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When you notice something problematic at a store (they don’t stock your size, you find a particular in-store print or broadcast ad offensive, etc.), you probably want to change it…but how? Prior to researching the topic, I had no idea how to effectively get through to a company without simply forfeiting my patronage. It doesn’t have to be that way, you guys. There are actually a few ways you can call a company out for size discrimination (or any grievance really– no matter how trivial or severe your accusations may be), which don’t involve frivolous lawsuits, swear words before/during/after two-hour hold times, or refusing to ever step foot in a given store again, although that will always 100% be your prerogative. Here are six ways to call a company out for size discrimination or offensive advertorial content:
Make direct contact.
Always make an effort to contact the company first. Although it’s not always the case, consumers usually have a good chance making significant headway with just a quick call to the company. Before involving others, such as your personal website or social media channels, make a courtesy call to the company’s Human Resources or Public Relations department beforehand. If they’re unresponsive to your concerns, shame on them; they need a good social media-style kick in the butt anyways.
Start an online petition.
According to an article by U.S. News, the public is generally a receptive audience, especially when you’re rallying behind a common cause, so use that influence to your advantage. Emily Yellin, author of Your Call Is (not that) Important to Us: Customer Service and What It Reveals About Our World and Our Lives, speculated, “Different companies pay more attention to [what’s being said about them on] the Internet. Getsatisfaction.com is a great site, founded in Silicon Valley. Their whole thing is creating a social network to bring companies and customers together in a community that’s civil. You have to use your full name and there’s a real conversation [between customers and companies].”
The most compelling catalyst for change happens when real people get together and raise their voices for an issue that’s genuinely important to them. Starting a petition on Change.org, ipetitions.com, or Petition Buzz can help you to quickly build awareness for your cause, mobilize supporters, and propose a solution directly to the person who can make the change. Plus, it takes minimal effort from potential endorsers, who simply have to electronically sign, ie. type their name into, your petition in order for it to gain momentum.
Take it to Twitter.
Never underestimate the power of a tweet. During mass power outages in Washington, D.C. a few years ago, hundreds of people took to Twitter to express their frustration with Pepco. Pepco’s Twitter team, posting under the @PepcoConnect handle, appeared to respond to almost every Tweet that included their handle, often with information about the Pepco number to call, and apologies for the lengthy outage. Another example is Kendra Scott’s responsiveness to their unprecedented BOGO earring event this past holiday season. Their team was receiving thousands of social media messages to @KendraScott from disgruntled customers who were frustrated with website crashes and items literally flying out of stock (I know because I was one of those girls screaming at my computer during the sale), and they took the time to acknowledge virtually every Tweet, Facebook post, and Instagram comment with a personal apology. Kendra even ended up extending the sale an extra 24 hours to mitigate client dissatisfaction.
“Especially with large companies that have a Twitter presence, you can now be fairly sure that someone will get back to you and take it seriously,” says Yellin in the aforementioned U.S. News article, particularly if you have a large Twitter following. This strategy works for Facebook and Instagram, too!
Blog or Vlog it.
Blog posts and YouTube videos can both help to persuasively garner attention for your message with a personalized testimonial, which can be quite a compelling touch. In addition to posting it to your own social media channels, try to get as many eyes on your grievance as possible by emailing it to relevant websites, such as Consumerist.com, Reddit.com, and/or other customer-service focuses sites, too. I touch on this a bit more in the last section, but don’t count out news outlets, either. If the right media eyes come across your channel, you could end up with a national news story on your hands.
Lodge a formal complaint.
If a company refuses to acknowledge your concerns and/or perpetuates their offensive behavior, you can always take official action. For these types of situations, Australia has the Advertising Standards Bureau, the United Kingdom has the Advertising Standards Authority, and the United States has the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Since I live in the U.S., I can really only speak for the efficacy of the FCC, which handles complaints from consumers relating to broadcast advertising– ie. anything involving the nature of the products being advertised, the timing of certain ads, commercials believed to be indecent or in poor taste, and/or false and misleading advertisements.
Make it a headline.
If a given agency isn’t willing to pursue your case, you can always turn to the good ol’ media to do its bidding. In 2012, the Huffington Post published an article entitled Shunning Plus-Size Shoppers Is Key To Lululemon’s Strategy, Insiders Say. According to the source of the article, “‘Most of the merchandise was presented out on the floor, hung on the walls, or folded neatly in cabinets for all the world to see. But the largest sizes — the 10s and the 12s — were relegated to a separate area at the back of the store, left clumped and unfolded under a table’… ‘These larger offerings were rarely restocked,’ said Licorish, who worked at Lululemon for four months in 2011. ‘The only styles available in those sizes were old designs whose fashion moment had long since passed… All the other merchandise in the store was kind of sacred, but these were thrown in a heap,’ Licorish told The Huffington Post. ‘It was definitely discriminatory to those who wear larger sizes.'” Regardless of your feelings towards Lululemon, this story received nationwide news coverage, and although Lululemon apparently declined to comment, their eyes were undoubtedly opened to the wrath of alleged size discrimination by one infectious accusation.
Sources: The 3 Best Places to Complain about a Company by Kimberly Palmer, U.S. News | How to Complain to Companies (And Get Results) by Kimberly Palmer, U.S. News | Shunning Plus-Size Shoppers Is Key To Lululemon’s Strategy, Insiders Say by Huffpost Business
Have you ever had any serious issues with a company’s sizing, policy, or advertisement strategies? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments!