customer complaints

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How NOT to Market to Fat Customers

Published October 27, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Can you believe it, I’m actually a little bit speechless.  I know, ME, speechless!  That almost never happens right!

But I’ve got a doozy for you folks.  You may have seen a campaign going around the fatosphere and fatshion world calling for support and funding for a Kickstarter loan for a new company called Cabiria Style.  A new “plus-size” startup fashion company, really pushing hard for people to donate to their Kickstarter and promote their new company.  Now I’ve had a busy week, so I saw the tweets and stuff and thought “Cool, I’ll have a look at that later, always good to see new plus-size brands starting up.”   I finally got a chance to have a look today and was disappointed to see that the person behind this company only intends to cater up to size 24US – I take a 28-30-32US depending on the brand.  Happens all the time, gives me the shits, but yeah, I’m used to it.  I saw that someone had asked if they intended to extend their sizes in the future so I retweeted the question and said that it was important:

https://twitter.com/Fatheffalump/status/261984362222985217

I made it clear that it isn’t fair to ask me to support or promote a company that excludes me, especially when they promote themselves as an “inclusive” line.  I expected to get the usual line about how “we hope to expand our sizes in the future”.  At least it’s an acknowledgement that they don’t go up to the higher sizes, even if it is a bit of a fob off, right?  I mean, indie designer, baby steps, fair enough.

What I didn’t expect was a whole lot of hostile attitude about how it’s too difficult/expensive to do higher sizes and that our questions as to whether we were included in the sizing were “criticism” of the company/range.  Apparently, simply ASKING if the sizes will be expanded is a “personal attack”.

Oh boy, there is some really fucking entitled bullshit that has come from this woman.  I’ll let the tweets do the talking (she has blocked me because you know, calling her out on shitty marketing and excluding people in an “inclusive” range is such a horrible thing to do – so I have to copy and paste):

@fatheffalump there is an entire section on why to donate if you’re not plus size. Many of the donors are not plus size.

Umm… I’m not plus-size because I’m over a size 24US?  What the fuck am I then?  I’m “too big” to be considered “plus-size” but you still expect me to donate and promote your range?

@fatheffalump I’m making higher quality options than most. Pretty different in another parameter.

This is her response to how she is not doing anything new and different by only doing to size 24US.  What use to me is “higher quality” if you won’t include me in the sizing?  What kind of logic is this?

@fatheffalump if you look at the photos you may notice I shop in the plus section myself, and not everything fits.

This is supposed to justify that NOTHING fucking fits in her range for me or any other person over a size 24US.  So I’m supposed to consider this justification for excluding anyone over a size 24US to the range.

@Fatheffalump The options are to buy the clothes or not. Same as everyone else. Buy this apple.Don’t buy that pear. Options.

What fucking options?  Buy WHAT clothes?  You’re not providing them in my size!  Where the fuck is the logic here?  “Buy this apple, but if you’re a pear, fuck off we don’t cater to you – there, you have options now”.

Look, I know it’s not easy to start up as a company.  I’ve done it myself.  There’s a reason I’m no longer self employed.  But there’s one thing you need to remember.  If you want people to give you their money for your goods or services, you’d better fucking include them.  How difficult is that to comprehend?  If you don’t cater to them (and hey, not every business does, such as life),  DON’T EXPECT THEM TO GIVE YOU MONEY OR PROMOTE YOU!

And if you are a company selling size 12-24, don’t call yourself inclusive, don’t promote to the fatshion/fatosphere and don’t call yourself “plus-size”.  You are an inbetweenie company.  Go market to them.

So I’m doing the opposite of promoting this company.  I am urging you, my somewhat considerable following of thousands of awesome fat people here on Fat Heffalump and on my social media platforms, DO NOT spend your money with Cabiria.  In fact, if you have pledged a donation through Kickstarter – go cancel it.  Never shop with them, ever.  Withdraw your funds whatever size you are and show this person that if they want to be a success, perhaps they should invest in some marketing training before anything else.

Instead, I would like you to go buy some brilliant clothes from the following small companies:

  1. Domino Dollhouse – when DD first started I asked Tracy about catering to larger sizes, she told me she was working on expanding that in the future.  It took a little while, but she did, and she is now doing AWESOME things.  Hat tip to Tracy and Domino Dollhouse.  I hope you’re raking in the $$ Tracy!
  2. LucieLu – they go to 5X and are a really gorgeous quality.
  3. No Xceptions – Up to size 32AU.  Small range, but HOT prices and excellent customer service.  Extra points for being an Aussie company.
  4. Sweetooth Couture – Up to 6X.  Gorgeous.
  5. eShakti – yeah not exactly small and they don’t ship to Australia yet, but hey, they do gorgeous clothes in good quality and have no size limit (costs about $7.50 extra to get custom sizing – less than 8 bucks to get custom sizing – how awesome is that?!)
  6. Cult of California – up to 5x.

Give these companies your money.  Buy their products, promote the crap out of them and let them know they’re doing something right.  If you know any other small companies that do past size 24AU, please leave them in the comments.  Let’s show these companies that they are asking for our money and custom, they do not have the right to demand it.

And if you’re looking to start a plus-size clothing business, here’s a few hot tips for you:

  1. Size 12-24US is not special any more.  Don’t label yourself as unique or inclusive if this is all you do.
  2. Market up to your customers, not down to them.  If you want their custom and their money, treat them as valuable and they will reciprocate.
  3. Stick your neck out.  Don’t start at a 12 or a 1X.  If you can only afford a size range of 3 sizes, how about starting at size 3X and going to 6X and then expanding down later.  After all, it’s a bloody captive market, there’s FAR less competition out there for you if you do that than the 12/1x – 24/3x range.
  4. If you get questions or feedback, answer the questions, be honest and don’t take it personally.  If you turn it into a “You’re picking on me!” when people ask if you’re intending to expand your size range or say that they’re not willing to support a company that doesn’t cater to you, then you’ll lose ALL of your customers, not just the ones you are ignoring.  A simple “We are currently only offering to size 24″ would have been annoying, but fair enough.  “We are currently only offering to size 24, but hope to expand in the future.” would have been lovely.
  5. You are not doing anything new or offering options to someone you do not cater to.  Don’t piss on our legs and tell us it’s raining.

