Sunday, December 2, 2007

Court Session: What it Takes

What it Takes

Jorjanna and Jasmyne recently had an initially unpleasant experience while shopping on Veteran's Day weekend. Jasmyne, in particular, was after me to write something about it. I've waited until now so that I would have a complete perspective on things so I'll express my ideas about things here. This blog site was created for me to put the occasional op-ed piece since I don't think the ComputeSpace blog is the appropriate space to put political thought, raves or rants, and just real opinions in general.

My scientific training has led to me to attempt to keep distinct separations between what I know about a thing and what I think about it.

So, if knowing my opinions on certain subjects might poison the way you relate to me STOP READING NOW!! Return to the "broadcast family-friendly" material on the ComputeSpace blog. No harm, no foul.

If you want to explore opinions, critiques, and sometimes difficult ideas then the Court Sessions blog is to ComputeSpace as cable is to broadcast TV.

That being said, COURT IS IN SESSION:

On Veteran's Day weekend, Jorjanna and Jasmyne took my grand-daughter Erica with them shopping for shoes at Zappos shoes (which is a favorite of Jasmyne's). While there, Jorjanna overheard an employee conversation and realized she was under surveillance as a potential shoplifter.

She was very upset by this and her first response was to leave the store. Jasmyne stepped in and, even though insulted by the staff's behavior, felt it was best to complete her purchase and behave with civility. After leaving she both blogged about the experience and contacted the management of Zappos to make them aware of the situation and also that she intended to make the incident public.

Jasmyne was contacted by the President of Zappos who, along with his staff, made a good faith attempt at rectifying the situation which culminated in taking my daughters to dinner to discuss the issues and providing Jasmyne with some of the product for free.

I think that I've given a basic description of the events.

My interest is primarily, as a father, I don't like seeing my kids upset. Period. And I'm not crazy about my grand-daughter seeing her aunts so upset.

Jasmyne characterized the events in somewhat racial terms even though most of the principals involved were all African-American. I believe her implication was that this was a manifestation of Black self-loathing and that non-Blacks in the store might have been treated with less overt suspicion or rudeness.

I wasn't there but, for me, that's a pretty big inference to make on such minimal evidence.

No doubt the management at Zappos has a staff training problem. Having worked in retail myself, I didn't find surveiling anyone in the store particularly objectionable. But making it obvious to them and making your own customers uncomfortable is an unpardonable sin in the retail world.

By politicizing the event Jasmyne was able to generate a lot of heat and activity among the store management which will probably turn out to be a good thing for everyone involved. Staff will get better training, Jasmyne got new boots, and Jorjanna is probably going to join the company because she was so impressed with their response.

Like an incandescent bulb, sometimes our political protestations can generate far more heat than light. And sometimes that can be a good thing if it makes the right people uncomfortable enough to do the right thing.

I like putting more light than heat on a subject since usually my goal is to understand what happened long before it becomes about affecting a change.

When you strip this whole thing down to its core, Jorjanna was insulted by poorly trained employees. If they did harbor some self-loathing motivation, she was oblivious to it. No one wants to feel like they're being watched in a store. It upset her but that was the gist of it.

But Jorjanna would have absorbed the experience, probably stopped shopping at Zappos, and gone on with her life. It was Jasmyne's disciplined activism and bully pulpit on the Web that got the attention of management all the way to the top echelon on the company. Her very public characterization of the events created an environment where managerial inaction became intolerable. I have to thank her for that.

Things would not have worked out as well had Jorjanna simply left the store never to return.

So what I note is that Jasmyne seems to have a quality (one that I lack) that I can see she got honestly from both her grand-fathers. She's not a bully, but she's not afraid to be a bully and, often, that makes all the difference out in the world.


Bob said...


Hate to say it, but I did not get much of your opinion other than there was a difference in attitudes of your daughters, with Jasmyne being very assertive. or as Oprah would say she was 'empowered' to act in her own interests.

Nothing that you said was politically (nearly) incorrect which is what your lead up gave me to expect. Rather it was a rather clinical examination of your emotions and Jasmynes actions. Anyway, it was a nice safe start and I hope to hear some real rants in the future.


HACKER said...

hey!!! what can I say?! you know me, and now i like our sis (your daughter even more) we should never take this kind of crap from anyone period.

Regardless of how we look, we are same human beings and our benjamin's are worth the same as everybody else.

Great for all of us minorities, and now just chill and have a nice end of the year season.

Greetings from the hacker gansta :)

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If you're looking for the Court Cannick who's architecting ComputeSpace for education or the Court Cannick who built NetworkMathematics for systems management or the Court Cannick who engineered the storage systems for SETI@Home or the Court Cannick who produced Physical Science Journal for Storer Cable or the Court Cannick who lectured on Space Colonization at CMSI, then you probably have found the right Court Cannick.  Otherwise, keep looking...