Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Tuesday 31/07/07

Here’s another story that I posted in my old blog, but I feel I have to transfer here for the sake of completeness, and also because this blog gets about 1,500 hits a day compared to 150 for my old one 6 months ago.

Back in January, I was in Pret on Oxford Street with Scott and RF. I was about to have a casting for the cover of Men's Fitness (of course I didn't get it), so I was just looking at the food, but I couldn't eat any. I was in a mood.

At that point, I see a guy and a girl looking at me from another table. I think nothing of it, but then the guy comes up to me and tells me he works for Abercrombie, and asks me if I’d like to work in their new store which was opening in London. The position would be a "model", i.e. somebody who just stands around wearing Abercrombie clothes and sort of represents the brand. He thought my look would fit that. Let's call the guy Alex (because that’s his real name).

I don’t know what representing the brand means exactly, but I guess in the case of Abercrombie it has a lot to do with looking like something a 45-year-old closeted gay man might choose to masturbate over, when his wife rolls over and falls asleep.

As if my normal 9 to 5 job weren’t enough to keep me busy, and never wanting to miss an opportunity for ridicule, I say OK and we arrange an "interview" in a couple of weeks time.

At the interview the following things happen:

- It’s a group thing with 8 of us being there at the same time. At 27 I am the oldest and the only one with a proper job. Everyone else is a “model” or “student” (non-science degrees obviously). I realize that even though I’m in a completely different demographic to those people, I must have a similar look, otherwise I wouldn’t have been scouted on the street just like they were. So basically it’s only my fault that I look like that and Alex thought I would fit in there (i.e. on first sight I must come across vacant, shallow and stupid)

- The moment I face the woman conducting the interview I can feel a mutual antipathy. She is wearing flip flops, sitting cross-legged ON the desk (I’m not making this up) and has a completely transparent faux-breezy attitude. So breezy I’m starting to get chills. She’s easy to see through though and her fake enthusiasm about EVERYTHING is making me feel uncomfortable. Being melancholic and introverted by nature I know this isn’t a good match. She can tell that I’m seeing through her and her smile seems a bit more strained every time she looks at me. I know I don’t have this “job”

- The interview itself is ridiculously contrived of course. We get asked what the Abercrombie brand means to us (having written my MSc dissertation on sportswear advertising I know more on this than the numerous 19-year-old Danish models I’m surrounded by), what “diversity” means and other such drivel. We get also asked to role play with a customer. It’s very cringe-worthy

Sadly I don’t remember the name of the woman, but if anyone has also been interviewed at Abercrombie London by a short, English, blonde, pseudo-enthusiastic woman with a sunny Californian attitude but dark, menacing middle-England undertones, please enlighten me. For the time being I’ll call her Kimberlee (she changed it from Ruth when she got the Abercrombie job).

Two weeks later they ring me and say I haven’t been successful as a model, but would I like to work as a cashier instead? This isn’t a huge surprise, but it is a bit degrading. What happened between being "scouted" and going to the "interview"? Had I gotten uglier? I really don't fancy myself as a professional model (blatantly) but it's them who approached me about the position first. And I don't see how my performance at the interview got me demoted from model to cashier. Did I not appear vacant enough?

I decide to go along with it (instead of showing I’m annoyed) and tell the guy on the phone – sure, I'd love to come and fold clothes for a living. So he asks me to go back to Abercrombie and meet the team etc. I go there a few days later.

So I walk in and the following things happen. Alex (the guy who discovered me) is stood at the entrance. He greets me. The place is packed with new employees (models and cashiers) possibly about 100 people. We are supposed to mingle and network. I chat to a couple of model girls, who are actually nice. Kimberlee is there mingling heavily, and she only sees me just before I leave, and says: “Ah shame, I didn’t get the chance to talk to you”. In an ideal world where I am quick-witted I say “That’s alright, you’ve done enough for me already”. In the real world I smile back embarrassed and leave.

On the way out, I speak to Alex and ask him what happened and I was demoted from model to cashier. He is quite uncomfortable and says I should call the office, explain the situation and ask. He is very quick to brush me off obviously.

I had no intention of taking up the cashier job, but I went so I could confront them and ask what happened. I had nothing to lose, because I get enough money from my job and don't need weekend pocket money.

Incidentally, models and cashiers get paid £6.50 an hour to work there. I can live without that.

