CHICAGO – High end clothing salesperson Elizabeth Garner is complaining unfair treatment by her employer, Modern Apparel, based on her preferred choice of holiday greeting for customers coming into the store. According to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Garner on Wednesday, her manager at the chic, downtown outlet instructed all salespeople to use a non-specific holiday greeting for customers coming into the store, with end-of-year bonuses being reduced or even witheld for employees who do not comply.
“I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” said Garner on Thursday. “I grew up saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and I just got used to it. I’ve been at this store for 4 years and no one has said anything before. I don’t think our customers really care one way or the other, and I’d just prefer to speak naturally with them. There’s nothing wrong with ‘Happy Holidays,’ but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ‘Merry Christmas,’ either. And ‘Merry Christmas’ is just natural for. I think it is for a lot of other people, too.”
The legal representative for Modern Apparel, Charles LeGrange, says that the store merely wants to appeal to as many customers as possible. “We are a boutique shop that makes only a few, high-value sales per day. The loss of a single sale can have a real effect on our sales figures. Our employees work on commission, so it is in their best interest, as well as the shop’s, to avoid the possibility of offending a potential customer.” Mr. LeGrange had no comment when asked about the threat to reduce or withold year-end bonuses.
“The year-end bonuses are based on our performance during the busy time between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” explained Garner, “and every sale we make above a certain amount we get an additional percentage, which can actually be quite a bit of money on a strong year. I usually do well this time of year and have come to rely on the bonus to make up for lower income earlier in the year as well as to cover holiday expenses, like presents for my kids.”
“I do understand where the store is coming from,” Garner continued, “our clientele expects great service and we give it to them. Sometimes we spend half a day helping a guest who might only buy a single item. What I think [management has] forgotten is that being a successful salesperson means establishing a good relationship with your client, and that means being yourself. And, for me, being yourself means saying ‘Merry Christmas.’”
Modern Apparel informed their sales team of the new policy on Thanksgiving weekend to the protests of a few employees, including Garner. Despite being otherwise happy with her job, Garner says they are asking too much by being so specific about how she interacts with her clients. According to Garner, filing the suit is mostly about protecting her income, but it is also about protesting what she feels is an encroachment on her ability to express herself honestly.