A Farewell to Joe

Dear Joe,

Yesterday, I walked away from you for the final time.

The signs have been there for a while, but I closed my eyes to them. I didn’t want to believe that you were leaving me. But today, after over six months of coming to you and having to walk away dismissed, I finally saw it.

You don’t want me anymore.

Joe, you’ve been my favorite clothing store for years. The style of your clothes is fresh, timeless, I love the bright colors, and your prices are pretty fantastic, as well. Since you opened a store near me, I have bought an embarrassing amount of clothes from you.

In the last year or so, there have been some changes. The wonderful wool V-neck sweaters that I bought two years ago are still going strong, but the ones I bought this past winter lasted only a few months before they pilled so horrendously that I had to throw them out. Still, when you only pay $19 for a sweater, you can’t expect the best quality. I understood that in order to keep prices low, you had to cut back on the quality of the materials you use. Although I miss the days where your prices were both reasonable and your clothes could last for several years if I took good care of them, I let it go.

Last winter, I also noticed that the accessibility of your store was deteriorating. I use a power wheelchair and until last winter, have been able to get to most areas in your store. Now that’s no longer the case. I find this odd, especially considering the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and its customer service regulations. You’d think that the ability to get around in your store was a basic part of customer service, but I could be wrong. Although the shrinking spaces between displays has been quite annoying, there is generally one of your wonderful staff around to help me. Again, I let it go.

But then there was the shrinking of your clothes. I’ve noticed this for a while, but quite frankly, I thought I was gaining weight. I am a bit pudgy or, as I prefer to call it, well-rounded. Still, I haven’t gained any weight in the last year or so, so I didn’t understand why all of a sudden I couldn’t get into your T-shirts, even a size large. I wondered if it were because the style was more of a body hugging cut, which can be difficult to for me to get over my head, as my shoulders have limited mobility. Then I cleaned out my closet and found a T-shirt I bought that your store a few years back. For one, I noticed that the quality was very good compared to what you use now. Then I noticed that this T-shirt (a size large) was loose on me. And that’s when I realized that you have been shrinking your sizes. What used to be a large is now an extra-large or more and gradually, it’s become more difficult for me to find something that fits in your store.

And then this Spring happened. I was looking forward to it and not just because of the never-ending winter we had last year. I needed new pants and you always have a wonderful variety. I roamed the store and couldn’t find anything but white jeans and jeggings (it is perhaps a sign of my age that I don’t understand jeggings). Oh, wait! Look at that! A display of beautiful linen pants in different colors. I wanted two pairs. Except the biggest size was a 12 and I need a 16 (I am a 14, but a size up is more comfortable when you sit all day). How strange. This has never happened before. Usually, all your pants come in sizes 0-16.

Over the summer, I have entered your store every few weeks and walked away empty-handed every time. When speaking to your staff, they’ve told me that the larger sizes are few and far between. The reason I can never find anything is that the ones that do come into the store sell so quickly that the only ones left are the tiny sizes.

Yesterday, I went into your store on a lark. It was full of denim. A veritable sea of denim. They’d just put out a line, containing approximately 15 different styles of jeans. I saw several that weren’t super skinny jeans and… 

Excuse me for sidetracking, but I must make this point — Joe, please. Enough with the skinny jeans. It only looks good on about 10% of the population.

Anyway! I looked at some of the jeans and found sizes 0, 2 and 4, but not much above that. I asked one of your staff if he was up for the challenge of finding me a pair of jeans in a 16. It took him a while, but he finally found one pair. Unfortunately, they were skinny jeans and that just doesn’t work for me. I inquired hopefully about the boyfriend jean and he told me that only goes to a size 12 now.

Joe, you disappoint me. One of the great things about you is that you have always been inclusive in your clothes. You didn’t just cater to what I call the anorexic giraffe — those two gangly years around age 17 — but also to women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and above, many of whom have more curves. This year, you seem to have made a policy change and are now trying to become one of those ridiculous stores where sizes are two below the true size and no one over the age of 25 or above a size 10 are welcome.

Why abandon what made you successful? Why eliminate a solid part of your audience, the ones who often have more of a disposable income to spend on clothes?

I am a lot healthier than I used to be, so I walked away, rather than keep coming back to a place that makes me feel unwelcome. I found another couple of stores that include my size and makes sure the aisles are bit bigger so a wheelchair can pass. Their clothes cost more than yours, but I’m willing to pay that to feel welcome.

It’s been grand, Joe, but my business is going elsewhere. I wonder how many other women are doing the same?




Diane said…
It's not just "Joe", it seems that most stores are down to a rack or two for Women's sizes (what I call the butt-ugly department), if that, and rarely carry anything over a 12. I realize I'm overweight, but I would still like to look and try on. I won't even go into some stores as the racks are so close together that I'm getting jabbed in the arms by them.

Generally, I shop at Tractor Supply. Not a huge selection, but often some nice tops and I can almost always get jeans to fit. Not only am I overweight, but I need a tall inseam.

Otherwise, it's online shopping at stores that I can return locally or have free return shipping.