Having a boring, empty life, I can’t let this go so when I get home later that evening, I write a very sarcastic and arrogant email to Abercrombie. I don't expect a reply, but I'm sure I've given them something to laugh about in the pub.

The next day I’m very excited to see they have replied. Here's what Dominique (don't know who that is), says:

"Morning London Preppy, Please let me clarify the situation for you. Firstly you are under no obligation to accept the position you are offered. The Model position you applied for is not based solely on looks but on personality and the answers you give to the questions asked. Apologies for the confusion and that your application was unsuccessful. I am presuming you are now not interested in taking any part-time position with us. Dominique"

So I guess they're saying that it's not how I look that cost me the job (that I didn't apply for), but it's actually that my personality sucks. That does make me feel much better, I must say.
I reply to this (because I'm a fool?) saying that no, of course I'm not interested in taking a part-time job folding clothes when I was initially offered a model position and Dominique hits back with:

“Thank you for your interest in Abercrombie & Fitch. Unfortunately you were unsuccessful in your model application. You are more than welcome to apply for another position at any time. Many Thanks Dominique"

I end the Abercrombie communication with a final email (because I’m a petty cunt) where I make implications about Alex’s sexuality and suggest that next time he feels horny he should have a wank instead of cruising sandwich shops to pick up boys by promising them modeling jobs.

All this happened back in January as I said, and at the time I was quite pissed off, but right now (it’s taken me a few months but I got there) I think it’s actually quite hilarious.

I do miss Kimberlee though, I would have loved to work for her. She could teach me a lesson or two about shaking off your heritage and emulating a different country’s culture (with variable success) in a completely fake way that’s never going to work (as I’m also trying to do).

I have 1 song by Bel Amour and I've played it 2 times
I have 2 songs by Belinda Carlisle and I've played them 5 times
I have 17 songs by Belle & Sebastian and I've played them 268 times

20 comments:

Andre said...

I always loved this A&F accident.. Are you still boycotting them?

andre

London Preppy said...

andre: I wouldn't say I'm boycotting them per se. I dare not go in the store though.

Tim in Italy said...

I was in the store the last time I was in London (April/May). I can't see why anyone would shop there. The prices were twice what we pay in LA. I do like the clothes, but at 44, heading to 45, in pretty good shape, when I walk in I am suddenly very uncomfortable and I'm not a man who discomforts easily. I know I get lots of stares from the help. Sometimes impatient, sometimes hostile. Obviously, I'm not the guy their brand was intended for. But at $50 a shirt, there's not a lot of 20 somethings in there picking out a new wardrobe.

Still, I can't decide if they really don't want me to shop there or if I'm just freaking myself out and I hate that. Whenever I'm in LA I always go. I'm either a glutton for punishment or a cheeky bastard.

Pete said...

I read a lot about this brand but we don't have them in Holland. Like Starbucks, a phantom entity to me. Good story though, I wouldn't have the energy to follow up on such shallow corporate ass wipes, but someone should.

Alex said...

hehehe the wonders of email venting. I went in with some girlfriends when it was opened (to perv) and was asked if I was interested in working for them. My friends found this hilarious. I don't think I would have passed an interview though. I would have told them exactly what I thought of their brand and their prices.

Tonyxw1 said...

Hi London preppy ,i have been reading your blog on and off now for about 1 month when i can get the time and really enjoying it-keep it up! i saw this ad on www.gumtree.com tonight and thought about you-its a half share of a camper van for free!! its in the freebies section in london area.i was thinking about your holiday blogs of late.anyway it might be of no use to you but check it out if you get a chance tonight! cheers for now mate, tony.

London Preppy said...

thanks for all the anti Abercrombie sentiments. I know it's easy to knock the product and the company (I love the fact they blocked the US website since they opened the UK store and now you have to pay £50 for t-shirts you used to buy for $30 online). My particular grief on this occasion is with the recruitment people

tonyxw1: That's brilliant (and very sweet) thanks :-) I'm checking gumtree right now

Steven said...

I don't think you're missing out on much, I find that most people that work at abercrombie are rude and generally condescending. And the prices! You can find the same thing at different stores for probably $20-30 less. I'm sure you would have made a hot model though!!@

London Preppy said...

Hello

I'm hijacking your login to comment.
Although your daily hits may be rising faster than your salary i feel with these flash-backs to your old blog that you're alienating your loyal "fans" (I use the the term loosely; looser than a towel wrapped around your waist in the showers at the gym).