YOU Have the Power to Drive Change

Published January 16, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Reading everyone’s responses to my last post about my meeting with the folks from Target Australia, I get one very clear message from so many of you – that you hope that these changes happen in your country/state/store of choice.  That’s a very good hope, and I hope they do too.  But I think we all need to step it up a bit – just hoping is not good enough.  I think more of us need to speak up, and more often.  After all, you know the old adage – the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I do appreciate all of your thanks, and I do this for all of us, but collectively we have to put some more cohesive effort into this.  We are customers, we have money to spend, we know what we want, and it’s time we collectively drove the market where we, as the consumers, want it to go.

People often ask me how I’ve managed to get audience with major retailers on the subject of plus-size clothing.  How?  I ask them.  It really is just that – no magic trick, no major talent, no major effort.  We need to ask more often.  We need to ask together.  We need to ask in a clearer manner.

I have worked in some form of customer service for most of the past 25 years.  And the sad truth of it is that most unhappy customers have no idea how to complain constructively.  To be honest, for every decent constructive criticism, there are 20 illegible, unreasonable, hostile, often bullying complaints.  So it’s REALLY hard for many businesses to weed out the genuine constructive feedback to be able to take any action.

This isn’t to say that a lot of businesses really do ignore their customers, particularly we fat customers.  We do get written off in so many instances with either formula responses or just “You’re being too sensitive/asking too much.”  We’ve seen evidence of it right here on the blog where a prominent online store told us we should just “learn to sew” when I raised that I’d like to see their collection go to larger sizes.  Another major Australian plus-size fashion chain patently ignores complaints as if they’ll go away… and sadly they often do.

However, one of the things that drives me absolutely up the wall about plus-size fashion pages on Facebook (or those who have blogs/Twitter) is the amount of whining that happens.  I know how frustrating it is when these companies don’t listen.  But I can’t tell you the number of times I see people complaining about things that if they actually set foot in the store (or checked the website properly), they’d find weren’t even an issue.  My pet hate is people whinging they want sleeves and if they just went into a store, they’d find that at least half the stock is sleeved!  What they really want is NO sleeveless at all, and that’s unfair to those of us who do want sleeveless. (That goes for a whole lot of other things too.)  Or those who complain about something going on sale that they paid full price for last week.  HELLO – that’s the nature of retail, that’s got nothing to do with plus-size stores.  That is just how retail works – you either pick the thing up when it’s full price because you want it, or you take your chances and try to get it on sale.

But those things can also work in our favour.  In a sea of whinging, a reasoned, respectful and clear criticism can stand out amongst the noise.  For example, when 20 comments are “You suck, I want sleeves!!”, a comment saying “I was in your store yesterday, and I noticed that you don’t have any plus-sized corporate wear.  Are you expecting any in the near future?  It’s really hard to dress professionally when no stores offer corporate wear for plus-sizes.” stands RIGHT out.  You give them a clear message as to what you’re looking for and you give them an actual question to answer, and most importantly, you let them know you actually shop in their stores and have looked at what they already offer.

I was asked on the last post how my meeting with Target Australia came about.  It came about because I was in my local Target and was dismayed to see they had considerably reduced their plus-size section, and moved it to an awful location.  I left them a note on their Facebook (you can see it here) and mentioned it around my social networks because I knew other people had the same thoughts.  A few of them commented on it.  A whole lot of other people that I didn’t know also commented on it.  A conversation ensued on the thread, and I was very conscious of trying to keep the feedback constructive.  After a few days, once Target clearly had some time to discuss it with their team, they responded with a contact email for anyone who was interested in talking to them about their wants and needs in plus-size clothing.  I emailed the address and expressed my eagerness to help them get it right, while also reiterating the issues I had and gave them my contact details.  From there, it all happened.

And looking back over my work with Autograph Fashion – almost the same thing happened – it started with their Facebook page and went from there.

You can do this too.  In fact, you need to do it too.  We all do.

Ok I’ll admit, I do have the gift of the gab.  I can write/talk and I’m a quick thinker.  That does work in my favour.  But guess what?  I’m happy to share that, I’m happy to let my fellow fatties use the stuff I do with businesses to build their own constructive feedback.  In fact, I’m even happy to help you with proof reading and stuff if you really want me to.  But here is the basic method that works for me.  Of course, you have to be genuine in your feedback, but you can do that with a method.  Let’s see:

  1. Tell them when and where you encountered the problem.
  2. Tell them exactly what the problem is.
  3. Tell them why it is a problem.
  4. Ask them if they already have any plans in place that will rectify the problem.
  5. Tell them what you need to solve the problem.
  6. If they get anything right, tell them that.
  7. Tell them that you want to continue to be their customer.
  8. Thank them for their time.

