Join 3,553 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Polo Cited For Forcing Employees To Buy Polo
November 6, 2002 6:50 PM   Subscribe

Polo Cited For Forcing Employees To Buy Polo "Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., in a court filing, has denied allegations that it requires store employees to buy and wear the company's clothing at work..." Probably many Mefi readers have had retail jobs, and count me as one of them. At the department store where my mother and I worked, we probably spent about 30% of our wages on the store's merchandise in order to keep up with the dress code. After reading this I see that it might be a widespread practice. Has this happened to you? Is this a trend in how retailers treat their employees? Do you have any other examples?
posted by Tystnaden (31 comments total)

 
Drink Pepsi at Coca Cola Corporate and see how far up the ladder you go.
posted by four panels at 6:54 PM on November 6, 2002


I tried to make the questions as open-ended as possible without setting things up for retailer bashing (as much as I love it).

---

On a personal note, I felt guilty for a long time that my mother and I had frivolously spent our money on nice clothes just to keep the job. It is (somewhat) nice to see that we weren't the only ones exposed to this pressure. When you have three incomes and are still skipping on necessities just to keep by, a nice shirt is a real guilt trip no matter what reason you purchased it for.
posted by Tystnaden at 6:55 PM on November 6, 2002


Oops, one more thing. This was via Fark. (My student side is abhorred at forgetting to cite.)
posted by Tystnaden at 6:57 PM on November 6, 2002


Auto manufacturers give nice discounts to their employees, in the neighborhood of 7-20% depending on model. Airlines give 5-10 free tickets (some give more) a year to employees.

At some companies, its good to have the discount.
posted by BaMBaM at 6:59 PM on November 6, 2002


I've never worked retail, but I worked at a Big 3 auto supplier for several years, and if you drove a foreign car, you weren't allowed to park in their lot...had to fend for yourself on a public street somewhere nearby.
posted by Oriole Adams at 7:03 PM on November 6, 2002


I know that at the GAP you have to wear their clothes while working, and I'm about 90% positive that most other stores require it as well. I think though that you get a pretty good discount though.
posted by philcliff at 7:07 PM on November 6, 2002


My step-daughter works at Gap, and they definitely require her to be wearing Gap clothes while on the job. I've always wondered what her pay really is when you subtract what they've made her spend on their clothes.
posted by BlueScreen at 7:11 PM on November 6, 2002


My employer forces (uh, encourages) me to wear clothes, too.
posted by devbrain at 7:12 PM on November 6, 2002


Gap doesn't technially require it but you would have to press the issue to find that out. They say you have to be "current" meaning wearing something that is currently for sale, but I've also heard from a manager there that if you wear something that looks like gap it's ok, as long as it doesn't say a brand name... Also the discount is 50% for a set number of items per month. You do spend a lot of your money there, but a lot of that is more people seeing the clothes, and being surrounded by them all day, and probably liking that sort of clothing to begin with.
posted by rhyax at 7:17 PM on November 6, 2002


I quit a job because the owner tried to make me wear a smock.

A smock, I tell you, even the word makes me cringe.
posted by jeremias at 7:20 PM on November 6, 2002


If you have required expenses that take you below minimum wage, then I don't think it should be allowed.

But I really think it would be a good PR move if these large retailers simply pulled a selection of stuff that would be headed for their outlet stores and gave it to employees.

But then, when I was young, most of the people I knew working in stores like that were doing so simply for the discount on clothes. Now that I'm older, I don't know anybody who works in retail that doesn't own the store.
posted by obfusciatrist at 7:29 PM on November 6, 2002


Even in these corporation-loving times (as compared to 40 years ago), this is really a public relations nightmare. Ouch!
posted by bannedThrice at 7:29 PM on November 6, 2002


My girlfriend worked for a while at Abercrombie & Fitch, and she says that they gave their employees big discounts to buy A&F clothing, especially the new stuff. I'll ask her whether there was pressure to wear only A&F. I'll report back.
posted by GriffX at 7:40 PM on November 6, 2002


I work at American Eagle, and I get anywhere between 40-50% discounts on whatever I buy. On the other hand, they never give me more than 10 hours a week.

$6hr. x 10hrs = $60 ~ but don't forget federal taxes!

$60 will buy one nice outfit. Nevermind it'll be the only one I'll buy, and I'll wear it every time I go to work.

I've been tempted to bitch about it, but I never felt like I've had a good argument since I'm not being forced to work there.