All I want is new, funny and exciting news and stories on a daily basis. Not much to ask surely?

Otherwise I look forward to reading about seeing Ian Thorpe, hospital antics last year and your international rowing career.

Matty

Andre said...

hey LP, just go to http://simpsonizeme.com and upload a face pic of yourself there. Beware, it's kinda addictive!

Oh, and I have to disagree with "Matty the hijacker". I've always been a fan of re-runs in TV. Some of your old blogs are so good that it's a pity not to show them to the new audience!

andre

DAMO said...

DOMINIQUE! hahahahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
I remember ringing her up as a character I made up called Andrew Andrews - hehe. I was given her number by your very good friend lol

She was a right piece of work "Sarcastic" in an obvious and cheap way. I remember briefly saying to her that she only worked in a shop so she can drop the fresh attitude, Dominique hung up. So I phoned back saying: I think we broke up it must be your phone as mine is a brand new Sony ericsson. I was just wondering if I could work weekends 4.12 - 6.01 as my curfew is at 7pm. Her steryle false professional tone was so lame.

I wonder where Dominioque is now??? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

Maybe she is one of those people at Tesco's who stand and watch you when you use the self service checkouts? Yes I believe that is very likely!

Maybe I should give her a ring again?

Matt said...

Channel 4 does repeats of Frasier, so I guess its OK if the blog features Classic London Preppy once in a while! Besides, I hadn't read that one.

Personality at Abercrombie...that one is funny! The image must portray vain, arrogance, superiority complex and unhelpfullness!

Eight years ago (in the days of the old A&F when you could see where you were walking and even the product without having to trip over half naked models to enter the "non-flagship" stores) when I was at uni and shopping, the cashier asked me if I wanted to apply to be a manager as I had "the look". Interesting recruitment policy...they got sued for discrimination though, hasn't changed much...

Knight said...

As much as I like A&F clothes, I have to admit they have a reputation for recruitment problems

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/12/05/60minutes/main587099.shtml

Still, I find it hard to boycott their clothes, they're good. Its like loving the bad guy who won't love you back ;-) You know you shouldn't..but you still do.

London Preppy said...

fake LP aka Matty: I'll sort you out in the next blog

andre: thanks :-)

damo: Ha ha, I remember you calling! Hmm...I don't know if you had a lot to do with it, but now they have an automated system when you call and you can only leave a message. You can't speak to Dominique directly. I tried it yesterday

matt: I like the Frasier analogy a lot

knight: Nah, there's no point trying to boycott the clothes, I don't think that would change KImberlee's attitude, if I don't buy 2 t-shirts a year from them

B said...

LP, is your old blog still out there? I think some of us newcomers are missing out on some of the older context.

(In other words, screw Matty :)

London Preppy said...

b: Screw you Matty indeed!!! Sadly the old blog is nowhere to be found, apart from on my hard drive copied into a Word document. I'll explain at some point.

tiger said...

LP, nice story - For some laughs, check out these skits...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3-WzqfbVHU

Christopher said...

Oh I love it... I had a similar situation when I applied... then I found out how much the reps/models/cashiers actually made and had to hold back from laughing... I tried to apply for something with a higher pay - but they require a "College Education" for managers and above... gotta love it. LOL!

jay said...

Here in NYC, one weekend a few weeks ago I was in their 5th ave store when this guy asked me if I'd like to work there.

It never got to the point of me finding out what role they wanted me to fill because I simply wasn't interested in putting my years of undergrad and grad school to waste. It did however make me feel pretty darn skippy.

Bread&Butter said...

Such a cool story. Kimberlee has become character of the day... I did my dissertation on brand identity, with a focus on sportswear brands. A&F wasn't yet the "craze" it has become, but anyway I wouln't have included it in sportswear...

The odd thing is the clothes really are nothing special. Take off the logo, and can you tell the difference with H&M? So yes, they need to scout for 19 year old Danes and pump loud tunes into a Mayfair mansion to create the "brand experience".

The other funny thing are the customers. The likes of Kimberlee are one reason why I wouldn't be seen dead wearing A&F. The second reason is who on earth would want to be associated with their customers? They're the same as the ones on the bus tour to Buckingham Palace. Oooh and walking around London with one of their carrier bags, yuk

Right, on that note, I should head off to the gym, the casting for Men's Health is only a few weeks away x