Want an example?  Here, I’ll make a potted one up:

Dear Store.  I was in your [location] store on Friday and I was disappointed to see that you have no plus-sized swimwear this season.  I have been looking for a swimsuit and in the past have bought them from your store, but unfortunately could not this time.  Are you planning to get any swimwear in stock in the near future?  I’m really looking for a plus-sized swimsuit in size 26, that has good bust support.  I know I can usually find good quality garments from you, that are reasonably priced, and I was hoping to do so again.   I hope you can help me with this matter, thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Ok that one is more of a request than a complaint, but here, let’s try a complaint:

Dear Store.  I was in your [location] store last week and found that the quality of your plus-sized stock has really dropped since last season.  I have noticed the fabrics are all synthetics, and are very thin and don’t hold their shape.  This means that your garments are now expensive for the quality received, and no longer last or keep their shape.  Will you be continuing to use the manufacturer that you are currently using, or do you have plans to find a better quality one?  I’m really looking for garments in natural fibres that will hold their shape and are constructed well.  Particularly around the neckline and bust.  Last season you had some beautiful dresses that were of a lovely soft cotton blend knit, I bought several of those and wore them a lot.  I would love to see you have more stock like that, and would really bulk up  my wardrobe if you had these kinds of garments.  Particularly as it’s really difficult to find decent plus-size clothing anywhere, it would be fantastic to see good quality clothes in your store.  I hope to see the quality of your stock improve in the near future, and look forward to hearing from you soon on this matter.  Thank you for your time.

I know, it’s wordy.  But when you’re getting complaints like “I hate your clothes!” and “The fabric your clothes are made of sucks!”, a paragraph like the above stands out, and shows that you’re reasonable and are willing to continue being their customer if they solve the problem.  I’ve found that those people who whine the most are usually not giving the business any custom anyway.

That’s the important thing too – when they do make positive changes, and do get it right, spend your money there.  Reward them for getting it right.

But look, the most important thing is that they hear from all of us.  Individually, it’s bloody hard work to make a difference.  But collectively, we CAN and DO change things.  I’m not doing this on my own – it’s a combined effort of every cohesive, constructive criticism that these businesses get and the voting we do with our money.  You have a head start over a lot of people – you are here so you have an internet connection, and you can read.  Those are the first two tools you need!

I urge all of you to take the time to contact and talk to the businesses you want to see change in.  Ask them for what you want.  For those that ignore you, walk away from them completely and give someone else your money, someone who values you as a customer.  Don’t forget to tell everyone who gets it right and who gets it wrong too – word of mouth is valuable marketing currency for businesses too.

We WILL change things.  We already have, we just have more work to do.  Who’s in with me?

Calling all Super Fatties!

Published August 27, 2011 by sleepydumpling

You know what?  I’ve had enough.  I’ve had enough of supposed plus-size retailers/manufacturers/labels sizing out the upper end of a standard plus-size range.  I’ve had enough of these companies deciding “We’ll make clothes for those of you who are fat… BUT NOT TOO FAT!”  I’m looking at you City Chic, Asos Curve, Dorothy Perkins, Pinup Girl Clothing, Leona Edmiston, Style369, Carmakoma, Forever21, Monsoon…. there are so many more.  Even regular companies that do some plus-size clothing as well as their straight sizes, like Threadless and ThinkGeek cut out before a standard plus-size range.  Don’t get me started on department stores that only go to Size 22 or 24 in most of their labels either.  Department stores!  The very stores that are supposed to cater to everyone!

Sadly, even two of my favourite online stores, who offer some plus-sized pieces, have further limited the upper sizes – We Love Colors and Sick for Cute.

There seems to be this perception that if anyone provides clothing in anything over a size 22, that they are “encouraging obesity”, or that we won’t buy them, because we’re not interested in style, or fashion, or shopping… instead we would rather comfort and cheap prices.  Which is utter bullshit.  Firstly, how can you “encourage obesity” when every aspect of society hates on fat bodies to the point that one cannot shop, or walk down the street, or open a magazine, or read a newspaper article, or many other things without seeing fatness pilloried, vilified and desperate calls to eradicate/cure us as though we are a disease or a plague?  And secondly, the reason we do not spend money on fashionable, stylish clothing is because there fucking is none!  Or what little there is often doesn’t fit us properly, is made of shitty cheap fabrics and constructed poorly so that it falls apart after only a couple of wears!

The other one I’ve heard from retailers is “But we can’t find manufacturers to make it!”  But then you go to the manufacturing companies and ask them, and they say “But the retailers won’t stock them!”  The blame game just keeps getting thrown around like a hot potato on to the next guy.  It’s just bullshit – you only have to see how quickly the upper sizes are snapped  up on those brands that DO cater to them to know that the customers want them, and will pay good money for them.  Every time I go to an online sale for any of the companies who do – Yours, Evans, Autograph, No Exceptions etc… the upper sizes are gone.

Major kudos to those companies who do, the manufacturers and labels and retailers who aren’t afraid to cater towards the full standard range of plus-sizes (which in Australia is currently 14-26) and even more kudos to those who go beyond this range to even larger sizes.  Yours, Evans and No Exceptions are three companies who go up to at least a size 32 in many of their garments.

Now it’s no use complaining about this without doing something about it.  So what are we going to do about it, fabulous super fatties?  Well, to start with, I have put together a Facebook group called Super Sizes.  Because Facebook, love it or hate it, is one place where we can spread the word VERY quickly.  I also need to know how many of you there are out there.  When we work together, our voices get stronger.  The more of us that are visible to the plus-size clothing companies out there, the more they are likely to listen to us.

Now I’ve chosen Super Sizes as the title because I want to gather in those folks who have not yet found fat acceptance, as well as we fab fatties.  And well… we’re Super Sized!

As size 22 Australian seems to be the most common cut off point, that is what I’m focusing on here – the sizes from 22 and upwards.  That’s about a 2x or size 20US, or a size 20UK (by the way, sizing conversions are never consistent – it’s so hard to get accurate information about clothing sizes!)  From a quick poke around the main plus-size companies I can find, this seems to be about the most common cut off point.  We won’t say that sizes smaller than an Australian 22 can’t be involved, but most plus-size clothing companies do cater to these sizes, and I want to REALLY focus on size 24 and beyond, which really miss out on the most brands.

