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Friday, September 7, 2012

Epilogue: In Which I Speak with the Store Manager

Magical horse. . . no affiliation.
Alright. . . not to beat this wonderful magical horse to death. . . but:

I finally got a chance to speak with the Target store directly about the cashier.

When I originally posted I had no idea the sort of attention it would receive, but once I realized it, I probably should have made it more of a priority to talk directly to the store.  Last night I resolved to get them at the very least on the phone.  I was too late.  This morning, eight days after the wall post, I spoke to the store manager.

Having never experienced this sort of viral interest in something I've said or written, I wasn't properly prepared for it.  What I learned from it was probably something that I should have already known; that when you post something for public scrutiny. . . the public will scrutinize it.  Hard.

There are things I would have done differently, there are specifics I would have left out.  There are rumors that I would have investigated prior to dismissing.  Looking back I know my heart was in the right place. . . but once the shit hit the fan, I probably should have reacted more quickly.

Right. . . I know. . . the store manager. . . I'm getting to that.  First, my apologies:

1)  I am sorry that I so cavalierly dismissed the notion that Target was anti-gay.  While hundreds of comments addressed this so thoroughly that I can't do them more justice. . . Target's CEO contributed to the campaign of a very anti-gay MN gubernatorial candidate.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/27/target-homophobia-ceo-gre_n_660990.html

Their rationale was that he was pro-business, but when you back someone like that, you have to know that you're backing ALL of him. . . not just the pro-business part.  When you give hundreds of thousands of dollars to support a candidate, you probably should have made your peace with his whole platform.  Because people will find out.  

I've seen references to things Target corporate has done since to attempt to repair the damage they did to their relationship with the LGBT community, but it's really not my fight.  As I've tried to make clear, I'm not a Target corporate apologist, I just liked that the store hired a guy with autism.  The point is, I shouldn't have dismissed it without checking it out.  As one reader pointed out, had it been my daughter, and an anti-special needs contribution, would I have just assumed it was a myth, or would I have gone out and investigated it?  I know the answer to that.

Right. . . I know. . . the store manager.  One more thing:

2)  I am even more sorry that I potentially outed or exposed the cashier without knowing whether he was comfortable with that sort of exposure or that acknowledgement.  While I still believe what makes the story great is that he is an autistic (please let's not argue person first about this.  Please!) adult working (in an atmosphere where so many people regardless of diagnosis are unemployed) and doing a fantastic job.  When Huffington Post ran the re-post from my blog, they removed references to the city and the description of the cashier.  I should have done the same thing on my own blog post right at that moment.  Prior to that, I hadn't even considered the ramifications. . . but when they spiked it out in the edits. . . I should have done the math.  I have since done the same with my original post.  Of all the people who should be more sensitive to the social (or not so social) nature of autism, I should have been more aware that the enormous public scrutiny might be highly unwelcome.

So I finally spoke to the store manager.  I complimented the cashier.  I explained my concerns.  And she told me this:

He's doing great.  His autism was not a secret.  They told him about the story, specifically that he'd been recognized by a customer for great service (I don't know what else he was told about it).  He was then recognized at a team meeting for his excellent work. . . and given a "team card" (I have no idea what that is) and something else.  I don't know what "something else" was she said, but I'd already said, "what" about a hundred times at that point attempting to confirm bits and pieces of the overall puzzle while we talked so I just felt sorta warm and fuzzy that he'd gotten something out of the deal.  She said he's an asset to the store.  She said he does so many things for them, not just cashiering and that he has a great work ethic.

I told her I was concerned that he might be uncomfortable with the extra attention and she told me that she'd talk to HR to make sure, but that he seemed happy and hadn't come to her with any complaints.

All's well that ends well?  Maybe, with the caveat that I hope I learned my lesson moving forward.  I hope that's the end of it.  I hope that it's all positive and no negative, but I'm a realist.  Still, all things considered, this seems like it's been a good experience for everyone who isn't pissed off about how bad the post jacked up their Facebook news feed for the past week.

62 comments:

  1. Your heart was in a good place--that is crystal clear. And, whatever their politics, at least they are getting this thing right!

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  2. Hi Jim. Autism is always in the eye of the beholder, I guess. It can definitely give someone who is high functioning an edge in certain employment aspects.

    And as for a whole store being anti gay? I'm not sure what to say about that. Except that everyone should be accepted for who they are.

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  3. Your heart is, as always, it seems, in the right place. You couldn't have imagined that the post would have exploded the way it did. But it's still pretty darned cool. ;-)

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    1. I just don't want to end up. . . "well-meaning".

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  4. Cool update. Thank you for sharing. My son, Kaiser, has autism.

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  5. Thanks for updating us. People will always find something to complain about. Your heart was in the right place when you posted your original post. I am glad that the young man is fine with everything and that he got some recognition at work.

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  6. We've been completely honest with our son, Carter about his Autism. He wears it like a badge of honor :) So happy for the update! Does it surprise anyone that this cashier is an awesome employee?? Not me :)

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  7. What Jillsmo said. I'm not good with words in my current state

    You. Good. Heart. Things.

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    1. You. Bacon-wishes. Rest. Get well.

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  8. You're a cool and classy guy, Jim. A lot of people would've dined off of this kind of attention for weeks, yet this is a really honest and humble update of the fallout both good and bad. That says a lot more about you than a zillion Facebook likes or the cover of Huffington Post.

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    1. although. . . that other stuff is still pretty cool. Right?

      Thanks, Bec.

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  9. Shit hit the fan?!?! Omg you were just thanking them. This has nothing to do with gay or not. Sheezzz. People are so ridiculous. How dare you shop at target! *Smh* I love your post/story! So did the hubs (and he hates blogs lol) but like you said, warm and fuzzy feeling. For those of us that have children that may never be able to have a job, function in that environment, or just the simple UNKNOWN for us. It gives us hope, it give us a "right on!" for us. People just DON'T get it. Maybe the gays and lesbians should look at the fact that maybe Target was the only place that gave him a chance!

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    1. Thanks, Rhonda. I didn't actually really mean the hate. I think all things considered the "hate" was very minor. I feel genuinely bad for overlooking things I should know better than to gloss over. But what I meant was just the sheer. . . BIGNESS of it all. I had to shut off my phone cause it blew threw the battery just on notifies on day one. Then all the views and likes, the huffpo thing, radio show call in. . . just a lot of shit all at once for someone used to much less traffic and attention.

      Not that I minded.

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    2. i get it :) The bigness. Taking Brianna to and from school.. there are 3 kids I "KNOW" are spectrum. They're not hanging out in a big group, or even walking with someone. The sheer fact that they're walking to and from school independently. One I see going all over town. I believe he's a senior now. We've seen him handle crossing the roads using the crosswalks (here we have audible crosswalks for the seeing impaired as well as the blinking hand. He listens for the sound to go) I have no idea where im going with this other than.. that excitement that you feel in the pit of your stomach when you see successes. you just want to jump up and down and cheer! TOTALLY get that. :D

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    3. This is WAY late in the game but I stumbled upon your blog, and realized that I had missed the whole Target-Thank You post excitement. I must have been under my rock that week. First things first, way to go for posting on Target's Facebook. I am a retail manager who was a social worker in another life, and I recognize the challenges in hiring teens and adults with special needs. There need to be more shoppers and customers who are willing to say Thanks for great service, especially when that service is provided by special needs employees. The positive feedback may ultimately lead to more responsible hiring. But more than that, it will take away power from all of the people who feel empowered to make negative comments. More than once in my career, I have had to give time and attention to rude adults who feel that it is their place to degrade hardworking associates who do not fit their image of a retail employee.
      Now to my next point. Above, Rhonda makes a statement about the "unknown" of life for parents with special needs. She also asks "the lesbians and gays" to look at the fact that maybe Target was the only place that would hire adults on the spectrum. Rhonda's well-meaning message was cloaked in anger and discrimination to me. To refer to people as "the lesbians and gays" implies an otherness, the very thing you are stating you do not want your child to experience. Any statement that included the phrase "the blacks" or "the Mexicans" would be instantly acknowledged for the veiled racism it was. But people feel that it is acceptable to talk about gay and lesbian people in this way. Beware of the power of words. One offers much of their truth in how they say things. Finally, the "unknown" that Rhonda fears for her child is very similar to the unknown that LGBT adults feel. The fear that jobs may be taken away without provocation, the inability to find safe secure housing, and the general fear of how the world will treat you once they recognize your otherness. Those who face challenges navigating this world should never diminish the struggles of others.

