Does Target Hate Fat and Handicapped People?

Target Store

Does Target have a problem with fat people? I never noticed a problem with that before, but then, I don’t look at everything in the store. When my wife came home from shopping at a Target store, angry enough to write a feedback letter to Target, I began to rethink that possibility. My wife said that the way the store was set up made her feel horrible, worse than she had ever felt in her life during a shopping experience.

Naturally I wanted to find out what happened. Here’s the story, with pictures.

If you’ve ever looked at pictures of me, or know me in person, you know I am a big guy. I shop in the plus-size departments of clothing stores, and my wife does as well. She came home from shopping at Target for clothing, very upset, and told me that their displays were set up in ways that made it hard for overweight people to shop. I decided to look into it myself, and if it looked as she described, to write about it.

Guess what? It was just like she said, and it maybe even worse than she said – possibly a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

My wife’s observation was that the display racks in the plus-size area were packed in tightly enough that overweight people, the very customers that department exists to serve, will have a hard time shopping in it. Her additional observation was that the displays for thin women were much roomier, giving the impression that Target stores are set up to make it easy for thin people to shop, and hard for overweight or obese people to do the same. Armed with my cell phone camera and a tape measure I investigated.

I walked in and it took me a minute to find the plus-size women’s department. Here’s what the aisle looked like:

Plus Size Row

Plus Size Row

And here is a close-up with me measuring the gap between garments.

 

Plus Size Measure

Plus Size Measure

Note that there is only a gap of 24 inches between the garments on the left and those on the right. Also note that you can see the XXL size tag – this is plainly the area for plus-sized women. Now, compare that to the view of the bikini aisle, only about 50 feet away, in the same store. The gap was so large between garments that I had to enlist the aid of two passing women, one to hold an end of the tape measure, and the other to stand back and snap the picture.

Bikini Row

Bikini Row

See how spacious that is? And this is for the skinny women. Take a look at those tiny bathing suits. This is absolutely not part of the plus-size area. Here’s a close-up of the end of the tape measure to show you just how much wider the gap is between racks of clothing for skinny women.

Bikini Measure

Bikini Measure

That’s 54 inches across (four feet, six inches) – a full 30 inches wider than the gap from the plus-size women’s area. You could literally fit more than two of the plus-size area gaps into this one, with room to spare.

Now, if you’re a skinny woman you probably never noticed this during your own shopping trips. Try, though, to imagine your horror if you were a bigger woman and had to walk past that area, which as you can see from the pictures is right at the store entrance, and see how spacious and comfortable shopping is for skinny women. Then, 50 feet further down the row, you find that cramped shopping area where clothing that fits you may (or may not) be found.

I can’t imagine the anguish and shame such a situation could create for women, who are socialized to believe that their worth resides in the size of their bodies.

What’s even more surprising about it, though, is that stick-thin women are not the norm in this country. One would think that from a business perspective that catering to the needs of bigger people would be a very profitable way to run a store since the average size of Americans is trending upward. Setting up the displays so that thin women can shop comfortably while overweight people cannot fit between the display racks is not just insulting and cruel – it’s bad business.

I spoke with a store employee who I will not name. I asked what steps Target takes to make the shopping experience “handicapped accessible.” I was told that the displays are set up so that not only can people reach the goods easily, but that two people can pass side-by-side in each row.

As a practical matter I guess the employee should have added two caveats:

  1. Unless you’re fat
  2. Unless you’re handicapped

See, on top of all that unpleasantness suffered by overweight female shoppers, the store also fails to live up to what I was told are its handicapped accessibility “features.” Here’s a picture of me measuring one of the motorized carts used by those with mobility issues:

Cart Measure Overview

Cart Measure Overview

That’s a side-to-side measure of a cart from one bumper wheel to the other on the opposite side. Here is the close-up so you can read the numbers on the tape measure more clearly.

Cart Measure Closeup

Cart Measure Closeup

The carts are 30 inches across. That means a person using such a cart cannot fit between the racks in the plus-size area at all. It also means (surprisingly) that even the wide gap between racks in that bikini area will not permit two such carts from passing each other side-by-side.

I am not an expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it seems to me that someone should look into that. If the employee was right that Target mandates all aisles should be able to fit two customers passing each other in opposite directions then neither of those displays meets that standard. If that is not Target’s official stance why are employees saying that it is? Why is it that the displays for the plus-size area are not even spaced appropriately to let a single motorized cart pass through them?

It seems to me that Target needs to address these issues – both the insult to women who are not runway-model thin, and the challenges posed to handicapped shoppers who might need Target’s own motorized carts – right away.

Post your thoughts on this in the comments below – and if you have pictures of similar problems at Target stores near you, e-mail me the pictures, along with the store location and your story, to andrew@andrewriggio.com (or just click the little white e-mail icon at the top-right of this page underneath where it says “Follow Me.” And if you think making shopping unpleasant or difficult for plus-sized women or handicapped people is a big problem, click the share icons and spread the word.

Image Credit:
Photo of Target Storefront via Fickr.

The rest of the photos were taken by Andrew Riggio.

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38 Responses to “Does Target Hate Fat and Handicapped People?”

  1. carri says:

    This isn’t just Target. It’s everywhere ! There are countless stores my mother can’t navigate because isles are too small, narrow or overcrowded with product. She it’s overweitht and in a wheelchair. There were no clothes that fit her either. Or my father who is more mobile. And here I thought this was an overweight country.

    • Andrew says:

      Carri,

      thanks for taking the time to write.

      You are absolutely correct that many, many stores are not very accommodating to overweight people. Additionally, despite there being laws requiring it, many are less-than-accessible to those with handicaps. Finally, you are right that the country’s population has increasing numbers of overweight people, making it incomprehensible that businesses do not make a point of wooing that demographic. After all, people of all sizes need clothing, and the plus-size demographic has a great deal of money to spend. Intelligent business management should be eager to entice us to shop in their stores, not place barriers between themselves and our shopping dollars.

  2. Unpleasant Bonehead says:

    Andrew,

    Just so we are clear…I don’t know JM! :-)

    Your Obedient Servant

    Unpleasant Bonehead

    • Andrew says:

      I wouldn’t hold it against you if you did. :)

      I have to admit I am more than a little surprised by the fact that he tries to negate the article with arguments like “I haven’t read it” and “I don’t like the picture angles.” It’s kind of bizarre.

  3. Jm says:

    I would take your article a little more serious if your pictures were all taken showing the justification of the rack spacing if you took all of the pictures from the same view point put in plus your taking the picture from the horizontal row and from swim your taking if from a vertical row. Vertical rows will have more space in them because you are only spacing four racks in to the row. Horizontally your fitting 25 rows on to a floor pad.

    As to Jen target is not a clothing department store. It’s not a big and tall and it’s not a specialty store for petite. Until it is a department store and more than 13% of sales come out of Softlines I doubt it will ever happen. It’s all about demographics and what will sell

    • Andrew says:

      Jm,

      You’re free to hold some strange belief that I took the time to visit a Target store and make this whole thing up – but that would be tin-foil-hatting on your part. You seem ready to believe I somehow did not see what I saw, made up false reports, and that my photographic evidence is somehow useless because you do not like the angles from which the pictures were taken.

      This isn’t an episode of the X-Files. There’s no conspiracy here to discredit Target. My wife experienced something negative, I went to the store to check it out, took some measurements and pictures, and posted it online. That’s it.

      The types of racks and floor pads are irrelevant. Either a row is wide enough to shop in, particularly for the intended customer for that product line, or it isn’t. Either a row is wide enough to fit the store’s own handicapped carts, or it isn’t. This is not rocket science, Jm, and the article is not the result of some vast conspiracy.

      And actually, it IS a clothing store – it sells clothes. It is also a sporting goods store, an electronics store, and more – but the fact that it sells clothes is all that is necessary to categorize it as a clothing store. Likewise, the fact that it has a plus-size section means it is also a plus-size clothing store.

      As to demographics and what will sell, as I pointed out in the main article, the United States has a significant population that falls into the plus-size category, and the people in that demographic buy clothes and spend money to do it. It’s bad business to ignore that point.

      You can be an apologist for Target all you want, but they let their customers down, failed to live up to their own criteria for store layout as expressed by an employee, and (at least in that section) failed to make the products handicapped-accessible.

  4. Samantha says:

    JM,

    The photographs in this article are right-side-up, so my first question to you is in which direction of rotation would help you understand what is being shown in the pictures? You state it takes too much time to look at the pictures, could that be because most of them have measurements in them? You also state the article is an opinion piece, and though I do agree that the author does share much of his opinion… the tape measure cannot share an opinion, only measure lengths. You further question the author’s authority based on the assumption that he has only visited one Target store. You wrote there were 1300 stores, so you’ve been to all 1300 stores and can verify that not one of them has a Plus Size sign hanging above that section of clothing? You don’t want overweight people to insist that society (and Target) should change to change for us… well, society changed and women can vote… society changed and it’s illegal to discriminate based on religion and race as well. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but people come in ALL shapes and sizes. Wait until the petite people, or talls, or large men decide they deserve their own section as well.. you’ll REALLY get your knickers twisted then :)

