Thursday, April 3, 2014

Abercrombie & Fitch: Fat Shaming (2013)

The entrance to an Abercrombie & Fitch store

A few years ago, the Chief Executive Officer of Abercrombie and Fitch, Mike Jefferies, was interviewed about the company and made some unforgettable comments. He was questioned about the types of clothing that the company sells and what target market the styles are created for. He commented on the fact that Abercrombie and Fitch does not sell women's shirt sizes above a large because he does not believe that "fat" people should be wearing the company's clothing. Mike Jefferies mentioned that the clothing was only to be worn by "cool" people and that "losers" should not be shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch and wearing the clothes. These controversial comments were plastered all across social media. Many consumers were disappointed by what the Chief Executive Officer had to say and refused to shop at Abercrombie and Fitch. This drastically decreased the sales revenues for the company in a relatively short period of time. Eventually, after an apology from Mike Jefferies, his words were forgotten and sales slowly began to increase. However, recently, reports and articles have been written that bring up the case and the interview again. This has caused Abercrombie and Fitch's sales to drop again because of the unfavorable publicity. The company is now beginning to realize that in order to not take major profit cuts, the prices and styles of the clothing will need to be offered to attract more customers to shop in the stores and outlets again. It was extremely unethical for Mike Jefferies to make inappropriate comments about his expectations of customers of Abercrombie and Fitch. He quickly learned that he would have to pay for his actions by taking a large profit loss. He recognizes that he needs to put a great deal of effort in to make the company succeed again and regain trust in old, existing, and new customers. The stakeholders for this case are the managers, employees, and models at Abercrombie and Fitch, as well as the customers and prospective shoppers. This is a controversial case that has been discussed by many people in the United States and keeps on being mentioned over and over again.
Abercrombie & Fitch is known for displaying
shirtless men as a marketing tactic

Milton Friedman is a Nobel Prize-winning economist. He earned this prize for being the best known defender of the economic model of corporate social responsibility. He is also known for the ideas behind individualism. He mentions that there is only one single goal for businesses in the economy. This singular common goal is to make a profit for the business. Therefore, the only responsibility that the management or people involved in the business have, is to maximize profits. This means that the company will succeed, and therefore the owners and the stockholders each will be successful. Individualism is a principle of being independent and relying only on oneself. It favors freedom of action for separate individuals, rather than for a collective group of people. Abercrombie and Fitch has always been a company with a very successful financial position and a strong positive public opinion. It is a trusted company by many people in the United States. However, many of the customers were no longer interested in the company once the CEO, Mike Jefferies, made very harsh comments. But, this does not prove that Abercrombie and Fitch is run to follow individualism or not. Ordinarily, the company would strive to have to best styles at rather expensive prices for everyone to buy to maintain a certain image and profit. The comments made by Mike Jefferies show that he personally does not care about just maximizing profits. His real concern is keeping a high reputation for the company. He feels as if he has no social corporate responsibility to the world or to society in America. He thinks that only the best of the best people should be wearing the company's clothes no matter what the means for the firm. Therefore, he does not follow the general concepts and ideas behind individualism for Abercrombie and Fitch.

Some of the hurtful comments from Mike Jeffries himself
Utilitarianism is an important topic when it comes to business ethics. It is defined as "an ethical tradition that directs us to make decisions based on the overall consequences of our acts" (DesJardins 24). This basically means that it is an idea that is useful for the good for all people, instead of just an individual. It also means that there is a consideration for the right conduct that should be used, while keeping all possible consequences in mind. It is used to chose the greatest amount of happiness for the largest number of people possible. Abercrombie and Fitch is definitely not following the idea of utilitarianism and never was, even before the controversial scandal. The company was always thought of as a prestigious clothing store that only wealthy or well-off people could afford. Perhaps the company made the prices so high so average or poorer people would not be able to wear the clothing. This is not putting the needs and wants of everyone first. The CEO and other members of the management team are not considerate to benefit society as a whole. The conduct that is used could be considered rude and disrespectful, especially after the harsh comments were made by Mike Jefferies. By discouraging larger women from wearing Abercrombie and Fitch's clothes, the company is not creating happiness for a large number of people. The company is not only offending the larger people who are being attacked, but also other customers who view this as extremely disrespectful. By not following utilitarianism and trying to make everyone happy, Abercrombie and Fitch suffered many losses.

Mike Jeffries, former CEO 
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who explained that a person's ethical duties are based on principles and duties, rather than determining consequences. According to Kant, a person's primary duty is to only act in the way the maxim of a person's actions could be made a universal law. A person is also required to treat other humans as subjects, rather than objects. This means that a person will perform an act, instead of having something acted on him or her. It also explains that a person should treat another person as an end, not as a means of getting to the end. The formula for humanity explains that people need to have an understanding of each other. It also explains that one person should not take advantage of another person or do something without the person's full comprehension and permission. A person needs someone's complete and rational consent for this to happen. The case about Abercrombie and Fitch does not strongly relate to Kant's theory or the formula for humanity. Mike Jefferies made it seem like the company is treating some people like subjects and other people as objects. It seems as if the wealthy, skinny, popular teenagers are the important people who deserve to wear the company's clothes. However, it is not fair to the rest of society that is not as perfect and are told that they are not allowed to wear the clothes and are treated as useless objects. It is clear that not all people in the United States have a clear understanding of each other if some management members at Abercrombie and Fitch feels the need to discriminate against certain body types. For this reason, the company is not following the formula for humanity.

Virtue Theory
The great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, had his own set of ethics and theories, such as the virtue theory. This explains that in order for an idea or thing to be successful, it has to be able to carry out its duties in a successful fashion. This means that both the theory and the ideas behind it need to thrive for any type of achievement. It also mentions that everyone has to behave rationally for this to happen. This is the only way for them to truly become happy. Abercrombie and Fitch is definitely not following the virtue theory by any means. In the past, the company may have carried out its duties in a successful fashion by managing to have decent profits and have a trusted brand name. But now that is not the case. Abercrombie and Fitch is suffering because some of the members of management are not behaving rationally. They are not thinking about the consequences of their words and actions and how they will change the company. Because of the comments that Mike Jefferies made, the company is not able to thrive like it otherwise would have. Because the company is not thriving, the employees, managers, and customers are not truly happy. It is the company's own fault that it is in the position that it is currently in and the managers have to work really hard to improve the social status and profits of the company. This virtue theory, along with Kantianism, utilitarianism, and individualism all need to be followed by Abercrombie and Fitch in order to remain a successful company with strong ethics.


Bradford, Harry. "Abercrombie & Fitch's Reputation Takes A Hit After CEO's 'Fat' Comments Resurface [CHART]." The Huffington Post., 16 May 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.

Desjardins, Joseph. An Introduction to Business Ethics. 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014. 37-41. Print.

Reuters. "A Desperate Abercrombie Will Stop Shunning Plus-Size Shoppers." The Huffington Post., 06 Nov. 2013. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Salazar, Heather. Business Ethics, Economics, and Individualism

Salazar, Heather. Kantian Business Ethics

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