Once I’ve got a group formed, we’ll start working on ideas and strategies to campaign for more fashionable, reasonably priced, reasonable quality options for we super fatties.  We will share those companies that do cater to us, talk about how we can make what we have work, and expose those companies who treat us badly, ignore us or give us pathetic excuses.

So I’m calling all of you Super Fatties to put on your capes (sizes 22 and above!) and get ready to make some change in this world!

Getting it Right; Getting it Wrong

Published April 4, 2011 by sleepydumpling

How can two companies, both owned by the same mega company, both basically in the same business, have such wildly polarised modes of customer service?   If you don’t know, Autograph Fashion and City Chic are owned by the same company, Specialty Fashion Group.  They’re like big sister and little sister of the same company.  Both are plus-size clothing retailers.  Both are Australian based companies.  Both have an online arm of their business, that will sell overseas.  I don’t know how cross pollinated their staff are (ie whether head office actually covers both brands), but you think there’d be at least some communication across the organisation.

But it seems not.

Both retailers have a Facebook page (City Chic/Autograph), and post pictures of their up-coming stock to the page, where people comment on it.

However, how each company responds is vastly different.

When there were lots of women leaving comments on the Autograph page that they wanted sleeves, Autograph responded with a pre-run search link to all of their tops, tunics and dresses with sleeves.  When there were lots of women saying that they wished that Autograph would style their outfit shots more than to just put a model in the dress and photograph her in front of a white background, Autograph changed their images.

From this:

Lovely model, shows the dress, but a quite dull.  To this:

Styled hair, styled make-up, interesting background, nice lighting, some accessorising.

When the posters on Autographs page responded that they would like more fashionable, modern clothes, Autograph responded.  They introduced cute boots* (someone mentioned wide calf boots on their Facebook wall some time ago too), new styles, some more colour.

When I wrote a blog post critiquing the frumpy nature of a particular season’s clothes, Autograph contacted me, and as you probably know, have been amazing sending me products to review.  I know myself that in the past six months or so, I’ve gone from wearing Autograph clothes that look like this:

Which is from the first parcel of stuff they sent me, to this:


This is from their current stock, a lovely big parcel of such they sent me last week – both those boots and the top/dress I am wearing are available right now.  Let me just tell you, the boots are so bloody comfortable I tromped around in them all day (I haven’t worn ANY heel for almost two years) running through our biggest library with a vendor, walking up to the shops at lunch time, all over the place, and I wasn’t in any hurry to take them off when I got home.  And that top is lined in the bodice which makes it drape so beautifully, and is made of the lushest, soft, weighty knit fabric.  I’m not just saying that because they sent it to me for free either.  I promise, if they send me anything that sucks, I’ll tell you.

When people complained that their fabrics were thin, lost shape and clung in all the wrong ways, Autograph stopped stocking them and have moved to much nicer (and really soft) fabrics like the top above.

The list goes on.  Autograph are listening, they talk TO their customers (as best they can around the ones that one can never make happy at any time) and they make changes when people speak up.

Which brings us to City Chic.  I’ve never seen City Chic respond on Twitter to a negative comment.  They’ve only re-tweeted the positive ones.  City Chic post their stock on Facebook, and when people complain about their high prices… nothing is said.  When people say they’d like garments that they can wear a proper plus-sized bra of ugliness under without it being exposed, City Chic respond “Well, buy a shrug.” (I don’t want a shrug, I want a garment that fits my body and my underwear properly, and besides, I live in BRISBANE).  When customers said their prices were too high, they ignored it, and their prices have got even higher.

Well the straw that seems to have broken the camel’s back happened over the weekend.  When someone noticed on Friday that City Chic had quietly dropped any garments over a size 22 from their website, word travelled pretty quick.  By Friday night, there were several posts on their Facebook page exclaiming dismay at this.  They ignored it all weekend.  By this morning, a lot of people were talking about it, on their Facebook page, on Twitter, on Tumblr and various other places.  There were a lot of angry fatties out there, making it very clear that they were offended at City Chic removing the upper range of plus sizes.  Along with a lot that spoke up and said that their sizing was shoddy as it is, smaller than standard and a fit that doesn’t work for many bodies.

Instead of engaging with their customers quickly Friday afternoon, or even over the weekend (we just saw posts bragging about how they were off to London), they let it brew up, until this afternoon, when they responded with what I feel is a somewhat snarky post.  It’s long, and you can see it here. (You may have to “like” the page – it’s really long so I can’t share it here).  Basically it says that we considered our sizing and because you fatty fat fats didn’t buy enough of our stuff at full price, we cut out the upper sizing.  Perhaps City Chic need to have a wee think about just why people aren’t buying their stock at full price.  Perhaps full price is over priced.  Perhaps their sizing is wrong.  Perhaps their fits are wrong.  Perhaps the garment quality is not good enough (the three garments I bought from them some years ago when they still had some size 26 pieces fell apart very quickly).  Perhaps the styles can’t be worn successfully with a size 24 or above bra under them… the list goes on.

What really galled me is their admission that they use a size 16 fit model.  What??  A size 16 fit model for a range that was going up to size 24??  Ok, find someone who you know is a size 16.  Now look at my body in the picture above.  What the hell are they thinking to use a size 16 fit model for the upper range of plus sizes???  There is a positive plethora of differences of shape and proportion between a size 16 body and a size 26 body (and all sizes in between).  A smart company would have two fit models, or even three for plus sizes, because they vary so much more than straight sizes do.