  5. Jm says:

    I work for target I know what I’m talking about, your not good at arguing and you get fusterated by others opinions. Your entire article is based on your own opinion and not fact. An opinion from one store visit is not the entire company of 1300 stores. Good luck with your article and blogs you won’t get far

    • Andrew says:

      Jm,

      for starters, it’s “you’re”, not “your”. It’s also “frustrated”, not “fusterated”. While I am actually very good at arguing, but that is not what I am doing here. I am having a discussion. You appear to be the one trying to argue. Perhaps that’s why you have a hard time following the flow of the conversation here – I am not arguing back at you.

      My article is full to brimming with facts. It has photographic evidence of the truth of my claims. The discrepancy in floor layout between departments is not subject to debate, nor is it opinion. It’s fact, backed up by evidence. My observation of signs over the different departments is likewise not an opinion – it is a report of what I saw. The inability of the store’s handicapped carts to navigate that department is also a fact backed by evidence.

      Perhaps you are not clear on what the words fact and opinion mean.

  6. Jm says:

    Maybe you should be regular shopper as well, if you want to make these arguments. The overhead signing reads “women’s” there is no overhead signing that says “plus size.” women fit under every category of the ready to wear section, so it doesn’t matter where the clothing actually goes. I go to stores everyday and not one store has overhead signing saying plus size. The only thing that has plus size as labeled is the back wall where plus size is located along with the racks that have plus size clothes on it. If you look at every other rack in the stores they all don’t have individual signing on them.

    • Andrew says:

      Maybe, on the other hand, YOU should stop assuming you know where I shop. And yes, this store did have a sign over those racks indicating it was the plus-size section. I saw it with my own eyes. You really might be better off if you put your assumptions aside and acted as if I know what I am talking about.

  7. Jm says:

    Takes too much to even look at your pictures that you didn’t have time to rotate the pictures in your blog. Looks like one complaint after another for the overweight and obese. Stop letting it be an epidemic and making the rest of society change for you! You have no clue how a retail store works then. Obviously

    • Andrew says:

      Jm,

      if you did not even take the time to fully read the article and examine the pictures it seems inappropriate for you to voice opinions on the content of it. Also, you would be mistaken about what businesses I do, or do not, understand the operation of. Finally, it is quite off-base for you to start trying to shift the blame for the failings of a retail establishment onto the shoulders of the customers who have been wronged.

      I’m curious to know: Exactly what do you feel is acceptable about a store having consistent and relatively accessible floor plans everywhere except the departments where the customers most need that accessibility?

  8. Jm says:

    And a reason there is more room between swim wear racks is because there are arm bars attached to the rack that fall very easily when hit by a cart which adds an additional work load to clean up

  9. Jm says:

    Andrew you do not have your facts even close to being right! Target has a floor plan for every single store depending on the amount of sales they do. From that you get your basic floor plan and clothing gets a monthly adjanceys from HQ and that’s what stores do. As far as spacing for racks there are no such guidelines for how far we are to space the racks usually you leave enough room for a cart to go threw each lane. You would be mad as well if target did leave wider aisles in plus sizes as well, because then were calling out that there is a need for more room because of being plus size. Stores have nothing to do about the amount of clothing they receive the placement of the racks or the fact that overhead signing may not match. That all goes threw HQ and stores can voice their opinions but yet takes months for results to happen. This article is all from opinion and you have no idea what happens in stores. We also have team leaders, not assistant managers so your facts are completely wrong, anyone can say there someone you probably made that person up. Maybe you should call guest relations and learn a few things about the company.

    • Andrew says:

      Jm, thanks for writing. I am not sure how you can think my facts are off. I took measurements and posted them with photographic evidence. I’d say the facts are pretty clear. If the floorplans come from HQ that would only mean that the mistreatment of the plus-size crowd is an institution-wide problem rather than an error specific to a particular store. You also have no basis for your assumptions about what would, or would not, make me angry. I assure you that having a pleasant and comfortable shopping experience would only leave me with a positive impression of the store. Also, plus-size folks are not asking for aisles wider than those in other parts of the store – aisle spacing like that plainly visible in the bikini section would be fair to all shoppers.

      As to not matching overhead sign placement – two things. First, that is another failure on the part of the store, if it in fact does happen. I have never seen clothing for sale under the automotive sign, for example. Second, the sign above that section said “Plus-size” and the clothing was plus-size. There was no mismatch between signs and product there.

      I saw no evidence of special racks in the bikini section, but even if there were, the measurements I took showed the total distance between racks, no matter what extensions they may or may not have had. Also, had you read the article you would know that attempts to contact the company were, in fact, made – and that my wife was treated as a nuisance and given perfunctory answers rather than being treated as someone whose concerns needed to be heard and addressed.

      Your attempts at explaining this bad behavior on the part of Target away are not very compelling.

  10. BullseyeBoss says:

    Yes, as a Target Assistant Manager I would like to just confirm your suspicions that Target wishes that obese people would stop shopping here because if the sales volume for plus sizes falls, we can justify eliminating that line and replacing with something with a higher margin lake a larger sporting goods section with archery and guns. I have even heard managers go as far as to joke about how we’re gonna get THOSE PEOPLE out of our store.

    • Andrew says:

      Well, if that is the case, then shame on them. I am not sure how to respond to that, though if you are genuinely a Target managerial employee I can understand why you would want to conceal your identity when posting here.

  11. Unpleasant Bonehead says:

    My Devil’s advocacy continues

    If I understand your article and your reply, your investigation revels that the aisle is not in fact two carts wide?

    If it is not two carts wide, but the company policy is two carts wide than the local store is in violation and Target itself is not mistreating fat people, but if the local store is not following established procedure and again, I invoke Hanlon’s razor again. Was a deliberate snub of Fat people or the hourly kids who set up the racks just didn’t think to measure it?

    If it is in fact two carts wide and it is the possibility that the shopper is wider than the cart, at what point does the ample patron take personal responsibility? What width of person is the store required to respond to? Israel “Iz” Ka?ano?i Kamakawiwo?ole was 767 pounds and I doubt there are many wider people…do all stores have to have aisles wide enough for 2 of him? Or does the store set a two carts wide rule and if a shopper is wider than their cart THEY make a slight accommodation? I am overweight as well, but I do not believe the world has to accommodate me 100%. Restaurant booths seem to be where I run into trouble, so I will ask to be seated at a table with chairs if available, or I will squeeze in or just not eat there.(Heaven forbid I order a salad) My size is a direct result of my own life choices, how much of that should I inflict on others?

    Should there be a reasonable accommodation? Of course, but our difference may turn on what might be reasonable. How about 85% percentile? Thoughts?

    • Andrew says:

      Actually it does not “revel” in anything. I’m very upset by the whole matter. The fact that their shopping experience is so unpleasant for women is bad. The fact that the clothing area for overweight women is set up in such a way that they cannot shop in it is insulting and cruel. And again, it is not credible to call this an accident because the situation existed nowhere else in the store. It is solely a problem in one spot, the plus-size section, and the rest of the store adequately demonstrates that these employees are capable of meeting the standards for store layout consistently.

      And this is not about personal responsibility for weight. This is about the bad acts of a particular retailer that claims to offer shopping for plus-sized women, including garments in the 2x and 3x sizes, while making it so that the shoppers cannot reach them. They are choosing to offer items for sale to a particular demographic and then being cruel to that particular demographic.

  12. Unpleasant Bonehead says:

    Devils advocate:

    Hanlon’s razor states “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

    Is it possible that the people who set up the Aisle were not themselves plus size and therefore unaware of the needs of Bariatric Americans? All snark aside, one of my big dislikes of the LLPs is the automatic assumption that everything they disagree with is “hate” on the part of someone else. If they hated fate people, why wouldn’t they simply not carry plus size clothes Like Abercrombie does(n’t)

    • Andrew says:

      I thought of that, but after speaking with a store representative and learning that it is their corporate policy to make aisles at least wide enough for two shoppers with carts to pass each other in opposite directions, I would have to say no. It’s not just being unaware. It’s a violation of the company’s own stated policy on store floorplan layout.

      Also, in this case the word “hate” is a figure of speech. Target is a corporation, and therefore cannot actually have an emotional reaction to anyone for good or ill; it’s simply meant to be illustrative and pique the interest of the reader to see what is happening at Target stores that might suggest they mistreat overweight people.

  13. Jen says:

    I’ve been a pretty loyal Target customer for a while. I like their design sense, I like the variety of merchandise, and, a long time ago, I liked their plus size section. That last hasn’t been the case for many years. Recently, they discontinued the entire section, claiming that they were redesigning the line and it would be out in early February. First, I’ve never seen the entire Misses section (or any other clothing section!) completely discontinued because of a change in season. Second, it’s now late February, and still no clothes. I complained at my local Target, who suggested I contact corporate. That got me a canned form letter in response. I complained on their Facebook page. Finally, after seeing many posts on their Facebook page about the lack of plus size clothing and Target’s treatment of plus size women in general over the years, I decided to make a Facebook group as my way of fighting back: https://www.facebook.com/groups/211513082377824/

    I hope you’ll join, share your opinion, and share the group with other people who are sick of Target treating plus size women like second class citizens.

