager, I have been shamed for my weight, hair, my face and punished for my refusal to shame my employees and co-workers for those same reasons. The fact I have recruited and had nine managers hired means nothing to this company. That I was bullied into running my store for three months during the highest grossing time of the year (Black Friday/Christmas) without store manager title or pay is mere hogwash since my look doesn’t fit the narrow ideal that Abercrombie & Fitch covets above all else. My contributions to this company have been large, coming out of pocket to travel to Lakeland, Florida over $600 and working 57 hour work weeks when managers quit en masse. Despite all this and also being awarded by the office of Diversity and Inclusion for various contests, at least two times that I know of my direct supervisor has been told that I don’t have the “look” to be promoted in the company. Put frankly (and in the words of one of my many District Managers) I am not pretty enough.

I write this as an attempt to get Abercrombie District, Regional and Home Office officials to look inward at their own behavior and at the egregious behavior they ardently protect, see the error that is present at the heart of this company and start changing it.

On Professionalism

Abercrombie & Fitch has much to address in terms of professionalism and the many forms of bullying that plague this company. Just imagine that you show up to a job interview; nervous, sitting in a store with pulsating music and stills of shirtless man-children staring down at you. Imagine reviewing potential interview questions in your head when you receive a text message informing you that the person interviewing you won’t be there. That was my reality – three times. On the fourth attempt my then District Manager and the Store Manager finally got it together and my ten minute interview commenced – standing outside the upstairs Abercrombie as people brushed by us. I remember being asked why I liked Hollister and what diversity meant to me. Nothing was written down and I was dismissed. A week later, still wondering if whatever transpired was even real; my cell rang and I got an offer. My strange journey with the company had begun.

On Training

My first store manager was short lived. She left the job after a few weeks to become a schoolteacher. The second however, was the culmination of all the bad behavior cautionary human resource videos are made of. I mean it was bad. Under her I experienced some of the most foul treatment I have experienced in my life and being the loser who was pushed down the stairs in high school, my threshold for enduring such behavior is high. We will call her Mori.

A week after I completed my Manager in Training program Mori came into the picture and the following week was a “floor set” where we essentially rebuild and refold the entire store over the course of two weeks. Since two managers had quit in the weeks prior I was put in charge of that task and made Visual Manager. During the floor set Mori would withhold my breaks, restrict me from leaving work even after completing my tasks and even tried to force me to work off the clock. Then came October 17th 2012. A day I won’t forget. This was the day we were to walk through the floor set with the District Manager. Before the District Manager even came out to walk us through, Mori took me to the front table and asked me if I knew what she thought of my two weeks worth of work. I asked.  Instead of using her words she reached out and swiped the piles of clothes on the floor. Then she proceeded to inform everyone within earshot how I was the worst manager she had ever seen and the entire floor set was trash. The District Manager did not share that sentiment after she came out and went through it all but when she left Mori told me not to believe what I was told and reassured me I was still the worst. Confused, exhausted and humiliated I went outside and cried. I remembered this day in particular because it was also my birthday.

This ordeal was pretty bad but it was by no means Mori’s worst. Later I recruited my first Manager in Training. She was a fun Venezuelan American girl with a good heart and a strong Miami accent. Mori almost immediately gave her the nickname “Chihuahua”. She then took this a disgusting step further. While we were recruiting Mori proudly showed me picture of a Chihuahua that she had programmed to show up on her phone every time my Manager in Training called. This was at work. I called to report this to Human Resources and they assured me that they handled the situation and would stop the new manager from being singled by the store manager but unfortunately Mori didn’t learn. My Manager in Training (MIT) at one point left her store keys at the register. Instead of Mori informing the MIT the current company policy calls for managers to keep their keys on them at all times; she took the teachable moment and turned it into the most abysmal display I have witnessed professionally. There were multiple levels of idiocy that one has to go through to take someone’s keys and hide them. Then to take it a step further tie a string to those keys then put a peg in the ceiling to attach the string that hold those keys – and then hang those keys over the toilette. But don’t worry, Mori was always one for the most thorough display of bullying, so for the final touch she attached note that read “NEXT TIME YOU WON’T BE SO LUCKY”.  The implication was clear that next time the MIT would find the keys inside the toilette bowl. The MIT was obviously upset and wanted to quit. I had no choice but to talk to Mori and tell her that we were not going to conduct business that way. She insisted that it was only fair because her own manager in Tampa had put her keys inside a toilette and Mori had been forced to fish them out. I also reported this to HR but the madness continued.