I actually emailed them on Friday afternoon and left some constructive criticism (and an expression of dismay) at their cutting off their sizes at size 22, and how their clothes were poor construction/overpriced/cheap fabrics/sized strangely.  Guess what I got in response today?  The explanation that they posted on Facebook, cut and pasted into an email.

Great customer service huh?

All this, PLUS I discover that they go to size US28 (about a size 32Aus) and offer cheaper prices to customers in the US.  But customers in their own country don’t get that, oh no.

As I say to all plus-size retailers that I give criticism to – I want to give them my money.  I want to become a loyal customer who tells everyone how awesome they are.  I want to spend too much money on their clothes and complain I’m broke.  I want to hang about their shop on a twice weekly basis, annoying their staff asking when the new stock they’ve been advertising on Facebook comes in.  I want people to see me with their shopping bags, to ask me where I got that cute top/dress/boots/pants/skirt.  I want my straight sized friends to say “Damn, I wish those fit me!”  Again, I want to give them my money.  And lots of it.

But they don’t seem to want me to do those things.  They don’t want to size clothes to my body, they don’t want to provide clothes that last, or are of pleasant fabrics, and the certainly don’t want to offer a price that is reasonable for the product they are selling.  It is very, very clear they don’t want my  money.

So until they prove that they DO in fact want my money, I’m going to give that money, and praise, and word-of-mouth advertising to companies who do.  Like Autograph Fashion**.  Who LISTEN to their customers, make attempts to make them happy, and acknowledge that their customers include those who are very fat, and that they need to create clothes that adequately fit those very fat bodies.

City Chic – learn from your big sister.  She has much to teach you.

* City Chic have almost the same boots as the tall riding boot from Autograph.  Autograph’s cost $99.99.  City Chic have them at, wait for it… $299.95
**I hate having to add this caveat, but there has been a very vocal claim that I am “selling out” by praising Autograph because they send me free products.  If Autograph get it wrong, I am going to say so, free products or not.  Just as loudly as I call City Chic out here.

Super Fat Clothing Woes – A Crowd Sourced Post

Published March 22, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Twitter is bloody awesome yo.

After a conversation with a friend via email over the past few days about the quality of plus-sized clothing, particularly clothes for we Super Fats, in sizes 22 and over (I chose 22 because size 20 is where many supposed “plus-size” lines cut off) as opposed to the quality of straight sized clothing, I threw out the following question on Twitter (over two tweets):

Hey death fatties: do you think we are more tolerant of clothes that are poorly made because of lack of options? Eg weird fit/crap fabric?  I’m particularly curious for those at a size 22 or above. Do you think you tolerate lower quality in clothing?

Well… did I get an overwhelming response!  Over a hundred replies in about 6 hours.  Aye caramba.

It seems like I hit a real nerve with this particular topic.  To be honest, I am not surprised, being a death fatty myself, I’m quite used to the frustration of not being able to find, or afford, clothing of reasonable quality to fit my body.

The overwhelming response was that yes, many Super Fats do tolerate poor quality garments, simply because there are no other options, or at least, no other options that they can afford.  As @silentbeep3000 says:

yes i tolerate lower quality of clothing because i’d rather have clothes than not.

I saw this sentiment echoed over and over again.  From clothes that are poorly made, to those that are made of cheap, uncomfortable fabrics through to clothes that are cut badly and do not fit the bodies they are designed to be worn by, lower quality clothing is pretty much the norm for those in sizes over a size 22.  That’s without even getting into whether or not the styles are something fashionable that we like.

@erinvk says:

Yes. I am so happy to be wearing something fashionable on my body that I am happy to hand sew tears after one or two wears.

How often have you found yourself mending garments because a) you love them b) you know you won’t get another like it and c) your options are very limited when it comes to clothes that will fit you and look good?  I know I have a mending basket that sits beside my sofa, so that I can mend when I watch DVD’s.

There were also several mentions from Super Fats regarding learning to sew, so that they may properly mend, repurpose or make from scratch clothes that are of a reasonable quality, cost and fit.  @SabrinaSpiher says (over several tweets):

Bad cut is worse to me than shoddy material/craftsmanship. I’ll reject stuff that’s too big in the rise or tight in the waist but if it’s cheap and falls apart and gets holes … I’ll tolerate that. Not much choice, really.  My friend is an amateur seamstress. She says this summer she’ll help me learn simple sewing for shirts, skirts, dresses.

Bad cut/shape is a repeated complaint as well.  Many plus-sized women find that clothes are made so cheaply that they are from a design that manufacturers can churn out en masse, with little regard to how they would fit a fat body.  As @andreakc73 says:

It’s not long enough (the shirts) or you are suppose to be fat and short. Little given to any shape above a 22. Expensive too.

We see the same styles over and over and over again because they are cheap to manufacture.  Go into any plus-size retail chain, and tally up how many surplice necklines, shark-bite hems, peasant tops, shoe-string/empire-line maxi dresses and gypsy skirts you will see.  Regardless of whether or not these actually fit a fat body properly, or the underwear worn beneath them, they’re cheap and are considered “flattering”, so there are a plethora of them to be found.  Personally I like surplice necklines, shark-bite hems and empire-line maxi’s, but I don’t want my entire wardrobe to comprise of them and only them.

Of course, even if you like a style and a cut, the fabric quite regularly lets you down.  This from @AbigailNussey:

The summer dresses? Hot fabrics. The winter dresses? Thin as paper. All of them? Too $$$.

And @silentbeep3000 refers to having to choose between good properties in a garment, rather than being able to find a combination of all:

ideally i’d have great natural fibers AND good style. I rarely get both. I so often have to pick between the two

Which brings us to pricing.  Even when the garments are cheaply made of unpleasant fabrics, we have to suffer through them being overpriced.  @jennifergearing says:

I wouldn’t mind lower quality if it was priced that way, but if I’m paying $50+ for a top it makes me sad.

