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In running Hollaback! Boston, something has started to happen to me. I’ve always been assertive and outspoken and I’ve always supported the idea of holla’ing back. But I’ve always been more timid in Real Life and when it came down to actually saying something when harassed, I usually chickened out. But lately, something has started to shift in me. I find myself looking men in the eye and saying, “Don’t talk to me like that.” I tell them that their behavior is not okay. I find that I feel a sense of obligation, as a Site Director of an organization that encourages people to assert themselves and call out unacceptable behavior, to practice what I preach and to be a living, breathing example of someone that takes no bullshit and is trying to change the world.
And so last week, after the third time of being forced into a conversation that I didn’t want to have, I decided that enough was enough. First, I got really upset.
And then I realized that I could do something about it. So I looked up the company that ran the parking lot and I sent a letter to their HR department.
I would like to report a harassing interaction that I had with an attendant at your Landmark Center location. The gentleman was working on July 5th at 5:30 PM. He was in the booth closest to the street. He had an accent that suggested that English was not his first language and he indicated to me that he went to school in the area (even though I did not ask for any personal information about him). I pulled up to the booth and handed him my ticket and my credit card. He commented that he liked my hair and my car. I said thank you, even though I don’t generally appreciate comments on my appearance from men that I don’t know.
He then held onto my credit card in order to ask me personal questions. He asked me where I lived, if I went to school in the area, where I was from, and where I worked. He then told me I was very pretty. During this entire interaction, he held my credit card, preventing me from driving away to end the conversation. I avoided eye contact and gave one word answers, hoping he would return my card to me and stop asking intrusive questions.
I have to believe that had I been a male customer, he would not have asked personal questions about where I lived or commented on my appearance. If he wouldn’t have done it to a male customer, then it shouldn’t be appropriate for him to do to a female customer. The interaction was clearly a display of power on his part, both as a male and the person in the position to control when the interaction ended because he had my credit card. I felt intimidated, unsafe, and violated.
I wanted to bring this to the attention of your company. If he did it to me, chances are he is doing it to other female customers. I would appreciate a response from your company letting me know how you plan to handle the situation. If I do not receive one, I am prepared to write about the incident publicly, including the name of your company. I hope that you will not tolerate the harassment of your female customers by your employees.
Britni de la Cretaz
I’m happy to report that they followed up right away. Through a series of emails, they had me help them narrow down the employee in question. They didn’t placate me with an email saying they’d “take care of the matter” and brush it off. It was clear to me that they pursued the issue seriously. They followed up for several days until they were able to have all of the information they needed to figure out who had harassed me. And they let me know that they addressed it.
Less than a week after the incident, after having at least some kind of contact every day since I reported it, I received this email from them:
Hello Ms. de la Cretaz,
I’d like to follow up on this and provide an update. We were able to determine which employee interacted with you and he has been disciplined. We apologize for the inconvenience and discomfort that situation caused you and look forward to still have you as a valued customer.
Can I confirm that they disciplined the employee? No. Do I believe that they addressed it? Absolutely. Their actions and willingness to take my complaint seriously showed me that. Hopefully, at the very least, that man now knows that he can’t talk to women that way. And maybe I’ve saved another woman from having to feel as uncomfortable as I did.
And I’m happy to say that I can mention LAZ Parking in this post in a positive light instead of a negative one. They handled my complaint in a prompt manner and they took it seriously. I appreciate that.
Learning to hollaback and assert myself has been a process. I’m still learning. I’m getting more confident every day. And the more harassment I face, the more determined I become to not sit idly and silently by and take it any longer. In the future, I will continue to report people that harass me while they’re working to their employer. I have more power than I realize. I plan to use it.
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