Wednesday, 24 October 2012

HMV- You are really not very rock and roll!

So I woke up this morning to find several of my “alternative” friends spreading about this story:

Now, a lot of people were stating how they haven’t shopped in HMV in years anyway, and before I continue, I will admit, my HMV purchases over the last couple of years have been a bit spread out…sorry to say it, but my local branches don’t have the same variation in stock anymore (can you believe I used to find Emilie Autumn and The Birthday Massacre in their stores!?) and the prices are not competitive. I suppose I can’t blame them (and that is a discussion for another day) but I do usually have a look in store anyway and have snapped up the odd bargain.

One of the things that made shopping there nice was the fact the staff were varied; many were rocker/alternative types, with dyed hair, body piercings and tattoos etc. They all wore uniform, but I think they looked pretty cool, and I would often have a nice chat with a HMV worker about where they got their latest ink or whatever.

I used to hold up HMV as an example of “alternative-friendly” companies when giving advice to people trying to find work in retail (Claire’s Accessories, in my experience, has been another). But now I am seriously considering boycotting them.

My reaction may sound rash and impulsive, but the reason why I am appalled by the new policy is the EXISTING staff. It is one thing to turn away a potential candidate based on their appearance, but completely another thing to hire someone and then give them grief later down the line based on their appearance, when it was not an issue at the time of the hiring.

I’m not saying that we should all just dress how we like for work- there is a time and a place- but imagine hiring someone 3 years ago with visible tattoos etc. Imagine they have been a valued employee for 3 years, they have worked hard, done well, been loyal and dedicated to the company (as more of us become disillusioned with retail, this is becoming harder to find!), and then over night, deciding to take disciplinary action against this employee because a new policy states that they can’t have a visible tattoo.

What the flaming heck is that employee supposed to do? Find a cheese grater and bite down on a stick!?

Ok, I’m being a bit melodramatic, but it grossly unfair, in my opinion, to spring this on the existing staff. Heck, I think its taken the whole company backwards ten years and reversed what little respect and understanding the alternative community was gaining from the general public, but I digress.

I just hope these guys don’t face disciplinaries or even termination because of this. I also find the denim-skirts for the women sexist…it could be that article was just a short one and didn’t have full details, but if the women can ONLY wear skirts, then…hello 50s! Where have you been?

I am not saying all this as someone unfamilliar with the retail industry or customer service either. I have been in some form of customer-service-based work for most of the last 10 years. My first ever job was at a newsagents, where I wore black lipstick to work, much to the amusement of many of the patrons (many of whom were elderly). I was a teenager then, and not required to observe any form of uniform policy, but my following job was for a fashion retailer, and my work revolved around the products and customer service. I adhered to the uniform policy (which I didn’t think was so bad), kept my appearance neat and proper…I felt comfortable and yet, recieved many compliments. One of my colleagues was the furthest thing from a Goth you’d ever find, yet she was covered in tattoos and piercings, and always looked smart, fashionable and respectable!

My current job is running a returns desk- a huge amount of public interaction is required, I wear a uniform…yet I am also identifiable as a Goth. I always pass my evaluations, I am clean and tidy, yet people can still tell who I am. A lot of my coworkers are heavily modded- and no one cares!

Back in January 2011, I submitted this article for EGL Magazine:

So you can see, I’m not one of these raving teenagers who don’t know what the “real world” is about and thinks life is cruel if you can’t have purple hair and padlock through your nose. MY opinion is that we should all be happy how we look, but there is a time and a place for it. Be you goth, punk, rocker, emo, or whatever loveable misfit, you should be able to still be yourself and present yourself in a professional manner.

I just wish that these companies would just realise that they are potentially missing out on some really great people working for them, just because they have a personal adversion to the alternative look. And I say personal, because I do think it is down to a few individuals in an office somewhere. Someone told me today (I haven’t verified this) that HMV’s new policy comes from middle-managment head-hunted from Marks and Spencer. Now, I have nothing against M&S, but they clearly have a different demographic to a music and media retailer.

BTW, you really can be alternative and still be dressed professionally etc. (C’mon, ever see a tattooed guy in a wedding tux or a business suit? HAWT! ^_^ ). For example, the last job interview I attended, I wore a skirt-suit…I also wore a blood-red blouse and knee-high lace-up boots. I was clearly a Goth, but also imaculate. And I got the job. Trust me guys, I am not telling anyone to cover themselves up…that is the LAST thing I want anyone to do. I refuse to hide who I am, I am just willing to present myself in a different light.

And as for the HR zombies who think customers hate how we look too- my current job deals with customer complaints DAILY. In my entire working career, I have never recieved or even heard a complaint regarding a staff-member’s appearance.

So in the meantime, I hope that HMV staff are not subject to bad treatment due to their existing appearances, and while I would hate to see the retailer go bust (I have experienced that myself), I just cannot bring myself to shop in a store that considers people who look like me to be somehow dirty or inferior.

(Note: reposted from my Tumblr blog: Since the first posting, it has been suggested to me that the story on HMV maybe fake, but I decided to repost anyway.)

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