Coupled with this tweet from @MadamQ:

I wouldn’t mind so much if they came at Supré prices etc. Autograph a prime offender with their acrylic and poly!

So why aren’t there any options for plus-sizes to a full range of sizes (not just stopping at 20 or 22) for budget clothes like Supré?  For those of you outside of Australia, Supré are a straight size clothing retailer who sell mass produced clothes at very budget prices.  There are lots of others like them in Australia now, like Valley Girl, Cotton On and such.  Where are the clothes for plus-sized customers that are mass produced but ultra budget?  The answer is those mass produced, cheap clothes are being sold at a premium to customers who have little or no other options.  Unlike straight sizes, we cannot take our money elsewhere (though some options are starting to open up with online shopping, particularly from retailers like Yours Clothing), so there is no incentive for them to provide bargain prices.

As @bargainfatshion shares:

While thin people usually have many shops to choose from, all offering a slightly different fit, death fats have 1 or 2.

What it boils down to is that the level of quality for a garment costing say $50 or $100 is markedly lower for plus-sizes than it is for straight-sizes.  How often do you hear that old trope that fat people are poorly dressed and frumpy?  Perhaps this is because when we spend $50 on a garment, all we get is shoddy and frumpy?  As @sweetnfat says:

I get frustrated when these poor-fitting clothes wear out quickly, but can’t afford $50-$100 for one or two pieces.

There is a whole lot of classism at work too.  Quite often, the more upmarket retailers ignore fat bodies altogether, either cutting off at size 20 (I’m looking at you Leona Edmiston) or simply not holding any plus-sized lines at all.  From @DBFiveGirl (several tweets):

apparently well paid, professional women are not meant to be bigger than s16/18. We’re meant to be unemployed it seems.  DJs (David Jones department store) at Bondi Junction have no fatties section as apparently no affluent fat women live in the eastern suburbs. Total otherness

When it comes down to it, not only our quality of clothing is affected by the lack of options for Super Fats.  As @ThePlusSideofMe says:

…not only my style, but the quality of my clothing is dependent on what is offered.

And @downtogirth says:

my biggest gripe is not quality, but style. My style is dictated by what I can fit into & what I can fit into is not my style.

When your choices are limited to just a few sources, and those sources have limited styles (see my mentions earlier about the repeated design features), how you express yourself through your clothing choices is severely limited.  No matter how much you want to dress yourself in a particular style or sub-culture, if there are no clothes available to you in your size at a price you can afford, then you are simply not able to do that.

It’s not just limited to women’s plus-size clothing.  This from @bigboyfashion:

Yes. When you feel like you don’t have any options, you’ll wear whatever you can find, and that sucks.

And this from @bilt2tweet

Definitely. If you can’t make your own you’ve no choice but 2 wear what you can get frm a store. Crap quality poor fit or no

and

I’m a 4XL mens and I’ve bought clothes that didn’t survive the second washing. This after paying 65 – 75% MORE for it than Reg

But most of all, through lack of options and quality of clothing for Super Fats, there is a whole lot of discrimination at work.  Even if something is of poor quality and you try to protest it, there are often aspersions cast at you.  As @snicketyflick says:

& gods forbid that you go to return something instore it’s like they think eww fattie wore it to death and is trying to con us

Most importantly, having to work so hard to find clothes that are suitable, reasonable quality and affordable perpetuates the stigmatisation of fat people.  From @DBFiveGirl:

I never feel more marginalized as a fatty than when I am shopping for clothing in stores.

So what do we do about this?  We Super Fats are restricted so much that we have to spend an inordinate amount of time sourcing clothes that are attractive, of reasonable quality fabrics, well made and finally affordable, that we are unable to spend that time focusing on other aspects of our lives.  It affects public perception of us, our employment prospects, how we are treated by other professionals (both within our work and our general lives), our finances, how we spend our time (I know I’d rather do a lot of things than spend time mending shoddy clothes) and most importantly, our self esteem.

It’s about so much more than just being able to shop for cute things.

Thanks also to @StilettoSiren, @ilaeria, @astryid, @SassyCupcakes, @mimbles and @mymilkspilt who also shared similar experiences, feelings and frustrations as the tweets above.

On Shopping and Shaping a Wardrobe

Published December 30, 2010 by sleepydumpling

In my lunch hour today I went shopping with my friend Nadia.  Originally I just went looking for a pair of black Mary-Janes, my old pair had died and I realised that other than ballet flats, I didn’t have any flat, black, comfortable shoes that I could wear with tights.  I really, really need some good quality shoes that I can be on my feet all day in, so that was my goal.

We popped into Rivers and they had all of their sandals and casual shoes for $20 a pair, so when I found both a pair of very cute patent leather and suede Mary-Janes in black, and another pair of cute leather Mary-Janes in a kind of olive colour, I bought both.

Then since the Rivers store is only two stores away from the Autograph store, and Autograph were having a 70% off sale… well, you know Nadia encouraged me and all.  SHE DID!!  Anyway, I came away with 3 tank tops, 2 dresses, a chemise, a bolero and a pair of swimmers, all for $93!  Weeeee!  I do love me some shopping.

Now let me just clear something up here.  It has been suggested in a few quarters (including one abusive email that I received) that I am somehow “selling out” to Autograph because they have sent me clothes to review.  Yes, they have been very generous, and I really appreciate that they’ve chosen me to do this with.  But that does not mean I’m doing some kind of “blog for product” thing here.  I will be the FIRST to speak up when Autograph don’t get it right.  In fact, there is a woman who works in their Brisbane Myer Centre store who is bloody awful at customer service, it would kill her to be pleasant and friendly.  (Though the other lady that works there is really nice, I don’t want to tar them all with the surly lady brush).  Autograph are in no way perfect when it comes to plus-size retail, (prices are still a bit steep for some things, still a whole lot of crossover busts and still far too many scratchy, non-breathing synthetic fabrics) but right now, review garments or not, they are getting some things right.

