We can’t deny that, as humans, we don’t ever judge things the way we see them. Sometimes it’s hard not to. Our brains categorize things in specific ways to help us focus on more important tasks. So when we see people dressed in a certain way, we immediately judge them based on that. But if we know anything about life, we know things aren’t always that simple. The CEO of a billion-dollar company could come up to us in simple clothes. If we don’t train ourselves against our biases, we’ll mistreat others because of what we think we’ve seen.
In an online platform, members talk about times when they’ve either been treated this way or met someone who has.
1. Log Homes
One user on the platform talked about when he used to work for a company that sold high-end log homes. It was located in an area in Victor, Montana, and several manufacturers were along the highway. An elderly woman stopped by once to look at their show homes. The homes the company sold were very expensive, and the woman didn’t look the part, since she drove up in a dirty pickup truck and wore worn-out, dirty clothes. Nevertheless, they showed her around. Later, she asked for the price of the houses and was told $2.1 to $2.4 million. She signed a check for a $2 million deposit before leaving.
2. Selling Clothes
One user’s mom used to dress shabbily even though she wasn’t poor. Once, she wore polyester, elastic-waist slacks topped with a straight-bottom polyester blouse. She often carried an enormous, old-fashioned purse that almost always had $1,000-2,000 tucked into it at any time. They visited a high-end department store in San Antonio to check out dresses. An employee approached them, gave the mom a dismissive look, and said, “The discount and bargain clothes are in the basement.” She looked at the employee up and down and said, “Honey, at least I don’t sell clothes for a living.”
3. Car Salesman
A lady talked about an experience her friend had as a car salesman. His co-workers would send him out to handle the non-serious “lookers.” Once, a farmer wearing an undershirt and overalls walked onto the lot and her friend was sent out to help him. They talked for a few minutes, and he returned to the showroom. One guy laughed and asked if the old man was just a looker. Her friend said, “No, he’s not just a looker. He wants that red crew cab pickup truck and a silver one just like that for his wife.”
One user went to get their prescription filled at Target. They didn’t have insurance at the time and had been paying $75 every month for the last 10 years. They went to the pharmacy counter, gave their information, and were told it would be ready in five minutes. After waiting for 30 minutes, they went back to confirm why it wasn’t ready yet, and the pharmacist said, “Do you know how much that costs?” The user was an archeologist covered in dirt, which is why the pharmacist spoke to them like that. The user calmly said, “Yes, it’s about $75. May I get that filled here or not?”
5. Rude Comment
In 2001, one guy and his girlfriend were in a shop in Florida looking for gifts. She owned a thriving multimillion-dollar business, and he was in IT for a high-tech company. The guy could understand Hebrew because he was born in Israel, so when the owner told the clerk, “Leave them alone. They don’t have any money, but keep an eye on them; they may want to steal something,” he knew what they said. He told his girlfriend, and they left, went to the next store, and bought all they needed. But they returned to the first store so the owner could see what he had missed.
6. Real Shoplifters
This user had the opposite experience. In high school, he was followed around a store because he didn’t look wealthy enough. So, he began to walk faster down the aisles and quickly turned corners so the security guard would lose sight of him. After a few minutes, he was now the one following the security guard. Soon enough, the security guard said they should call it a truce so each of them could go back to what they were doing. The user agreed and went back to shopping, and the guard returned to looking for real shoplifters.
Another user once went to shop at Tiffany & Co. but was ignored until after the store closed. Then, a staff member approached him, saying with some attitude that the store was closed. When the user told the staff that he’d like to buy six items, however, her tone of voice instantly changed when addressing him. He was given a chair and bottled water while she prepared his order.
Several years ago, this member wanted a new bike. Rather than go to her regular dealership, she decided to try a new one. At the dealership, she wanted to test the bikes to see if they fit her height correctly, but the salespeople kept ignoring her. When she finally got a hold of one, he said, “There’s no way you can handle or afford that, sweetheart.” She showed him the envelope with the cash in it and said she already had a bike and wanted to get a new one. Then she left.
9. Can’t Afford That
When one user was 26, he wanted to get a Corvette with his wife. They were at the showroom wearing sweatsuits and looking at the vehicle they wanted. Eventually, a man approached them, asking how he could help. They said they wanted to buy the car, and he said, “Me too. There’s some great used cars over there.” Then he walked away. After they bought the car and were leaving, the user said to him, “Good luck owning one. It’ll never happen off commissions if you treat people the way you treated us.”
When this user wanted his watch fixed, he went to a jewelry store with his wife. At the watch section, staff appeared from all corners, watching them closely. After, one of them asked, “May I help you?” In a snooty voice. “Yes,” the user said, “My Rolex is not keeping proper time.” Then he rolled up his shirt sleeve so his Rolex was visible, and the attendant’s “eyeballs flew into his hairline.”