Good thing I have a good 2nd job.
posted by cinematique at 7:52 PM on November 6, 2002


I've never worked in a clothing store, though I have often thought about getting a job at Le Chateau purely because it would give me a justification for buying more clothes there than I already do. I'm surprised anybody is bothering to bring a lawsuit about it, it seems to be such common practice.

I worked at Starbucks, where you get a free POUND of coffee a week, free drinks while you're on shift, and 30% off all the other merchandise.

I also worked at Chapters, which is a Canadian Big Box Books store, where there was also a 30% employee discount on everything. Although nobody was forcing or pressuring me to buy books there, come on. How could I possibly not? I probably took home an average of 2 books a week there.
posted by kate_fairfax at 7:54 PM on November 6, 2002


That's one thing I regret about never having worked retail - the thrill of the discount. No wonder people who have office jobs are so excited about the occasional free danish.
posted by deliriouscool at 8:12 PM on November 6, 2002


As an 18 year old, a lot of my friends currently work retail at stores like Express, Structure, Banana Republic, Gap, Abercrombie, etc. and it's pretty much expected that you wear the brand while you're working. I don't see what the problem is since most people work there for the discount. If you don't want to wear the brand, why not go somewhere else that you prefer? I myself am thinking of getting a job at like Banana or Structure because I need to buy a lot of new clothes...
posted by swank6 at 9:31 PM on November 6, 2002


Clothes? Hell, I wanna know when Rachel's sexual harassment suit comes to trial.

People should know that if they're required to wear certain clothing at work, the purchase price is deductible as an unreimbursed employee expense, which feeds into Schedule A. (Of course you have to have other deductions to make it count, now that the standard deduction is so high.)
posted by dhartung at 10:34 PM on November 6, 2002


I used to work at Fisher Development, the sister firm of the company that owns The Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic. Fisher Development builds all those stores, as well as others for unrelated stores and restaurants.

I worked in the warehouse for about four tedious months. My job was to harrass teamsters when items were broken or lost during shipment. Fisher laid me off just before Christmas, and I later had a chance to talk to a few co-workers about it. Some said my boss hadn't been happy with my work. Fair enough. Others said Fisher had a habit of hiring people for the busy season and laying them off without warning when things started to slow down. Wouldn't surprise me. But to this day, I believe it was because I showed up for work every day in a pair of Levi's 501 jeans.
posted by Acetylene at 11:17 PM on November 6, 2002


Depending on your state's labor laws, if you company requires you to wear a specific sort of clothing at employee expense (and especially if this clothing purchase is recurring-- ie, buy the latest fashions ever season), then your clothing counts as a company uniform, and the employer is obligated to provide it to you.

It's one thing to enforce a certain kind of dress code at work (I know I had to go out and buy a lot of white shirts and ties a few years ago), but when a company requires the employee to buy new clothes every three months to work, it's the equivalent of forcing employees to pay dues for the priviledge of walking through the door every morning.
posted by deanc at 11:28 PM on November 6, 2002


Working for a company entails standing behind the product. It's not like Polo Wear is degrading. There is worse attire in the service industry.
posted by lightweight at 2:15 AM on November 7, 2002


I can think of even worse, lightweight, but I see your point.

To be honest, I don't see much of a problem, provided that the empolyers give a hearty discount on the clothing that the retail sales are urged to wear. If you're trying to sell clothing, it's best to set a good example for the customers.

(Unless you truly don't care and are only in it for the money, in which case, you won't be working there for long.)
posted by Down10 at 2:52 AM on November 7, 2002


I used to work at , ah, Target a number of years ago. When I was hired, we were told that the red shirt/khaki pants outfit was not required and that they would provide vests if necessary. I was pretty broke at the time, so I would wear what I had that was nice and hope I would be provided a vest (I never was). After about a week, I was told that I needed to get a red shirt. So I bought one red polo shirt and wore it every day. I was so mad that they told us one thing when we were hired in, but then turned around and made us buy clothes to continue working at that shithole.

Target was, bar none, the worst place I ever worked. I think, though, the store I was at (the one in Pontiac, MI) was a really really really bad one, because none of the other Targets I've been to were nearly as trashy as that one was. Working at McDonald's was better than working at Target.
posted by eilatan at 5:06 AM on November 7, 2002


I worked for Liz Claiborne for about a year when I graduated from university, and they would give us three complete suits a year, but since we were required to wear "all-Liz, all-the-time" we had to purchase a good deal of it ourselves. If I remember correctly, we got a 30% discount. Considering how much the clothing retailed for, and how little I made ($7/hr at the time), they were getting away with murder.

