I had an unexpected and disappointing encounter during my conference trip to Seattle. I was with some colleagues walking around downtown on our lunch break when some one wanted to stop in a jewelry store to look at watches. I went in with her.
As soon as we stepped in, a man came hurriedly over to ask my colleague how he could help her. She was standing in front of one of the watch display cases and I was standing only a foot or so away at the opposite counter with the jewelry. I thought it was awkward that he dis not acknowledge my presence or ask if I needed help. But I ignored it and began to look at the sapphire rings in the case.
I spent a few minutes admiring some of the beautiful pieces. There were a few other employees in the store, at the opposite end from me, one of whom came over to the center jewelry case where I was looking, but showed no signs of registering my presence, let alone bothered to ask if I needed any assistance.
I started to get irritated that no one bothered to attend to me. My colleague and I were the only people in the store, and there were more than enough staff around that appeared to not be actively busy. I made my way half way around the circular case before a woman came over to me (she looked as if she came from a back area as I hadn’t seen her when we first walked in) and asked if she could help me. I said I was looking but would let her know when I was ready to look more closely at the jewelry.
Poor customer service is a huge pet peeve of mine. But I would venture to argue this particular instance was racially motivated. We entered the store together, and both of us were dressed pretty casually (jeans). The only obvious difference was that my colleague is a white woman – allowing her to receive immediate attention and assistance, while I am a woman of color and did not so much as get a “Hello, some one will be with you shortly.”
I wanted to let some one know how unhappy I was for the treatment (or lack thereof) I received when I first arrived. But the woman who waited on me was so chatty and complimentary of me (she was gushing over my awesomely snatched eyebrows), that I actually forgot about how unpleasant my initial impression had been. And I had fallen in love with some beautiful sapphire rings that she had shown me that that I didn’t think of much else until much later in the day.
I occasionally experience microaggressions that feel racially motivated but there’s usually not enough empirical evidence to make a firm claim one way or another. It just feels wrong. But this incidence leaves little room for any other interpretation. It was just an uncomfortable and annoying experience – like, we’re still doing this “you can’t possibly be a serious potential customer so we won’t bother acknowledging you”?? Guess I’ll just take my money elsewhere so some one else can get the sale and commission…
Have you ever experienced blatantly poor customer service that you were sure was motivated based on your looks? How did you react/respond?
You gon see me today,