“The female employees, as well a couple of gay men, have experienced harassment from customers”

1240 Upshur St, NW

“Dear PoPville,

I thought you’d be interested in this program Annie’s just set up. The female employees, as well a couple of gay men, have experienced harassment from customers. Some of the harassment is not such a big deal, and some of it’s pretty threatening.

Female workers who interact with the public often face harassment, and I imagine it’s more frequent at a hardware store because until recently hardware stores were men-only spaces.

Rather than tell the employees that “the customer is always right,” Anne Stom teamed up with my group, Defend Yourself, to train the Annie’s staff.

The male employees are learning bystander intervention techniques so that they can stand up for and be allies to their female and LGBTQ counterparts. The female and LGBTQ employees are learning assertiveness.

All of this in a context that is both customer-friendly and designed to make Annie’s safe and welcoming for all.”

52 Comment

  • I’ve always found the staff at Annie’s to be super-friendly and very helpful — it’s sad that they’ve been having these issues.

    • Agreed, it’s also strange. Seems like the customers in there are always good neighborhood people who want to support a store like Annie’s.

      • Good neighborhood people are also sometimes sexist.

        • +5000000 A lot of otherwise appealing men have absolutely no problem engaging in completely appalling behavior towards women. And when you’re a woman working in a service job, they are all too happy to take advantage of the fact that you have to be polite, no matter how much of a barbarian they are acting like. It’s sick.

      • justinbc

        I’m thinking (hoping) that it’s only been a few isolated incidences, and not a representation of the neighborhood, that the store is helping to train its employees how best to handle should they occur again. Although guys are always saying and doing inappropriate things, so who knows.

        • In the spirit of helping you with your language peeves, that’s one of mine. “Incidence” refers to a mathematical concept. “Incidents” refers to a grouping of occurrences.

          • Unless it means something pretty close to what justinbc meant (though his usage was slightly off): “the number of times something happens or develops : the rate at which something occurs.” (via mirriam webster; take it up with her).

            So one could say, for example, “I hope the incidence of these incidents is low.”

          • Yes, “the incidence of these incidents” could be correct, if you’re running a statistical analysis of said incidents. “Incidences” is almost never correct. (maybe if you’re talking about multiple points where multiples lines cross one another…)

    • epric002

      disconcerting to hear that people are harassing employees and glad to hear of what annie’s is doing in response. we love annie’s!

  • I also really like Annie’s and am sorry to hear that the staff has been having problems. Good for Annie’s for empowering the workers.

  • Dealing with harassment is not unique to Annie’s staff. It is something many customer service workers face on a daily basis. Fortunately, Annie’s Hardware is taking proactive steps to respond to harassment so that our store can be a safe place for all, employees and customers alike.

  • Reason #101 why Annie’s is my favorite hardware store.

  • Apologies for my ignorance but what does the Q stand for? This acronym keeps changing every year…

    • Thanks for asking. The Q stands for two things: Questioning (meaning someone who thinks they may not be straight but is not sure) and Queer, which is an umbrella term for all people who are not straight or are gender nonconforming. Hope that helps!

      • Seriously? Questioning? And pretty sure it’s not PC to call gay’s ‘Queer’.

        • Yes, seriously. Understanding one’s own sexual and gender identity is easy for some people and for others, it can take time.

          “Queer” is an example of a reclaimed slur. It used to have a very pejorative meaning, but the LGBTQ community has been reclaiming it and using it in a positive sense.

          • Serious question here, not trying to be a jerk…

            Are most folks in the LGBTQ “community” happy to be all lumped together into a single group like that? Seems like we are talking about so many different kinds of identification here that calling it a “community” is sort of a reach.

          • to Mike: generally no. There’s somewhat of a fight between gender non-conforming individuals and sexually non-conforming individuals, who really have very different demands and needs. Those categories overlap a lot, there are obviously trans* gay people, but trans*, bi and gender-queer individuals definitely feel like LGBT is synonymous with ‘gay/lesbian’ in the media/general society. Plus organizations like HRC tend to focus on gay/lesbian rights while touting ‘LGBT’ support. It’s sticky. However, in the infancy of the movement, gender and sexuality was much hard to separate when talking to the general public and it was safer to stick together, so to speak.

          • Thanks, Anon. That was my impression.

        • Re. “queer,” Wikipedia says, “Beginning in the late 1980s, some political and social LGBT groups began to reappropriate the word to establish community and assert a political identity, with it becoming the preferred term to describe some academic disciplines and gaining use as a descriptor of non-heterosexual identities.”

