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.
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.
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