Mori didn’t care so much for boundaries or privacy. I went through a tough time medically during her reign and ended up in the Emergency Room. Mori looked up the address to my parent’s house (where I was not living) in an attempt to drive by and “make sure I was really sick”. After I made contact with her to tell her the situation and informing her I would need some sick days; she told me that she hoped I would feel better by the next day so that I could work off the clock from 8pm to 4am to prepare for a Regional Manager visit. I obviously refused not having even had the time to remove the hospital band from my wrist and was punished heavily for that choice for weeks. This was reported to HR and I was told she was not to ask managers to work off the clock or on our days off/sick days but Mori did it again a month later while I was at my friend’s wedding on my day off. Feeling powerless since Mori always remained despite her huge shortcomings in functional adult behavior; I came in from the wedding and worked. Mori continued this reign of terror for a little over a year and eventually left on her own. Not before more egregious displays like throwing down nearby objects in anger, crying in the stockroom and telling me I was brand damaging because I couldn’t fit into the jeans. During her time I went down two pant sizes as to damage the brand less.

I will continue my story as I now realize as I write this that my story will not fit into a few paragraphs. Next time I’ll tell you how I ended up being instructed by a Regional Manager to apologize to every person in my mall with a Hollister bag for my models being so ugly and how I learned that I was also included in that ugly category. District and Regional Managers have earned themselves an entirely separate article for their actions. My goal is to say my piece and to create a change in this company. #ERASEEXCLUSION #NOBULLY

76 thoughts on ““Not Pretty Enough” An Open Letter to Abercrombie From One Of Your Managers Part 1

  1. This is the first I’m hearing of such a thing and it really appalled me to think even a company like A&F do such thing , probably not everyone who works there , but it’s sad to see them not doing anything to this ‘Mori’ for over a year .
    You’re gorgeous , you look amazing and probably a really nice lady . You shouldn’t be shamed and put down , you shouldn’t let these insults affect you , you shouldn’t let any of these bother you because you know your rights as a human being . But then again I really don’t think this person’s name should be changed .
    I don’t shop at A&F , and probably will never because they’re expensive and really not all that amazing to be honest . Thanks for the post , it’s an eye-opener .

  2. I had the same experiance at Hollister, they rated your appearance on a scale as such : AA= model B= pretty C=Average D= Stock room only.
    I had a glance of what my rating was.. “F” not even a rating they used. They just thought I was that hideous, I wasn’t allowed out of the stock room. My managers name was *ali, probably the most evil witch in existence.

  3. I’m sorry to hear you went through this. I went through something similar at the Hollister in Gainesville, except her name was Ashley. Hopefully the company decides to do something about this

  4. Hi Nicole!
    Thank you for posting your experience. I am from Portugal, I have been to the US and I remember going to Hollister and even as a costumer I felt like I was beeing rated and judged and I noticed the staff had an attitude.
    Dont ever let go of your values, they are the only thing we’ve got.
    I wish you loads of success for the future!
    Love
    Catarina

  5. Hey! :) This is Kristina…we met at Governor’s Square mall last week and you gave me your info for the blog! :) I have been trying to find your site since then, but found it by not adding the ‘y’ into the web address. I’ve been reading through some of your bogs so far and it blows my mind! You are a great writer and your experiences are heartbreaking, but necessary to share to the public! I am excited to read more of your posts! I’ll spread the word for your blog…great job! And by the way, Abecrombie has no idea what beauty is apparently…must be trying to make up for some other inadequacies….stay blessed and continue to write…;) Talk to you later!~ <3

  6. I am SO proud of you for writing this and providing yet another testament of the failing qualities of this company. I’m excited to see you happy and working in a much better environment now.