    • According to this, it can mean either “questioning” or “queer.” Maybe eventually we’ll develop a single useful word to adequately describe the broad spectrum of people’s orientations and identities, but until then it looks like the acronyms will just keep growing longer. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2014/05/23/civilities-what-does-the-acronym-lgbtq-stand-for/

  • Awesome, proactive step. I seem to recall a PoP post about a Staples cashier who was dealing with an abusive, possibly very dangerous customer … and her manager did not have her back. Kudos to Annie for supporting her staff when something rotten rolls in.

  • Of course the vast majority of Annie’s customers are wonderful, friendly, respectful people. We’re just talking about a minority who treat the staff poorly.

  • What a shame. I love Annie’s Hardware and always find the staff professional and so nice. Always willing to help. Sorry that this happened. Keep your head up and if it happens again, I hope the creeps (or creepettes) have charges pressed against them.

  • “until recently hardware stores were men-only spaces”

    This doesn’t ring true to me, or is at least a generalization and a bit of hyperbole.

    • Maybe the OP has a fairly expansive interpretation of “recently”?
      Hardware stores might not have been “men only” in recent memory, but they’ve remained somewhat men-oriented. I remember going to Home Depot circa 2002 to ask about a toilet snake, and a well-intentioned employee — a South Asian guy in his 40s or 50s — said something about “your husband.” I was thinking, “Dude, if I had a husband, I would not be here ON MY OWN trying to sort this out.”

      • Even if you had a husband, you can be there ON YOUR OWN. Just because your husband is a man doesn’t mean he knows jack about toilet snakes. So I don’t know why that is what you automatically thought. It seems you and this South Asian guy were thinking along the same lines.

        • Umm, no. It was inconceivable to this guy that I might need a toilet snake (i.e., own property and thus have to fix things myself) as a single woman.
          And I didn’t know jack about toilet snakes either, except that I had read online that they’re the implement one uses when a plunger won’t resolve a clog.
          I would like to think that partnered cohabiting property-owning couples go to Home Depot together to get the necessary supplies when something needs to be fixed, but I guess that’s entirely dependent on the division of labor within any particular couple.

        • why is the associate’s race relevant here?

          • Because I was inclined to cut him more slack — if he’s a 50-something guy who’s a relatively recent immigrant from South Asia, he probably didn’t encounter young unmarried women who own their own places there, so he might not realize it’s more common here.

    • My mom always made my dad go to the hardware store. Even for *gasp* sewing machine oil. When he took me along, it was most definitely a manly man space.

  • You work with the public, unfortunately it’s inevitable that you’ll deal with some *ssholes…

    • skj84

      Doesn’t make harassment ok. Nobody should be made to feel unsafe in their workplace. I applaud Annie’s for standing up for their staff.

    • True enough. And hooray for Annie’s doing their part to change that element of working with the public. What are you doing, bleedo?

  • I thought Annie’s was a gay establishment. Gay on gay crime? Counter productive yo!

    • Reading comprehension fail – and general comprehension fail.

      The establishment is promoting an anti-bullying intiative because customers were bullying people.
      The establishment is just a hardware store. Not gay, straight,or queer. Just a hardware store.

  • Rockandroar

    I’m a woman and used to work at an Ace Hardware in DC, and was training a male employee on his first day. We were helping a guy in plumbing, something I have extensive knowledge about, and when I told the customer his options, he looked at the male trainee, and asked if that was correct. This happened more often that one might expect. I was constantly second guessed by customers in favor of a man’s opinion.

    • I sometimes question the responses of both males and females, usually if I had thought I knew something which they disagree with. I want to make sure I at least understand it correctly the second time around. Often if there is somebody else there, I may ask them their opinion as well, hoping to try to save face or learn more. Just because you are second guessed doesn’t mean it is because you are a woman (sometimes it could, I’ll admit it). Second guessing is a regular part of dialogue, and there are ton’s of reasons to want a second opinion besides for sexism. Unless they say “let’s ask a man what he thinks”, it may be overboard to assume sexism, and you are only hurting yourself, because people are never ever going to stop second guessing you or anyone else, male or female. …. …. … all that being said, I’ve gotten better, faster, and more direct advice and assistance from females than males in DC hardware stores, so I usually ask female employees first now… unless I’m at fragers, then I look for the oldest man I can find because old guys are always entertaining, and often very helpful.

    • I’m an oldish guy who knows a fair amount about fixing stuff around the house. I’ve been at it for long enough that I’m usually skeptical of advice from hardware store employees who are young enough to be my children, and back when I got started, women working in hardware stores or knowing anything about that type of stuff was exceedingly rare, so in all honesty, being able to find women who can give me good advice on this stuff is a relatively new thing. However, I have to admit that the local hardware store employee whose knowledge and advice continually impresses me most is a young woman at Strosinders in Silver Spring; I wouldn’t second-guess her unless Bob Vila himself was standing right there and had a different opinion.

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