Friday, November 13, 2009

Simple Rebuttals to the Shoe Police's Complaints

After getting stopped at Target recently for going barefooted, I thought of a few points I could have made to the manager in rebuttal to his reasoning for why I should be shod.

I thought it might be helpful to new and seasoned barefooters to have a "quick list" of points to make if the standard complaints are brought up while out and about in public. Each should be prefaced by something respectful and understanding along the lines of, "I appreciate your concern, but..."

Excuse: "It's a safety issue."
  • Accidents happen and I realize that I take on risk when going barefooted into your establishment. If I were to injure myself and sue, no judge would find you liable.
  • Customers usually go barefooted when browsing for shoes or trying on clothing. So they are also a safety risk and should not be allowed to do that?
  • I have no greater risk of slipping and falling on a wet floor than many people who wear shoes or flip flops with smooth soles.
  • If a tiny sharp object even remained on the floor after a cleanup, and if I didn't spot it and avoid it, it is highly unlikely that I'd be injured. Such an object would be so small that it would do no damage.
  • If you are concerned about sharps left on your floors that would be big enough to injure me, you should train your employees better.
  • What about the safety of your floors if a service animal enters? They can also fall on a wet floor or step on a sharp. According to ADA (in the U.S.), you are not legally permitted to request that they wear booties, so you are essentially giving me less consideration than some animals.
  • My bare hands are at just as much or more risk of injury as my feet. I could hurt my hands on a broken corner of a display, cracked glass item, or something else. Should I also be required to wear gloves?
Excuse: "It's a health issue." OR "It's against health code."
  • There are no health codes or laws that require that I wear shoes as a customer.
  • I won't put my feet up on the table or displays just like I wouldn't put my shoes up there.
  • My feet are cleaner than most people's shoes. I clean my feet at least daily. How often do you clean the soles of your shoes?
  • I am not going to pick up diseases off of the floor through my feet.
  • I'm more likely to get someone sick by coughing on them than through my feet.
  • I'm more likely to get sick by someone coughing near me than through the floor.
Excuse: "The other customers don't want to see your bare feet."
  • How would my feet be less offensive wearing sandals or flip flops?
  • Then you need to ban all sandals, open-toed shoes and flip flops from your establishment.
Excuse: "It's indecent to go barefooted."
  • What is indecent about feet, a part of the human body ?
  • TV shows are allowed to show bare feet when private areas and curse words aren't allowed. Many people on shows from reality competitions to Sesame Street go barefooted.
  • Decency is in the eye of the beholder and a vague concept. I find a lot of clothing that other customers wear to be indecent, but you allow them here. I may even find some of your products indecent, yet you sell them.
  • Is it more decent for someone to come in with dirty clothing, nappy hair and smelling of body odor so long as they wear shoes?
  • People used to think that it was indecent if women wore pants and black people used the same restrooms as whites. Society has become more understanding of many things that were once thought to be "indecent."
I welcome your comments, including anything you believe I should add, change or remove. We'll see. :-)


Thursday, November 12, 2009

'Target'ed For Bare Feet

This is one of those blog posts that I don't like to write.

Tonight I went into my local Target store to buy a couple of sippy cups for our two-year old daughter. I, of course, went barefooted because I'd been in there several times before without incident while unshod. Unfortunately, this trip did not end the same way.

As I walked back up the main aisle to the front after choosing some cups, I was stopped by an assistant manager named, ironically, Michael and a security guard who accompanied him. Michael courteously informed me that I would not be able to continue shopping in bare feet.

I asked him why, and he responded that it's a "safety issue." I asked him to clarify that. He told me that he couldn't risk me possibly stepping on something if they didn't clean up their floors well enough. I carefully said to him that he probably needs to do a better job cleaning up his floors, then. He brushed that comment aside. I then shared that I understand that I take on any liability if something were to happen, but he still said that he can't allow me to take that risk.

See. Spot. Barepawed.

I told him that I've been in that store several times AND been seen by other employees and nothing was ever said. I brought up that nothing is posted at the entrances prohibiting bare feet. I even mentioned a time that an employee specifically gave me a heads up because of a broken light bulb that had been cleaned up the night before. She wanted me to be aware that something might still be in the area. That said, everything ended up being fine. He was apologetic but stood firm that I could not shop barefooted.

I asked him if I could just go check out and he allowed it.

As we walked toward the front -- security dude still in tow -- I calmly informed Michael that I prefer to go barefooted for the comfort and health benefits. He shared that he thought that's "totally awesome," but that they've had that policy for "a long time." I shared my disappointment and he was very understanding.