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  10. All's well that ends well, I guess you can say. I definitely look at this as a learning lesson in social media. :)

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    1. *thumbs up* Now. . . to piss off people in completely NEW ways!

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  11. Some people are just looking for a fight and a way to spew their venom. You did something great and you did it without thinking--which in and of itself makes it beautiful. To find something bad in that is shameful. Just shameful.

    You are a great guy and you did a great thing---please remember that.

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  12. You're awesome. And I'm glad that the man who this was originally all about is happy and being rewarded for being awesome as well.

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  13. Well Jim..who knew? I think you did the right thing by talking with the store manager. Glad it all worked out okay.

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    1. Thanks, Lori. I was having guilty pangs over something that I really thought was positive.

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  14. Stay Classy Jim! You did nothing wrong, but certainly went to great lengths to do everything right in the aftermath. It is still a kickass good tear jerker of a tale!

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  15. Jim, you are one gracious dude. I appreciate your attempts to remedy what you consider were your mistakes (though I agree with Andrea--I don't think you did anything wrong). I still think your Target post was terrific!

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    1. Thanks, Patty! I think part of me felt bad that there was ANYTHING bad to take away from something that I thought SHOULD have been great, so I wanted to fix what I could.

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  16. you're awesome Jim and I'm so glad the employee is being recognized for his accomplishments... :)

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  17. This was VERY smart. And well-received, if you catch my drift. Nice job.

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  18. So sad that something you meant to be a positive can be turned so negative by people. I don't even remember anything in the original post that said Target was anti gay. Geez! Can't everybody just play nice.

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  19. I think the employee at Target is not the only one who should be commended. You have brought us all a great set of facts that cast Target in a positive light even though it has issues not so great in other areas. Imagine that - Target's not perfect. The employee is happy. The near majority of everyone who read the article is happy. Add those together and if we were giving you a grade, perhaps minus one point for the location without knowing whether it would be okay, plus 1000 for your good heart and I'd still give you an A+.

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    1. I'm excited I got extra credit. I'll need it for days when I have tests after a big fraternity party.

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  20. I think you're awesome and you meant well, which was obvious to anyone not looking to pick a fight. Haters gonna hate Jim - especially when you're doing something that draws attention to something positive instead of negative. Don't let them bring you down. I'm sure the cashier isn't concerning himself with their negativity, and neither should you!

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    1. I'm nothing if not "well-meaning". Thanks!

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  21. Oh, Jim. Can't you get ANYTHING right? I'm going to post something on YOUR wall and it's going to CALL YOU OUT for being ILL-INFORMED and it's going to get a ZILLION likes. HA HA TAKE THAT JIM!

    You goofball. You did a good thing. You meant no bad by it. It went viral. Like the clap. Good for you. Not so good for the clap, but eh, you can't win 'em all.

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    1. I can't. . . not even one thing!

      Thanks, Ame.

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  22. Most of this post is about the anti-gay thing, but before I say that, I will say kudos to you for taking steps once the post went viral; you didn't know what was going to happen so, I hope you're not beating yourself up about any missteps you might have made :)

