Although American culture has tried to avoid playing favorites with attractive people,a recent study has found that it has not been trying as hard as many have thought.
Pamela Regan,psychology professor at California State University – Los Angeles,conducted an experiment last year to test whether the way a person dresses affects how quickly he or she is approached by an employee in some stores.
Regan enlisted the help of a female undergraduate student to perform the experiment,gave her a stopwatch,and told her to enter 10 stores on two different days: one day wearing tights,an over-sized t-shirt and gym shoes,without any make-up on,and the other day wearing a skirt,blouse,dress shoes and make-up.
When the woman was dressed informally,Regan found it took an average of 73 seconds for a clerk to approach her,and only 51 seconds when she was dressed formally.
Regan's conclusion: “The physical attractiveness stereotype is alive and well in the field of customer service.”
And some customer service workers said they agree with the findings.
Jason Elder,American Eagle Outfitters manager in Boston,Mass.,said he has witnessed discrimination based on dress in several retail shops,and sometimes,in other American Eagle stores.
“People do discriminate,yes,” he said. “It seems to depend on the management staff,in my experience. But it does happen in American Eagle – in certain stores,it happens.”
Other retail employees said workers who have just begun a job often make false assumptions about how much money a customer has because of his or her appearance.
“You might make those kind of assumptions at first,but once you've had retail experience,you see that that's not really important,whether they have money or not,” said Jamie Jackson,assistant manager of Wet Seal,in Little Rock,Ark.
But many shoppers said hasty assumptions are made all too often.
“You get waited on a lot faster (if you're dressed up),” said Tiana Hawkins,of Clinton,Md. “You look like you have money – you look like you're coming from work and you have money.”
Teri Stewart of Arlington,Va.,said she is bothered by the way she is treated when she dresses in informal clothes.
“Whether it happens or not (for sure),I always feel that sales people are sizing me up (based on what I'm wearing),” she said. “If I'm dressed up,looking nice by myself,I get waited on quickly. Otherwise,I don't.”
And this is the lesson Regan said she is trying to convey.
“Appearance is a very important social cue,and we need to recognize this,” she said. “Morally,I don't know…but we are all being evaluated and it's important to know that and use it accordingly.”