Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Don't shoot the messenger

Yesterday I posted about my experience at the grocery store where the manager ordered me out of the store on the basis that Provincial Law required shoes and shirts in grocery stores.  I was convinced that his statement was bogus so I went and did some searching to find out.  In particular I could see how some bizarre justification could be made for banning bare feet in a store that sells food but I can't fathom how a bare chest could be considered a legal issue.

I visited yesterday and got some information there on what the law actually says and contacted the person who runs the site to get more information.  The gentleman told me the story of when a similar thing happened to him and he ended up in a fight with the head office of a major grocery chain arguing his case.  They ended up telling him that even though there was no actual Regulation or Law requiring shoes that they could enforce any dress code they wanted, which is entirely true.  Since a lawyer working for a major company couldn't come up with an actual legal defence for their policy I am quite confident that there is none, although the fact that it is nearly impossible for a normal person to actually be sure is pretty ridiculous.

Today I went back to the store wearing shoes and found the guy I talked with yesterday.  I informed him that he was greatly in error and that no law existed to support his position.  I wasn't sure what to expect prior to this conversation since he could easily have denied it, gotten angry and thrown me out or any other number of different things that would have aroused my ire and started a good old fashioned showdown.  Instead he apologized profusely for his mistake and pointed out that regardless of the legal system's opinion his store put up a sign requiring shoes and is going to enforce it.  I asked him to justify that decision and he said that since he is managing a store in a gigantic chain that it simply isn't his decision to make and that he would not be going against corporate policy since it risked his job to do so.

The trouble is that he is exactly right.  Me arguing with him is totally pointless since he didn't make the rule and honestly seemed like he would rather ignore it if it was up to him.  I can't fault someone for putting their job above my right to go barefoot in their list of priorities.  I am caught in this position of wanting something very small that requires tremendous effort to acquire; if it was a single store and I could speak to the decision maker right away I expect I could get someplace but going through customer service of a giant corporation simply isn't feasible as there are many different stores and I might have to fight with every single one.

I think a lot of people in my position shoot the messenger.  They freak out at the stewardess when the airline screws up, they play horrible tricks on phone salespeople to sate their anger at the companies that arrange those calls and they yell at managers in big chains who do not tell them what they want to hear.  I don't think it makes the yeller feel better, I know it doesn't make the yellee feel better and it sure doesn't solve anything to attack the nearest proxy of an offending entity yet people do it all the time.  The real villain here is the public perception of being barefoot that is the root cause of all these rules and I can't forward that fight by getting tangled up with all kinds of legal messes and confrontations with uninterested, powerless employees.

I will probably end up taking shoes along with me to the stores I intend to visit just like I do to Elli's school.  Their rules are baseless and discriminatory but the cost of fighting them is simply too great so I will compromise my principles.  I think that this is a great example of why I love roleplaying and online fantasy worlds so much - I can be the sort of person who lives without compromise, doing what is right instead of what makes sense.

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