    The whole Target being anti-gay thing--yeah, there was a huge uproar over it awhile ago when it happened... but the company isn't anti-gay as an entity, I don't believe. I think it's important to weigh everything out. The CEO totally apologized later for not thinking through the ramifications of that contribution http://consumerist.com/2010/08/target-ceo-explains-support-of-anti-gay-politician-to-employees.html and they have been taking steps to try to correct the damage, like oversight of future political contributions to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again. They were recently praised for running an ad of a gay couple for their registry http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2012/07/targets_same-sex_wedding_registry_ad_doesnt_signal_change_in_stance_on_mn_marriage_amendment.php. Of course, the CEO is still probably going to make conservative contributions (with the approval, I'm guessing, of the oversight committee).. but they're trying to do the right thing, which I think counts for a lot. Target also has a really good rating with the HRC for being gay-friendly, an 85, which is in the green zone; they offer a lot of equal benefits to LGBT employees, have sensitivity training, and only got dinged because of the aforementioned political contribution and also because they don't "offer equal health coverage for transgender individuals without exclusion for medically necessary care": http://www.hrc.org/apps/buyersguide/profile.php?orgid=1153#.UEqmMo1lTg0 Not even all "good" companies have this high of a rating (Trader Joe's, I am lookin' at you).

    So, I can't totally ding Target for being anti-gay--and you know how strongly I feel on this issue, I've been an advocate all of my adult life (and even before I was an adult). While I think it was a total boner move to make that political contribution, at least Target is trying to remedy the situation in a number of ways. (Side note: They didn't donate directly to support California prop 8 like a lot of people have been saying; they came up on the list because there were Target employees donating money, but Target Corp didn't donate to that cause at all.) I will still shop there because I commend them for admitting the mistake and taking steps to make it right. Of course, if the ability to make corporate contributions were rescinded, we wouldn't have this issue so much ;)

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    1. Yeah, I read that stuff too, or some of it. Ultimately I didn't want to go on a "defend Target" tangent, because I felt like it sort of eroded my "I'm not a Target apologist" stance.

      Thanks, Susie.

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    2. I have the freedom to go on ALL OF THE TANGENTS. And I do because, that's kind of what Aspies do. We're awesome at tangents, and also at exhausting a topic.

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  23. I think it's great that you took the time to post about Target hiring an autistic person as a cashier. I would LOVE for my autistic son to some day have a job, ANY job. Your post centered on Target hiring a person on the spectrum and that's FINE. Don't let the narcissism of our day, change the focus of your comment. Sheeesh! It concerns me that people may be cautious in the future to post anything positive because people lack the ability to think outside of themselves and their agendas for just two seconds and be happy for that individual on the spectrum. Instead they saw their chance to have a platform and they pounced. I hope your daughter liked her shoes. :)

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    1. well, I'd still post it, I'd just maybe write the draft at midnight and wait to hit the publish button until morning instead of writing it at midnight and publishing it a split second later.

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  24. Jim, I have seen your post about Target and all the people that have commented about autisim. PLEASE, watch this video at www.abchealthreport.com It is very important info that can help your daughter and help all these people that follow you that have loved ones or know of people with autisim. Please contact me at work2rope@msn.com Thank you~ Kim May

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  25. Hello Mr. Jim Walter,

    After reading your post about your experience at Target, I tried to reply back to you on Facebook, but I couldn't figure out how to respond back to you with a video attached to it. During my public speaking class, I had to watch these inspiring videos, the one that I am attaching here is one that reminds me of the story of the cashier at Target that I am sure you can appreciate. Perhaps even target should view this too. I had tried to go back into my class to retrieve this video and was not able to because the class has been finished for a few month now. But I believe in Nothing beats a Try but A Fail. So still determined I remembered the inspiring videos were from a website called Simple Truths. So I found the website and you have to subscribe to the movie clips to see any of them because they are mostly books. Wouldn't you know I went through every movie clip and it was the last one on there list of movies. Yay I found it so here it is, I hope you enjoy it and please pass it on. I hope that you will friend add me to Facebook so that I can see your response to the very short movie clip from Simple Truths. I would have loved to have posted it to your Facebook profile, so that everyone that has an autistic child will have assurance in knowing that they can and will prevail in our society far greater than any of us without a disability could do. Here is the link my friend**
    http://play.simpletruths.com/movie/simple-truths-of-service/

    Sincerely,
    A Proud Mom of A Son
    With Autism
    Linda A. Paccione

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  26. Saw this on Huffingtonpost. Yay, Target - thanks for giving me some hope about employment for my 17-year old son.

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