Not to mention that I also still BUY from them, because they’re also the one store that I can get to easily that have a) clothes to fit my death fatty, apple-shaped body b) prices I can afford, though usually on their sale racks and c) something that I like, even if I don’t like all of it.  If they want to send me clothes to review, I’m going to bloody take it and give honest reviews.  When I think they do good, I’ll say so, when I think something sucks, I’ll say so.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I was having a little think about all the shopping I’ve done lately.  For the first time in my entire life, my wardrobe is bursting at the seams.  I actually have more clothes than I have space for them and that I’m able to wear.  Not only have I bought clothes (and yes, received clothes) from Autograph, but I’ve also had a bit of a spree from Evans, Yours, thrift sales, Target and when I can get to them, Big W and Kmart.  So I’ve added to my wardrobe quite considerably over the past few months.  I’ve become adept at finding marvelous bargains, mostly through the word of mouth online, so that I can afford a whole lot more than I once would have been able to as well.

The reason it’s so stuffed is because I’ve actually not removed anything much from there for the past decade.  I still cling to clothes I bought ages ago.  Marianne and Lesley have talked about this in one of their early Two Whole Cakes fatcasts, the phenomena of fat women buying clothes that are in their size simply because they fit, and are affordable, and then hanging on to them forever because they might never find them again.  As I looked through my wardrobe, trying to make room for the new stuff, I realised that this is exactly what I have been doing.  What if I can never get a decent pair of black pants like these again?  But I loved this skirt so much, it doesn’t fit me any more, but it was so beautiful, what if I never owned anything this beautiful again?  This is one of the first dresses I bought after I got my first decent job, I just have to hang on to it, it’s SO significant.  I bought this when I was in the US, and I’d never seen anything like it back here, I can’t let it go.

It is time for me to shed these things that I never wear, that don’t fit, that aren’t appropriate for my current lifestyle.  Not only because they take up too much room in my small flat, and not only because I can no longer wear them, but because they are representative of an old way of thinking about myself as a fat woman.  They are the things I clung to because they flattered me, because they were the few crumbs of what I could find to fit my fat body, because I might not find something else.

I clung to these clothes like one clings to a dying relationship… because I was scared might not have another one.

Things have changed.  I have changed.  Where once I waited for the clothes to miraculously appear for me to buy, now I have the power to tell retailers what I want and tell them that they can have my money when they provide it.  Where once I wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing things without sleeves, or high waisted skirts, or fairly body-con dresses, or dresses at all, now thanks to fabulous fatshionistas who have gone before me, I will be bold, wear things that please me, try new things, be proud of my body.  Where once I would have hidden in black, shapeless sacks, now I look for colour, for shape, for style.  Where once I had the option of one or two budget department stores that had a small selection at the back to fit my body, I now at least have a couple of solely plus-size clothing retailers and some fantastic overseas retailers selling online at an affordable rate with shipping that is reasonable.  Not to mention the smaller, independent sellers who are cropping up as well.  The internet has not only opened up a world for them to sell to, but it has opened up a world of contacts to share and network when it comes to finding plus-sized fashion that is affordable and desirable.

Not to mention that I have built a career over the past decade and through bloody hard work and passion for my field, can now afford to shop when I feel like it, as well as when I simply need to.

I can say goodbye to the garments that I have clung to for so many years.  Because I’m ready to move on to bigger and better things, clothing-wise.  Because I don’t have to stay in that bad relationship any more for fear of not being able to find another.  Even the fabulous garments that I have metaphorically outgrown, or desired but never really connected with can go, remembered fondly but bid farewell, perhaps for another to love, as a better fit than they were for me.

+ Plus-Sizes Plus +: Tips and Tricks for Feedback

Published November 15, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Just a tiny bit of housekeeping before I get started.  I have made an Operation Baldy ticker, it’s over there on the right.  As you can see I’m up to $270 already!!  Woot!  Thank you again to those who have donated, and if you can help me to raise $1000 for the Australian Cancer Council, it would be most appreciated.  Plus you get to see me shave my head bald as an egg!

Now, I think it’s time we did some more work on getting our message across to those plus-size retail chains again, don’t you?

One of the most effective ways I’ve had of communicating with a lot of businesses, not just plus-size retail chains, is through writing to them via email (and snail mail too).  Many businesses have KPI’s (key performance indicators) that set a time frame around responding to written customer contact.  For example, they may set an initial contact within 1 working day, and then a follow up, more detailed contact within 5 working days.  Particularly when they are complaints and there is something to be resolved.  They may also have a formula for changing their business practices on the strength of the number of requests they get on a certain issue.  For example, one business I used to work for believed that for every letter they got asking for a change in their business practices, there were a hundred other people who also wanted the same change, but didn’t write to them for whatever reason.  Then if they got 10 written contact items, they considered that a thousand people wanted something changed, then it was worth the time and effort to do so.

So, how to approach them?  I have been writing feedback letters since I was a teenager, and I’ve learnt the hard way what not to do!  I’m not going to share how many times I’ve either pissed the business off or made an idiot of myself… it’s too embarrassing!

What I have learnt are the following rules.

