A few days before Christmas Day I was shopping at my local Rite Aid store in their Christmas aisle. There, hanging right about at eye level (I'm short) were Christmas undies, gift suggestions, both his and hers. The female pair stated "I'm single" and then expressed, in rhyme, an eagerness to fornicate. The male pair, boxer shorts, were covered with a reiterated question which means, approximately, "How are you doing?" but asks it in much cruder terms.
I let this information percolate for a few days and then, encouraged by a Facebook friend, decided to make a winsome appeal to the counter girl on Christmas Eve, when I happened to be back in the store. Making it clear that I wasn't blaming her in the least and that I hated to make any complaint on Christmas Eve, I mentioned the offensive merchandise. She was very sympathetic to my point of view but said, frankly, "You'll have to call corporate." She explained that the local store is obligated to sell whatever "corporate" sends them and that "corporate" even sends spotters to make sure they aren't hiding the merchandise.
So I took a few days off from culture warring and then, on the 27th, called corporate. To their credit, within five minutes of having explained the situation to a customer service agent on the phone, I received the following e-mail from someone in middle management:
Dear Lydia Mcgrew- Thank you for your comment and concern. I have brought this to the attention of our corporate office for future buying purposes. We appreciate all our customers input and take that in to consideration when determining products that we carry. We try to satisfy all customers. I have relocated this merchandise in this store so it is not deemed offensive. I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you in your shopping experience. As you requested email contact, if you would like to speak to me directly,please let me know or contact me at the office listed below.
I hate to break it to him, but he probably can't satisfy all customers. On the other hand, the skanky undies didn't exactly seem to be selling quickly. The store's stock of Christmas chocolate oranges were gone by the 21st while the underwear were around a lot longer. One has to wonder, who would buy these, and to whom would one give them? Especially the women's? One single woman to another, "Here, I thought you'd like these slut underwear. Aren't they hilarious?"
I went by today. The women's pair was gone, but the men's pair was still there, only very slightly relocated to a point further down in the same aisle with the other leftover Christmas merchandise. I asked a sort-of-manager if they'd heard from corporate. She said she hadn't but that she wasn't really the manager, that the manager wasn't in yet, and that perhaps she had.
Well, we can hope that they don't get them in again next year.
This incident seems to me to embody both some good and more bad about corporatism in America. On the one hand, one appreciates the prompt response. One can also hope that customer complaints will have an effect, if not enough to get the merchandise hidden and sent back promptly this year, to prevent its supply next year. On the other hand, there is the casual crudity that even tries to sell such trash in the first place. And then there is the lack of local control: In essence, you can't simply work with the local manager and get the junk taken away if the local manager is willing.
I fully realize that this is pretty minor compared to the more hard-core stuff that is put in the faces of Americans and their children every day. I don't have television channels, so I avoid much of it. But I'm thinking now that I should take aim at the issues of Cosmopolitan with their positively pornographic headlines staring everybody in the face at the checkout aisle of the local grocery store. That will be a little more sensitive, because I have an even longer-standing and more positive relationship with the manager of the local grocery store. I do intend to make it clear to all and sundry that I mean no criticism of the locals. In fact, I know exactly what I should do when it comes to asking that Cosmo be taken down or covered up: