This Stinks….NOT Boys

11 Sep

***Update (9/13/12): I’m pleased to report that Nordstrom has removed the ‘Boys Stink’ sign from their Scottsdale store. Thank you to those of you who voiced your concerns, and thank you Nordstrom for listening! ***

Over the weekend I was passing through the Nordstrom Children’s Department, and I saw this:

After a brief chat with the salesperson, I decided to write this:

I was recently shopping in the children’s department at your Scottsdale, Arizona location, and I was surprised and upset to see a sign hanging in the girls’ section that read: Boys Stink. I asked the sales clerk if anyone had complained about it yet. She told me, “no,” and added that it was just meant to be cute. When I asked her if there was an equally negative sentiment about girls hanging in the boys’ section, she told me, “no.” She did share that she had overheard some young (male) shoppers complain to their parents that it wasn’t fair that a ‘Girls Stink’ sign wasn’t hanging on the boys’ side.

By no means am I writing to suggest that you make it “fair” by creating balanced slanderous signage. I am writing to point out that a sign that says “Boys Stink” is really not cute at all. It’s mean. And as a mother of two daughters, I’m just grateful that they are too young to read. As a retail store I realize you are not in the business of creating social change, but I do believe you are in the business of making customers feel good about themselves. Having a sign that tells half the population that they stink seems to me to be counterproductive.

I know some adults think that there is really no harm in pitting boys and girls against each other, but many of us see it in a different way. Many of us hope to see our kids (boys and girls) developing kind, caring relationships with one another. Many of us would like for our kids to grow-up without negative feelings about the other gender. Many of us would like for our kids to not be exposed to such antiquated gender attitudes, stereotypes and biases. But above all, I think most of us would like for our kids to be nice. Telling boys that they stink is not nice – any child over the age of 2 could tell you that.

I realize that some people may feel that I am overreacting, but I don’t think I’m off base expecting your company to treat all of your customers with respect. After all, Nordstrom is known for outstanding customer service. I’m quite certain your company would never authorize a sign reading ‘Women Suck’ to hang in the men’s department. So it seems logical for Nordstrom to use the same consideration for their youngest customers as well. Don’t you agree?


Hillary Manaster

Hillary L. Manaster M.Ed.
Sanford Harmony Program
School of Social and Family Dynamics
Arizona State University

And then I received this:

Hello Hillary,

Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback. Our customers’ opinions are very important to Nordstrom and greatly assist us with our continued efforts to provide the best merchandise and service to our customers.

I think you have made a very good point in showing how to set a good example for all our customers. Please know that I will share your experience and feedback, so that we learn and improve. If you need anything else, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Customer Service Specialist

I’d like to give Nordstrom the benefit of the doubt, and I’m hopeful that this concern is getting passed along the proper channels. I’ll be sure to post any updates, but in the meantime, if anyone else would like to contact customer service to let them know what you think about this sign, it would be good for them to hear from you.


32 Responses to “This Stinks….NOT Boys”

  1. Jolene September 12, 2012 at 2:37 am #

    Yay you – changing the world!

  2. Goodnews September 12, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Hi Hillary! Thank you for posting this letter and Nordstrom’s response. I wrote a letter to them immediately after reading this story.

    I was not nearly as nice as you were and told them that I wanted a letter back from them that took more responsibility for this ridiculous campaign, I wanted them to take the signs down in all stores AND I wanted them to post a public apology (posted in their stores and catalogs) stating that they should not have put signs up that were meant to be “cute”, but that in fact create the kind of divisions that we have fought against for decades now.

    I told them that unless and until they “fix” this, that I will be sending your post to all in my contact list, facebook friends and contacts on my twitter account.

    Thank you for giving an example of how to tactfully and respectfully fight for what you believe. I just couldn’t follow your example. I am still learning.

    P.S. Your organization seems wonderful!

    • Hillary Manaster September 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

      So good to hear from you J! Didn’t know if you wanted to keep your anonymity, but know that I love having you here!

      I really do hope they take the signs down soon – and an apology would be a nice bonus 😉 I’m glad you wrote to them too. Hopefully we’ll hear that they’ve taken some action soon.

  3. Melissa Wardy September 12, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Hillary –
    As the mom to a little boy who does not stink, literally or figuratively, thank you! As the mom to a little girl who thinks her male buddies are the bees knees, thank you! And as the business owner of a company dedicated to social change for our boys and girls, I applaud the way you articulated the struggle parent’s face raising boys and girls who care about and understand each other. So glad to consider you a colleague, and happy to call you a friend.

    • Hillary Manaster September 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

      Thanks Melissa! The feeling is mutual 🙂 And I’d like to add that *you *are an inspiration! Thank you for encouraging so many of us – me included – to speak-up and use our voices to affect positive change for our kiddos.

  4. APSpaulding September 12, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Nordstrom seems to be in the habit of offending it’s customers lately… have you seen this Nike t-shirt they are selling? It was supposed to be a tribute to the women who brought home gold from the olympics this year… I say, not so much… we emailed them and they didn’t seem to care or find it offensive…

    • Hillary Manaster September 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

      I can’t believe that shirt! That’s pretty outrageous. And I can’t believe they didn’t field your concern better. Seems like customer service could use some shaking up over there. Hopefully some changes will happen this week.

  5. Leah September 12, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Good for you for saying something! I’d like to see them say they will remove the signs.

    • Hillary Manaster September 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

      Thank you – and me too. I hope they let us know the signs are coming down.

  6. arievergreen September 12, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Just wrote them an email – thank you for the suggestion!

    • Hillary Manaster September 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

      Yay! Thanks for lending your voice 🙂

      • arievergreen September 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

        Someone called me this morning from Nordstrom’s. She said she had received my email and wanted to let me know that she’d personally taken the sign down. Whoo!

      • jpevs September 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

        You go girl!! 

        T-Mobile, America’s First Nationwide 4G Network

  7. Annie September 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    Looking forward to an update that they did in fact take down this sign. Great letter, thank you for doing this!

  8. Carolee September 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    Was having a bad day and that sign was the final straw. I have a little boy – he’s my sweet heart and the most awesome person I know. He’s only one year old. He does NOT stink. I cried and can’t image how horrible that would be to see in real life, with a boy who was old enough to read. What an amazing letter you wrote. I hope they offer a better appology, but I don’t think I could ever shop there again knowing that they thought it was “cute”.

    • Hillary Manaster September 12, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

      I hope you’re day has since turned around! I too wouldn’t mind a better apology – but I mostly would like to see them take action. Here’s hoping tomorrow is a better day!

      • Carolee September 12, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

        I didn’t email but did complain on their facebook page, hope you don’t mind me linking back to this blog. I’m just completely disgusted with them.

      • Hillary Manaster September 12, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

        I don’t mind you linking back at all. I’m glad you shared your perspective with them. Sent from my iPad

  9. John Martinez September 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    🙂 I start off with a smile because I am overjoyed to see a woman with two girls send this letter. We (men) need more women to support thier husbands, sons, brothers etc. to show that not all boys stink. I might be a little bias, but my little man is quiet the gentlemen and it’s not by accident. I feel it’s very important to teach the younger generation to respect the opposite gender, this includes opening the door for them, carrying heavy bags and speaking with a tender heart.

    I too find that sign to be offensive, and hope someday it will be removed.

    Continue changing the world one life at a time!! You rock!


    • Hillary Manaster September 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment John! I thought you’d be happy to know that the sign came down – and I believe they’ve been removed from all the stores 🙂

  10. Crystal Smith September 13, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    Great post. So glad you spoke up on behalf of boys. As you say, this habit of pitting one gender against the other is wrong, as is perpetuating the stereotype that boys are dirty and icky.

    • Hillary Manaster September 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

      Thanks Crystal! I’m so glad Nordstrom responded in such an appropriate way. The manager even said, “I saw them [the signs], but I didn’t really see them, you know?” She was grateful to have it brought to her attention and very apologetic.

      • Crystal Smith September 26, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

        Sorry for the slow reply. I’m so glad there was a positive outcome to this incident. It’s encouraging to hear a retailer take these concerns seriously.

  11. Ellie {Musing Momma} September 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    I love that Nordstrom was responsive to your concern instead of getting defensive about it! I imagine that the tone of your letter played a role in that – it was so well written, assertive but respectful. Awesome! Changing the world, one sign at a time. 🙂

    • Hillary Manaster September 24, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

      I should mention that not only did they remove the sign, but Nordstrom did a really nice job of responding to most everyone who contacted them.

  12. Janet Pevsner September 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Subject: Nordstrom signs
    Date: 9/13/2012 6:59:38 P.M. Central Daylight Time

    Dear Ms. Pevners,
    On behalf of Nordstrom Visual Merchandising and Store Planning I would like to apologize. We’re so sorry this sign offended you.
    We have one rule, and that’s to use good judgment. We didn’t do so when we posted those signs. We were attempting to be whimsical and kid-friendly, but we realize now that what we posted wasn’t that. The signs have been removed from your store and we’ve removed them from other stores as well.

    Toni forslund
    Director, Visual Merchandising

    • Hillary Manaster September 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      They really did the right thing on this one – turned things around quickly and took responsibly. What a nice example – yay!

  13. jpevs September 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    I was glad to have received that email.

  14. Gypsy Chaos September 13, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    Good catch! I’m not so sure that I would have had a negative reaction to the sign. Most boys do stink after they’ve been playing – it’s a good thing, and a normal thing. And that’s what my initial reaction was.

    But within seconds, I recalled how frequently “you stink!” is used as a taunt or a jab. My reaction instantly matched yours. Thank you for taking the time to write your message so clearly; I know doing something similar has taken me several hours in the past – so I truly appreciate your effort. The results are so positive!

    {I wandered over from Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies}

    • Hillary Manaster September 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

      I love when people wonder over from Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies 🙂

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