  1. Be polite.  Ranting, swearing, calling them names and being nasty is not going to get you anywhere.
  2. Be clear.  Tell them exactly what it is you you are not happy with.  It’s no use saying you’re not happy and that you’re upset and so on without stating very clearly why.
  3. Be respectful.  Remember that it’s somebody’s job to deal with your complaints, and if you’re going to treat them like dirt, they’re not going to be interested in helping you.
  4. Give clear examples.  If it’s a product you are finding fault with, tell them the exact product.  If it is service, tell them as much as you know about the person who gave you bad service.  Go back to Rules 1 and 3, don’t call the person names, or swear about them.  If you know their name, say so.  If not, give the time and date it happened, the name of the store or branch, and respectful detail.  Do not say “that dumb blonde”, say “the staff member I spoke to was a blonde woman, wearing a green top.”
  5. Don’t be greedy.  Ask them to repair or replace an item, or refund your money, but demanding extra free stuff is rude and greedy.
  6. Tell them you will come back to them if they improve the issue you are complaining about.  Why would they bother helping someone they think they’ve totally lost as a customer?
  7. Mention word-of-mouth if you have talked to someone about their product/service.  Word-of-mouth is very, very important to businesses.
  8. Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but please, make it at least make sense.  Use a spell check function if you have to.  Ask someone else to read it if you’re feeling a bit unsure.
  9. Very important rule this one…. Praise them… and do it with honesty. You don’t have to get all “You’re awesome and I love you!” just praise something about the store/staff/product you like.  Don’t make it up, if it’s not genuine, don’t worry about it.  For example, you might say “I have always found your staff friendly and helpful, but I am really disappointed with the products you are currently offering.”
  10. At the end of your email/letter, thank them for their time, and say “I look forward to hearing from you soon on this matter.”
  11. Give proper contact details so that they can respond to you.  You wouldn’t believe the number of complaints that have to go unanswered because the sender hasn’t given their contact details clearly.

There you have it.  Basically, those are things that have got me through to a lot of businesses.  Not all of them really listen (Unilever, you suck!) but many of them do, and many will try to resolve the issue for you.

Now, how about I put one together as an example, and then if you want to use any bits of it, you are more than welcome to.

I’m going to focus on Target Australia with this one.  Mostly because I am really unhappy with how they shove their plus-size range down the back of the store like they are ashamed of their plus-sized customers!  Or are ashamed of the stock.  Either way, we deserve better than that.  So let’s see…

Dear Target Australia,

I am writing to you today to tell you how disappointed I am with the way your plus-size clothing range is laid out in your stores.  I am a frequent customer of the Myer Centre Target store, and I have noticed over the years that I have been shopping in your store that the plus-size clothing section has been worked further and further back in your store, to the point that it is now in the far back corner next to the fire exit, fitting room and employee access.  When I am in the suburbs, which is fairly frequently due to my work, I usually pop into the Target store for a look around, and I noticed that pushing the plus-size clothing to a back corner of the store seems to be the norm for all of your stores.

This makes me feel that you do not want either me, or the product you expect me to purchase, to be seen by anyone else in your store.  It means that when I once would have felt welcome and comfortable shopping in your store, I now feel like I am only catered for because you feel you have to, and that you don’t care what I, as a plus-sized woman who enjoys shopping for clothing, needs or feels when it comes to shopping in your store.

I understand the need to work the layout to fit things in to maximise your customer’s spending, but does this have to be done at the expense of one group of customers?  Could you not perhaps put shoes, or general accessories in this space, where everyone equally is affected, not just your plus-sized customers?

At the front of your stores, there is a statement that reads:

Every Australian has the right to look good and feel good about the way they dress and live.  At Target, we aim to make this achievable with stylish, fashionable clothing and homewares accessible to everyone.

Recently I wrote to you about the lack of plus-size options in your stores these days, and I feel the way that the plus-sized clothing is pushed to the back of the store in an unattractive location, and not displayed with the same styling and finesse as the straight sized clothing contradicts your statement that is clear for all to read as they enter your store.  Add to this the news that you are considering offering your Hot Options range to only a size 22, it makes me feel that as a Size 22 to 26 woman, you are not very interested in my custom in your stores.

I was actually shown the statement above by a friend of mine who I had mentioned the location of plus-size clothing to, when he snapped a picture of the sign in front of your store and sent it to me to ask if I had seen it.

I want to continue to shop at Target, your prices are very good, the service consistently polite and friendly, and your stock is usually of a good quality.  Value for money is really important to me, but so is being valued as a customer, regardless of my size or shape.

I hope that you will consider my complaint, and think about the message that you are sending to the customers you are catering to with your plus-sized clothing lines.  As the average Australian woman is a size 14, it is not a small minority of customers, but a significant portion of the Australian population.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Fat Heffalump

Of course I won’t sign it Fat Heffalump when I send it to Target!

A friend really did send me that picture of the statement outside one of their stores, if you wish to see it for yourself, click here.

I’ve actually just sent this one to Target Australia now.  If you wish to contact them yourself, here is their contacts page.  The feedback form is easy to use and they do respond.

Please feel free to use this letter to base your own on, but don’t send it exactly as I’ve written it, because businesses do disregard copied letters.

If you wish to contact other plus-size retail chains (including department/variety stores), here are a few links for you:

Autograph Fashion

City Chic

My Size

Myer

David Jones

Big W

Kmart

The most important advice I can give you is to take the time and contact them.  Unless you do, they don’t know that you’re not happy with what they offer.  And unless we all do, they don’t know how many of us are unhappy with what they offer.

I am also working on a comprehensive plus-size consumer survey (not one that is loaded to answer direct questions, but gives broad feedback) and more campaigns to communicate to plus-size retail chains of the level of service and product we want.

Until then, please feel free to join the Facebook group and offer suggestions and ask questions that we can collectively answer.

And if you’ve had any success stories with contacting companies with complains, please share in the comments below!

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