    - Amanda (previous employee from HCo.

  7. I’m pretty flabbergasted that they called you ugly – you are definitely quite attractive. They must have meant “not Caucasian enough.” Honestly, by the sound of it, the company culture is just an extension of high school — probably trying to stretch out the last remains of the tiny amount of power they have left. I hope/wish you gave Mori as much attitude as possible whenever you could get away with it.

  8. Hey what’s going on Nicole. I’m a Model at one of the stores. In fact, I’m an Asian male, and there multiple Hispanic and African-American models and managers at the store as well. Based on my observations at the store, you differ quite significantly from the typical look at A&F, especially with your lips (at least 3 times too thick), nose (too wide on the sides) and eyes (too small even with eyeliner – which you wouldn’t have or wouldn’t need to have if you were truly A&F). On the plus side, your skin colour is ok and your smile is quite nice. And though your English level is great, your excessively long sentences make you seem way too uptight and un-chill relative to the rest of us. But as you’ve correctly pointed out, attitude and personality don’t matter.

    This company is more rigid with its beauty standards than you value meritocracy, work ethic or “results” (from your perspective). Results is put in quotation marks because literally anyone can stock the shelves and create the displays, but only the selected ones have been chosen to represent the company in the storefront (even if you think they’re just by standing there and seemingly not doing anything).

    Maybe you’d fit in better at another retail chain, such as Gap, H&M or Forever 21. Nothing, except your insecurities, chains you to our stores. And it is precisely your inability to create the same insecurities in other people that lead you to not be as valuable to the company as you think.

    Hope this helps.

  9. To Evan: Duh!. I have been surfing all my life. Hollister and A&F want to be the coolest brands out there. But for being really cool you have to know how to embrace beauty in nature and people. And believe me, A&F standards of beauty, as you have described them, do not fit with a natural concept of beauty. Sure, there are cannons for what is considered beautiful. Those cannons change from decade to decade, from one century to the next. But apart from the cannons there’s something called “perception”. Personality and charisma really puts the last touch on how beautiful someone really is. Have you looked at yourself on a mirrow, did you try to smile? I bet Nicole’s smile is way more beautiful and charming than yours. I personally, as a customer, would be happier and more willing to shop at a store where I could see someone like Nicole, than someone with your attitude. Because really, there is an old say in Europe saying: “It does not matter if the monkey wears silk, it will be a monkey anyways”. So, what it means, it does not matter how fine your body or face might be, if there’s no real beauty behind is, no real beauty is going to be seen. Evan, your English isn’t any better than hers. Nicole is talking from the heart, and she has amazed as all with a huge lesson in human sensibility. Fashion and Beauty is about sensibility as it is about perception. It is about the ability someone has to shine, and that has a lot to do with personality. I have found many A&F models to be too “dry”. Do you know the difference between a fake flower and real one? Well, it is the same with some people. Some people seem to look great but then they are just not “real”. Many times beauty comes not from exact measures but with a right balance and harmony with a touch of great personality. I see Nicole’s picture on here and she has such a strong presence. She is a real magnet and someone you would not miss if she passed by. She probably has something you don’t have. The spark in her eyes! Why don’t you put up a picture of you so we can judge you? I bet you are full of different imperfections, but hey! I’m not saying that makes you ugly… Your words and the way you talk do! So please, if you are going to open your mouth to spit the same trash I had to read hear, don’t do it while I’m shopping or I will just run away totally disgusted! lol duh!

  10. Corrections: “us all”… and Who cares anyways? I don’t like to be perfect… I like to be unique and different!! Nicole, keep smiling!!

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