Don’t Fitch the Homeless

I’ve never bought a piece of Abercrombie and Fitch clothing in my life, so to say I’m not going to in the future wasn’t a big loss for me. I’m with everyone else who was disgusted with CEO Mike Jeffries’ recent statement about their painfully shallow approach to marketing:

“Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people,” he said. “We don’t market to anyone other than that.” And so on and so forth we only sell small sizes and hire models etc.

The reaction has been, unsurprisingly, not so positive for good old Jeffries. One man, in an attempt to damage Abercrombie’s reputation as much as possible, decided he would take them on with a YouTube stunt called “Abercrombie and Fitch get an attitude readjustment #Fitchthehomeless.” Having read all the “You GO GREG!” responses on the net, I checked it out. It was a video of a guy sticking it to Jeffries by giving Abercrombie & Fitch clothing away to homeless people.

I felt immediately uneasy.

These aren’t props, they are people

One of my first experiences working with the homeless was at Loyola Marymount University, volunteering at a soup kitchen in Venice called Bread and Roses. (I was shocked the first day to discover Martin Sheen, standing elbow deep in suds in the kitchen. He volunteered every Tuesday I was there, though you wouldn’t know it since he never advertised that fact.)

I loved talking to the men, women and children who were there. Many of them; most, really, weren’t up for chitchat, but those who wanted a conversation were a breath of fresh air from the silliness I was surrounded by at a private liberal arts college in Los Angeles. It’s a whole different world. It’s humbling.

Later on, at Davis, I learned of a student-run clinic called Mercer Clinic, which provided veterinary care for the homeless of Sacramento. Professors and local veterinarians donated their time alongside veterinary students to provide the dogs and cats with vaccinations and spay/neuter, free of charge. Without the rabies vaccine, the dogs could be confiscated. We provided the vaccine, but also required the sterilization.

People would walk for miles to come to the clinic, waiting patiently out in the cold and occasional rain, sometimes for hours. They were happy to volunteer their stories; women whose dogs protected them from assault on the streets, veterans whose small kittens were their best and only friends in life. “This one’s ^!@hole,” said a man with the salty humor you get used to pretty quickly. “And this one’s $@#%head.” The veterinarian that day laughed, gave the cats their vaccines, and watched as the man loaded them gently onto the pile of clothing that constituted his life’s possessions in his shopping cart.

mercer1

Real cool kids recognize the value in keeping this going.

I learned basic exam room skills. I learned preventive care. And I learned, by example, compassion. It was the first time I really understood how much of a lifeline a pet can be, and how important my responsibility is to protect that. Many people I met there were more conscientious, more careful with their pets, than some of the wealthiest people I’ve since met over the years.

It was there, with the people our society has cast out, that I learned what it means to respect another human’s dignity.

And this is why that video bothers me, the use of the homeless as a gag, berating a man for his attempt to devalue a group of people by doing the exact same thing to another group. “Ha, if he thinks his clothes on THOSE people are bad, wait till he gets a load of his clothes on THESE GUYS!”

#VetTheHomeless

Mercer Clinic helped me be a better veterinarian and a better human, as it has done for other Davis veterinary students for 20 years. It is now in danger of closing down, and they have one month to raise $40,000 to get a new facility lined up.

I’ve long ago given up on being a cool kid; those labels ceased to be interesting to me a long time ago. But I’m fine being thought of as a compassionate one. I ask anyone who was annoyed by Jeffries’ remarks to resist the urge to respond by throwing his clothing at homeless people on video, and instead show him how stupid and irrelevant he is by supporting something that might really make a difference.

Mercer Clinic has helped so many clients, pets, and future veterinarians. Now I’m off to BlogPaws and about to speak to people about what making a difference really means in life. I’d love for you to help me spread the word and help me #VetTheHomeless instead.

Filed: Be The Change, Blog, Musings Tagged: , ,
  • Arrooh

    My opinion is different. I think giving the clothes the homeless is cool. It is pointing out how stupid it is for the company to burn clothes and to point out that we are all cool.

    It is wonderful about he Veterinarians helping the homeless pets, and also is not exploiting them because they may not be able to afford regular Vet care.

  • Lynn

    I agree with you. That video left a bad taste in my mouth and now you have put it into words.

  • Amy

    Well, A&F wants to be with the “cool” kids. They certainly have the right to market to whatever portion of the population they desire to market. Since it limits them (because if I can’t get clothes for all of my family there, why would I make a special trip to A&F) it is, IMO, a very stupid idea. But I noticed this a long time ago and stop going in there. I voted with my feet and money. I understand where this guy’s head is – it is more of a we’ll show you that your coolness ain’t so, that you, A&F fail to understand that this is the USA and we don’t have a class structure per se. You A&F are just another guy in the market and the market rules.
    Since A&F doesn’t have fat clothes, I don’t know how else he could have smacked at A&F.

  • http://twitter.com/DogHQco DogHQ

    Thanks for writing about this!

  • Pup Fan

    Wonderful post, Dr. V. I agree 100%. The “Fitch the Homeless” response struck me the same way.