Later, after checking out, I went to find him again. I told him that Target needs to post something at the entrances if they're going to have such a policy. I told him that I don't go barefooted into places that have signs posted but that I never thought it would be a problem at his store. He said that he'd speak to the store manager about it.

I can't explain how disappointed I am about what happened. Besides second-guessing what I said and what good points I forgot to bring up, I'm upset that I've touted Target so much as a barefoot-friendly place and now they're not. At least mine isn't.

I think that, at a minimum, I'm going to write a letter to the store manager. I really would like to go back and speak to him/her in person. After further thought -- and reminding from a fellow barefooter -- I need to question why it's okay for a barefooted service animal to be in the store but I can't be. I need to ask why it'd be okay for me to walk around barefooted as I try on clothes or shoes but the rest of the store is off limits. I should ask if I need to wear gloves to protect myself from potentially sharp displays and products or to avoid getting germs from merchandise that who-knows-how-many people have touched.


I welcome your comments or suggestions.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Origin of "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" Policies

We've all seen them, whether we're barefooters or not. As you walk into your local grocery store, restaurant or other business, it's right there on a sign near the door: "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service." Many businesses continue to use this policy to keep out those who they feel would be a detriment to their operations. But where did this policy start? Why doesn't it say, "No pants?" And what about the claims that such policies are "by order of the Health Department?" Well, I have some answers.

Follow me, if you will, back a few decades to the oceanfront. Areas like Atlantic City were bustling with people. It's a mix of surfer dudes, beach bunnies, energetic kiddos and tourists. Inside one of the many shops along the boardwalk, a married couple on vacation from the midwest is looking for souvenirs to take home. Shortly after, a surfer dude walks in wearing only his swimming trunks. His wet feet have dragged sand into the shop, spreading it across the floor as he goes to one corner to pick up a tube of lip balm. He glances at the couple and nods, saying, "Hey." The tourists, uncomfortable with this guy, decide that maybe they want to take their business somewhere else.

Businesses obviously don't like it when something -- or someone -- takes business away. For many small business owners, too many instances like this would cause a hardship. Eventually they might have to even close up shop forever.

To prevent such a terrible fate from occurring, these same beachfront shop owners posted "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" (NS3) policies. They worked well, addressing any dude, bunny or kiddo who dared enter with sandy feet and/or an exposed belly. If surfer dude wanted lip balm, he'd have to put on a shirt and sandals to look a little more "decent" and keep from dragging a bunch of sand in.

That's also why the signs never say "No Pants." Shop owners apparently saw swim trunks as being okay. Throwing on a shirt apparently would cover enough of a swimsuit-wearing woman to be acceptable without making them wear shorts or pants. Because the NS3 signs still make no mention of pants, it makes me wonder if current policies are just old ways of thinking being carried over without critical analysis.

So that's where these policies began.

At some point they geographically spread far away from the coasts and can be now found in nearly every locale. Sometimes they now only say "Shoes Required" or "No Bare Feet," but the message remains the same: Your bare feet are bad for business. Business owners today, especially those not on the coasts, often don't understand where NS3 policies began and have adapted their reasoning. Instead of keeping sand off of the floors and keeping tourists in their shops, management now claims it's a safety issue. I've addressed safety a number of times on this blog, so all I'll say is that most businesses are very safe to go into barefooted. This argument holds no water...or sand.

Something that popped up along the way was the addition of statements like, "by Order of the Health Department." I don't know if there used to be actual health codes prohibiting bare feet in businesses, however there aren't any now. The good people at the Society for Barefoot Living have done a lot of research on this issue and have discovered that no state in the U.S.A. has any regulations prohibiting bare feet in business establishments. Likewise, I have not heard of any local health departments throughout the country that have such regulations.

As far as I'm concerned, current NS3 policies are outdated and not well thought out. While I completely understand that any business has the right to implement such policies because they want to, I don't think that it is right to do so. I, as a barefooter, am not going to do anything with my feet that people don't do with their shoes. In fact, I personally recommend against putting bare feet or shoes up on chairs, tables or other areas where feet aren't normally supposed to go.

I hope you've enjoyed hearing about the origin of NS3 policies. Keep an eye out around your area and see how many businesses still have posted policies that prohibit bare feet and bellies but are cool if you don't wear pants. If you really think about it, it's all very silly. I think it's high time that we responsible barefooters are allowed to bare our soles when we are out and about. We'll wear pants or shorts as a compromise, 'kay?

Photos: Barefoot couple courtesy of, NS3 sign taken at by me at a local McDonald's restaurant. It bears the words "No Bare Feet by Order of the Department of Health."

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