9 West was much the same, although at least it was only their shoes we had to wear.

I don't miss retail one bit... Not at all.
posted by greengrl at 5:27 AM on November 7, 2002


deanc-- that is true, but I am sure it varies from state to state. I used to work in a restaurant and the owner decided one day that everyone had to wear a specific color shoe and even a specific brand, and they were rather pricey. One of the employees fought it because she said that it was considered a uniform if the owner was specifying an exact brand and color and the owner had to supply the shoes. She won, the owner eventually decided on "any black shoe that was not a sneaker."

Things have changed though. I'm reminded of that scene from _Mildred Pierce_ when Joan Crawford goes to work in the diner and is told that her uniform is provided for her but would be subtracted from her pay over a period of several paychecks.
posted by archimago at 5:57 AM on November 7, 2002


That's one thing I regret about never having worked retail - the thrill of the discount. No wonder people who have office jobs are so excited about the occasional free danish.

I have also never worked retail, but during my college days I was a mean short order cook, and I got to eat anything I could cook in my free time. Needless to say, I put on a few. Now that I'm a professional, I've developed a serious office supply fetish.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:22 AM on November 7, 2002


I also worked at Chapters, which is a Canadian Big Box Books store, where there was also a 30% employee discount on everything. Although nobody was forcing or pressuring me to buy books there, come on. How could I possibly not? I probably took home an average of 2 books a week there.

Six years with Borders, bookseller to corporate tool, and some days the only thing that gets me to my cube is that sweet discount (actually it's a kickass company to work for and I've never felt pressured to "show loyalty". Consequently, I have more).
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:01 AM on November 7, 2002


I've never worked in retail, but lots of my friends in University did. What seemed to be standard was a 'rack rule'. If it wasn't on a rack in the store somewhere, you couldn't wear it. The customer had to be able to see what you were wearing and buy one for himself. Since stores tend to operate on a 10-12 week stock rotation, that meant even if you wore the same thing to work every single day, you had to buy 4-5 full outfits from your employer every year. One friend noted that in his particular store, not only did you have to wear off the rack, it couldn't be the sales rack. That bumped the cycle time up to about 6 weeks per outfit. Sure, the discount was 50%, but he still spent something like a quarter of his paycheques keeping up with the dress code.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:19 AM on November 7, 2002


during my college days I was a mean short order cook, and I got to eat anything I could cook in my free time. Needless to say, I put on a few.
Yeah, I spent some time as a night baker at a cafe a few years ago, and the boss's only rule for employees was "Act like you own the joint." That meant two things: take responsibility for anything that goes wrong, and help yourself to whatever's in the refrigerator. It worked. With very few exceptions, employees simply didn't pass the buck or shirk responsibility--we felt like we were a part of the business, and we took pride in our work. Which is why I still look back on that job fondly, even though the 11pm-7am schedule was really, really not right for me.

It amazes me when my girlfriend takes a waitressing job and they give her some ridiculously small discount--like 10% off, and they can't take home leftovers, and they don't get the discount on days they're not working. What's up with that? At the cafe I could walk into the kitchen on my day off and ask the chef to make me anything I wanted, for free.
posted by Acetylene at 8:44 AM on November 7, 2002


Abercrombie & Fitch:
You must wear “current” clothes.
If they go on sale, you can’t wear them.

Also, you are sent home if your shoes are not on the “shoe list”
Your discount is 50% off on 2 shirts and 1 pair of pants.
All other purchases are @ 30%.

Floor changes happen at lease every 4 months, but mostly within 2 months.
And for those of you who don’t know, a T-Shirt at this store costs a small $34.50.

And only good-looking kids under the age of 25 are considered Abercrombie material!
posted by bmxGirl at 12:06 PM on November 7, 2002


required to wear certain clothing at work, the purchase price is deductible as an unreimbursed employee expense,

I thought that was only if you can't/wouldn't wear it outside of the workplace as part of your normal wardrobe, like a hard hat or a mechanic's uniform or something. Otherwise, you'd be able to get a job at GAP or A&F and have a free wardrobe by being reimbursed every spring.
posted by tolkhan at 3:59 PM on November 7, 2002


« Older Jacob Langvad....  |  I don't know about any of you,... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments