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Retailers Want Help Fighting Bad Customer Behavior

Some workers have been harrassed when asking customers to comply with mask and social distancing rules.

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Several major retailers are looking for help in their fight against bad customer behavior.

The problem is that some workers have been harrassed when asking customers to comply with mask and social distancing rules, The Associated Press reports. The retailers are calling on shoppers to help them combat abusive behaviors.

The campaign is being led by the Retail Industry Leaders Association and non-profits Hollaback and Open to All. Among the retailers participating in the effort are Tiffany & Co., Movado Group, Sephora and American Eagle Outfitters.

Examples of ways that customers can assist include creating a distraction for the abuser, along with “documenting the situation and bringing in someone else to help,” AP reports.

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Open to All said in a press release: “As tensions run high and retailers are asked to enforce safety measures due to the global pandemic, frontline workers often can face the brunt of customer frustration, which can often manifest in racist or discriminatory ways. While retailers have long trained employees to respect and serve a diverse customer base, now customers are being asked to join as part of the solution.”

More from the Open to All press release:

“Retailers are seeing an alarming rise in discrimination where floor staff are being targeted for who they are when enforcing safety measures. Given the rise in hate violence—which is at an all-time high—frontline workers are more vulnerable than ever,” said Emily May, co-founder and executive director of Hollaback! “We are working closely with businesses to address this crisis and we are thrilled to partner with Open to All to provide greater access to our resources.”

Open to All is a nonprofit nondiscrimination program that believes everyone should be welcome regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, immigration status, religion or disability.

“The pandemic has highlighted the invaluable role of frontline workers, who over the past year have kept the economy open at great personal risk,” said Calla Devlin Rongerude, director of Open to All. “Our Inclusive Retail campaign works to make retail environments welcoming, safe and inclusive for employees as well as customers. We are excited to debut the Customer Pledge and Customer Action Center and invite consumers to learn more about how we all can make retail spaces safe and inclusive for all.”

The initiative offers two new resources: The Customer Action Center and the Open to All Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit. These resources were developed to support frontline workers, who are being asked to enforce public health and safety measures at the risk of potential hostility or discrimination. This is especially prevalent if the worker is a woman, person of color, person with disabilities, person of minority faith, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

As one of the Inclusive Retail program’s closest collaborators, and a founding member of Open to All, Gap Inc. has worked closely with Open to All and other partners to develop the strategy, resources and policies used to shape the Inclusive Retail campaign.

“Our purpose at Gap Inc. is to be Inclusive, By Design, and this comes to life by actively creating an environment where everyone is welcome. We believe that when you decide that inclusion isn’t optional, not only do the gaps between us close, but a whole new world of possibilities opens,” Chris Nelson, Senior Vice President of Asset Protection at Gap Inc. “We aspire to bring this to life in all of our stores and facilities, and for Gap Inc. to be known as a safe, inclusive place for all. We also know that true change happens as a collective. That is why we supported Open to All in creating the Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit to help the entire retail industry to design experiences with inclusion in mind.”

The Customer Action Center features resources and tools that empower customers to practice bystander intervention and effective allyship if they see an employee receiving unjust treatment from another customer. The bystander intervention tools were created by Hollaback!, which designs and distributes trainings and campaigns against street harassment. Customers can also, for the first time, sign the Open to All Customer Pledge. Similar to Open to All’s business pledge, it allows customers to declare that they believe everyone—including employees, visitors, vendors, clients and other customers—should feel safe, respected, and accepted regardless of who they are.

The Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit contains resources and trainings to help retail environments create a culture of inclusion and belonging, including a sample Customer Belonging Policy, an “Allyship and Advocacy” training video co-produced with Ralph Lauren, and a series of allyship and de-escalation materials. The Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit will also incorporate Sephora’s landmark study on Racial Bias in Retail, which found shoppers are not the only ones subject to bias across the retail landscape. According to their findings, one in five retail employees have personally experienced unfair treatment at their place of work, leading Sephora to work in partnership with Open to All to implement tactics proven to mitigate racial bias in retail.

“Retailers are committed to creating an in-store experience that is welcoming and, most importantly, safe for all visitors,” said RILA’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Erin Hiatt. “Maintaining an environment where customers and employees feel safe certainly includes adhering to health guidance like PPE or distancing—but it also means cultivating spaces free from discrimination of any kind. These new toolkits developed by Open to All will be valuable resources to support the industry’s commitment to both.”

Inclusive Retail is a massive undertaking that provides businesses and customers with the tools necessary to create a welcoming environment for all while shedding light on the increased challenges retail workers face during this time of global pandemic. Through this project, Open to All and its partners affirm to floor staff and sales associates that they are seen and supported from corporate offices to those who walk into the store.

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