Undercover at Abercrombie
I just read this article by UK writer Tom Mitchelson. He was riding the subway, (sorry the Tube), to work, and was approached by an Abercrombie and Fitch recruiter to work in their new London store. Tom took them up on their offer, and even after telling them he was a writer he worked there briefly and got the inside scoop.
In the states Abercrombie is seen as old hat. The guys that shop there and buy the pre wrinkled over sized expensive clothes are stereotyped and frat boys as date rapists. Given the “All-American Guy” image I found even more hilarity last week walking through Cherry Creek mall. The store had moved locations and unlike the store pictured in this photo, the new location is completely windowless to the mall, save for a few tiny shutter slats. Entering the store you’re required to turn twice, creating a club like atmosphere. And with the rigid jawed “brand reps”, the A&F cologne or Axe spray permeating the air, and the thumping disco, it’s not unlike every gay S&M (standing and modeling) club I’ve ever been in. Just darker for some reason.
I confess I am wearing a pair of A&F jeans – that I purchased at the thrift store for six dollars.
She informed us that the company had a “tagline” which we would have to use when greeting customers. She explained, very seriously, that it was, “Hello, how are you?” “How did you come up with that?” I asked. She said a company of marketing consultants had worked intensively at developing it. They wanted to audition me to see if I could deliver the line – this was make or break. “Hello, how are you?!” I said clearly. “Very good” she reassured me. I had cleared my first hurdle and said four words in the right order, a test that floored some of my fellow-would-be-models – honestly. The interviewer then asked the assembled clutch of giggly, naive, underfed boys and girls – the bony and the beautiful – what they knew about Abercrombie & Fitch.
Nobody mentioned the story that A&F supposedly sold Ernest Hemmingway the gun he used to shoot himself.
And no one mentioned the homoerotic nature of the ad campaign or the $40million outofcourt settlement in a racial and ethnic discrimination case bought by 10,000 litigants in the U.S. As far as age goes, at 29 I was probably the oldest there. I thought that if the law permitted it, managers would have exercised quality-control over the customers, too, and I might be assigned to blow a whistle if anyone old or fat ventured in.
But employees who are not on public view are allowed to be slightly less attractive. The “impact team” is a group of workers who replenish the dwindling stock.
They are often on the shop floor but don’t have to interact with customers in the same way. A manager told me: “The impact team don’t need to show the visual image of the store.”
She meant they could be a bit uglier. There were also the “overnighters” – nocturnal shelfstackers. Presumably it doesn’t matter what they look like.