The Stupidest Comment I've Ever Heard A Business Owner Make
By Ken Peters
People sometimes say the most inappropriate things in business settings; racial slurs, sexist jokes, offensive gossip, blatant lies, brazen threats, crass come-ons, worthless jargon, whatever. I thought I’d heard it all, until I heard something that beat it all.
One day, while shopping at an independent clothing boutique, I asked the owner if he carried children’s merchandise. His response…
“I hate kids.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
“I hate kids.” Declarative. Definitive. Virulent. Such a bitter assertion is shameful enough, why on earth would a business owner make it to a customer? Maybe mommy didn’t hug him enough when he was a kid.
Who cares why? He could have politely said no. He could have offered any number of valid explanations as to why he didn’t stock children’s merchandise. He doesn’t have to like or cater to kids, that’s fine. But, why opt for an unvarnished, unnecessary, perfunctory proclamation of contempt?
Being a former child myself, as well as a rational, emotionally balanced, procreating participant in the circle of life – with a young son of my own – I was at a loss for words in the face of such noxious enmity. All I could muster was, “That’s too bad,” before turning and walking out. I’ve always regretted being so mature about it.
Apparently, it never occurred to our pejorative proprietor that while he may hate kids his customers more than likely do not and might even have children of their own. Then again, maybe it did occur to him but he didn’t care. Haters gonna hate.
Either way it didn’t matter. He’d made it clear how he felt. Clear that children weren’t welcome in his store. Clear that by virtue of the fact that I was shopping for children’s clothes I really wasn’t welcome either.
Trendy fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch let everyone know where they stand recently when comments by CEO Mike Jeffries made it clear that America’s unattractive, overweight or otherwise undesirable teens can shop someplace else:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Yep, he said that. He’s since proffered an apology with an asterisk insisting that he was taken out of context. Not surprisingly, he’s been pilloried by consumers and the media alike. Social media channels lit up with angry retorts, one man going as far as starting a campaign to redefine A&F’s brand by handing out their clothing to the homeless.
Clarity is good. Better to know up front that a brand stands for bigotry. It’s your business, say what you want, act like you want. Hate a particular group of people and let everybody know it if you want. Say whatever stupid things you want to say, just remember people align themselves with brands that reflect their own values. Consumers vote with their purchase, which tends to make their opinion about your opinions crystal clear. Hate if you want to hate.
Ken Peters is Co-founding Partner and Creative Director of Nocturnal Branding Studio, a full-service branding and design agency located in Phoenix, AZ. He's been known to design for everyone from Silicon Valley giants to start-up cat toy manufacturers. His work has garnered him everything from a host of awards to a grateful kiss on the cheek. He also makes a mean teriyaki chicken dish, but it hasn't earned any awards. To talk to Ken email him at: email@example.com