My Experience Working at One of Retail’s Most Hated Companies

Ah, Abercrombie. The dim lights. The musky smell. The loud music. The pictures of a white man’s abs on display when you first walk into the store. Nothing characterizes Abercrombie more than these elements that fuel fashion for young adults who want to wear their money on the sleeves of their cream cashmere sweater and blue skinny jeans.

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In previous years, Abercrombie was very clear as to who they wanted their demographic to be. They showed this in the way that they chose their models and displayed them throughout their marketing strategies. CEO Mike Jeffries also admitted to these exclusionary measures, sprouting some very controversial words regarding the look for his brand and the future of the store.

His biggest controversy was back in 2013, when he came under fire after explaining why Abercrombie doesn't offer XXL sizes: Jeffries stated, "That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.” In this quote, Jeffries explains that instead of catering to a broader range of customers, the company instead only produces clothes for those who fit the typical "cool kid" persona. 

I'll give the company credit for scrambling to clean up the mess that Jeffries made—I took note of the new plus sizes scattered throughout the store during inventory days, yet the absence of body inclusivity was still evident from the gigantic posters that rotated every season.

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Despite this controversy, I was (slightly) desperate for a job that didn’t involve food and still seemed semi “cool” to a point where I wouldn’t be embarrassed to tell my friends about where I worked.

Abercrombie seemed like that solid middle ground. After applying to numerous other retail jobs that either didn’t hire me because of my age or because of my lack of experience, I worked for the company for the majority of my senior year in high school.

I can safely say that the biggest downside in my experience of working there would definitely have to be the payment (or lack thereof). Minimum wage in Georgia was almost nothing, especially when compared to college tuition.

I totally would’ve been okay with working at minimum wage at the start, considering I hadn’t held a previous job before. However, the major downside was that there were no raises. Despite working there for almost a year, staying overtime, and being one of the leading salespeople, I didn’t get a single penny added to my wage. I was stuck at minimum wage for nearly a year before I quit.

The amount of work that I had to consistently do did not justify the wage in any means. There were times where I had to stay late on a school night to work an update (rearranging the clothes and layout of the store), and I also had to deal with managers who barely put in an ounce of work; they simply delegated the load to their sales associates. I didn’t mind doing the work as long as I saw my superiors putting in the same effort. That was rarely the case, though, and I would sometimes catch them on their phone in the stock room while they had us working on a busy Saturday. Some of my coworkers would also take note of this and then not do their fair share of the work, causing us all to fall behind for the day. Not all of the managers were like that, but the work ethic of those that were definitely affected the work atmosphere for the rest of us. 

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There were also those rude customers that I encountered every once in a while, but that is always expected at any job in the retail market. I could probably even thank Abercrombie for thickening my skin and exposing me to difficult situations in which I have to work quickly and efficiently in resolving.

Additionally, the rumor that Abercrombie hires pretty people is definitely a myth; although I can’t blame this rumor for discouraging people from applying. The words of Jeffries will always remain with the company, no matter how much new CEO, Fran Horowitz, tries to erase it, and unfortunately the company will have to suffer the consequences for years to come.

I definitely won’t shy away from the fact that Abercrombie has its upsides and its downsides. It thickened my skin and taught me how to make the most out of unpleasant situation and that your attitude can deeply affect your work environment. It may not have been the best company to work for considering its wage policy and my personal experience with my superiors, but Abercrombie did provide me with a learning experience that I can carry with me towards future endeavors.

Don’t get me wrong, the company definitely had its upsides. The discounts for their super expensive clothes were great—they were almost too great. I would treat myself to a shopping spree way too often, and that definitely could not have been sustained with my wage.

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The atmosphere was totally laid back when the right people working, which created a more pleasant shopping experience for the customers. My coworkers also made the job bearable. They were some of the funniest people that I’ve ever met and were the sole reasons that I looked forward to coming to work.

Athough I initially assumed that Abercrombie would have a strict dress code due to its “image,” this was definitely not the case. We still had to look put together, but our shorts didn’t have to be a certain length, and our tank top straps didn’t have to be a certain width—I could express my fashion sense to my coworkers and customers. It was this type of freedom that made working there not all that bad.

One thing remains a fact: I will definitely be leaving the musky scent of Ellewood cologne back in the store.