  14. Katy says:

    Sadly, you will find similar issues with all major stores. Sporting goods seem to be worse. Consideration is only given when attention is brought. Sometimes you might be told that the overall space is the same. That really is a nonarguement. Sometimes it is based on percentages. More customers pass through bikini row than plus sized rows. If shopping were more pleasureable, that might not be true. It has come a long way from the days of not carrying plus sizes or only having one or two racks. Kudos to you for bringing attention to this form of discrimination.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks Katy. It is really a sad commentary on how retail stores treat people that do not meet some artificial ideal of appearance.

  15. Jen says:

    Um… this is clearance vs. regular price merch. EVERY store I’ve seen from Target, to Wal-Mart, to Coldwater Creek smushes their clearance together to take up as little room as possible.

    • Andrew says:

      Jen – the problem is that this was not the clearance area. The clearance area is near the front of the store. This was the Plus Size Women’s area, right down to the big hanging sign over the displays. It included all their plus-size clothing, both clearance and regular, and showed a great disrespect for the customer.

      Even if it WERE just a clearance area, though, it would still be silly to display clearance items for plus-size women in a way that they cannot fit into – and it never makes sense to set up a display with such little space that a handicapped person cannot use it.

  16. Miriam says:

    Thanks for sharing, makes you wonder and that is horrible.

  17. K. C. in NH says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Interesting article. I stopped shopping at Target a long time ago because of the lack of plus sized clothing. There is seriously nothing in there. It seems to go right from skinny women to maternity with one or two racks of plus size in between. There are no workout clothes for larger women (apparently they don’t think we workout either). While much of the plus sized clothing at Walmart is hideous at least there is an entire section for it that is about the same size as the other sections.

    • Andrew says:

      It’s really a shame. Since most of the world is not size 0 it would seem to make sense to provide decent clothing for people of all sizes.

  18. Cobaltrose says:

    The article was interesting. I love Target because it has been the only place I could go to get clothes that actually fit me without paying Tommy Hilfiger prices. Most places with reasonable prices only carry children’s sizes with child-like designs and colors, or size 4 and nothing in between. After losing a lot of weight due to health issues, I need something in the 0-3 range most of the time, preferably with a more adult look than most stores carry in that size range. I have noticed that some aisles were less roomy than one might like, even if you’re skinny, but most areas weren’t as bad as that particular store that you visited.

    Most stores in general are hard to navigate on crutches/in wheelchairs (Walmart is no exception when you need the scooters), and I had to stop using the restroom in the Target in Conroe because of the perfume sprayer that ruined an allergy mask and made a mess of my clothes, requiring over half a dozen washes to get them back into reasonable shape (not clean, but improved enough so it wasn’t causing full blown migraines and asthma attacks). Air fresheners in bathroom areas are also something that is pretty common in grocery stores, creating a barrier to access if you have to drive a long distance and can’t make it back home without using the facilities somewhere. You end up having to choose between being dehydrated and prone to internal infections, having breathing problems, neurological problems, and increased sensitivity where future exposures are concerned, or just not going anywhere. Then there’s the fact that many clothing items and foods carried by these places aren’t allergy or sensitivity friendly (ever try looking for natural fiber clothing instead of acrylic, acetate, and pine based or heavy on the chemical irritants varieties of polyester?), and you can’t just count on requesting something and getting it. If they don’t already do it, they probably won’t. Even if you’re just requesting healthy, allergy and sensitivity friendly food items instead of a store full of junk food with limited fruit and vegetable choices. Some places are better than others. There are all kinds of ways society in general fails to make things equally accessible to those with disabilities. That one (cramped aisles at Target) should be relatively easy to change. Good luck with that!

  19. Chris says:

    Have they responded?

    • Andrew says:

      Chris,

      Not as of the time I write this. My wife went to their web site and used their utility for customer feedback, but has received no reply (nor even an acknowledgement that her message was received.)

  20. Anthony Hart says:

    Great article. Very interesting, I hate it when so called big and respectible business’s. Turn out to be bad news.

    • Andrew says:

      Anthony,

      Thanks for commenting. I was sort of stunned by what I found when I visited the store, too. It is hard to imagine a major retailer, which one would presume has the process of selling to the mass market literally down to a science, setting up their stores in this fashion.

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