Saturday, September 15, 2007


Norbert and I were out in the burbs yesterday to pick up his best friend, who also happens to be named Norbert. (I know...what are the odds? We thought he'd be the only Norbert in his class, and it turns out there are four of them.)

Anyway, I've been wanting Galina Khmeleva's book "Gossamer Webs Design Collection", and we were driving right by, so I asked Norbert if we could stop in at Chix With Stix, a yarn shop in Forest Park, right next to Oak Park. It was fine with him.

I could instantly tell that this was not going to be a good visit. There were three women sitting at a table knitting and talking, and when we walked in the door, they fell silent. I strolled over to the books and startled looking when a woman came up to me and asked me, "Are you looking for something?" Not "Good afternoon. How can I help you?" or "Is there anything I can help you find?"

I told the woman what I was looking for, and she said "We don't have that." Then -- I kid you not -- she turned, walked away, and sat down at the table and picked up her knitting. She didn't ask "Can I recommend 'A Gathering of Lace'?" or "What kind of a shawl are you interested in knitting?"

Norbert wanted to buy some orange baby alpaca that he thought would make a great scarf for Myfanwe, but I didn't want to spend any money there.*

While walking to our car from the AIDS Walk today, I mentioned this to Myfanwe, who has heard me recount similar experiences at several other shops in the past. While I was firmly convinced that this rude behavior was certainly because of prejudice against men who knit, my wife suggested that maybe it wasn't gender bias and that maybe the sales people just didn't like me.

I said, in response, "These sales people didn't even know me!"

Her reply? "Lots of people who don't know you, don't like you."

I couldn't really argue with her.

*I ended up ordering the book used from I'll take Norbert by Loopy Yarns sometime soon to look for some yarn for his stash. They like boys.


Leslie said...

I hear these stories about male knitters being disrespected and it slays me. Here in our little town the few male knitters are treated respectfully and return the treatment (of course, they may have learned in prison...).

I do LOVE Myfanwe's comment to you though - a woman who can throw zingers like that is to be well treated :)

Sherrill in PDX said...

I beg to differ with Myfanwe, it was horrid customer service, pure and simple. Liking or not liking has nothing to do with it. Not knowing the service given to others, you can't state positively it was related to gender, but since that is what set you apart, it's a decent possibility.
Keep spreading the word, as consumers,with many other choices, we need to take a stand and not shop there.
I do enjoy your blog and look frequently for postings. Although Portland, OR is wonderful, you do make Chicago enticing.

Knit-Knot said...

I don't think that it is necessarily gender bias. I have had the same experience at many yarn stores. Sometimes the same store where I have also had very good service.

The differences, depending on store, are clothes, time of day, day of the week and sometimes whether I'm alone or with friends.

Just bad sales staff.

Vanessa said...

Ha! good for you that you walked out and didn't purchase anything! I don't understand why people run a business if they do not want to serve the 'customer' no matter who they are! That was their loss for sure!

Diane said...

Good for you for leaving with nothing. Even if she thought you were there to get a book for your spouse she should have at least gone the extra mile to suggest another book to make a sale.

I've been ignored at local yarn stores too so maybe some people just don't have a clue when it comes to customer service. It's a shame because with all the great priced yarn on the internet you'd think the local stores would make more of an effort.

Cherice said...

Poor customer service irritates me. With all of the competition with the internet and such you'd think that they'd bend over backwards to help you. Sadly that doesn't ring true. I'd have spent my money elsewhere as well.

donna said...

OMG!!!! That store is a very short (2-3 block) walk from my house. It is not you - they just are not very friendly to everyone (although you'd never know from the friendly tone on their website). I took my most adorable & well behaved grandsons (age 3½ & 5 at the time) there a year ago April to buy some yarn for their Mom's BD. They didn't SAY anything but you could feel the chill. Maybe they just don't like folks of the male persuasion. I haven't gone back. I also gave up shopping at the Tangled Web (now closed) on Oak Park Ave a block south of the Green Line for similar reasons (altho there it just seemed like they didn't want to talk to anyone other than their little clique - then why did they open a LYS?). My favorite was always Have Ewe Any Wool in Elmhurst which is also closed now. The only LYS I go to & LOVE id Fringe in Aurora when I am visiting my DD & the grands who live in Naperville.

mwknitter said...

I just wrote a long comment which seems to have disappeared into the ether! I'll try again. It is not you - it is them. I live a very short walk (go east on Madison to the 2nd stop light - Wisconsin - turn left & we are the 1st house on the right). I took my grandsons (3½ & 5 at the time & exceedingly well behaved boys) there to buy some nice yarn for Mommy for her BD. They acted as if they carried the plague! Maybe they don't like folks of the male persuasion but I think it is more a matter that they mostly only like their friends. There is a local SNB which had been meeting near there (even tho it is the Oak Park SNB) & some of the frequenters work at the shop. They actually moved the meeting to a location right near one woman's house in far southeast OP - not centrally located in the area. When I complained & pointed out that fewer than half the members of the group for the option she chose, I was told she was running it & that was what she wanted (right by her house) 'cause after all she has a baby & does ALL the work for the group (as far as I can tell that consists of sending out an email to the group reminding folks it's meeting day!). I very definitely got the vibe that they really didn't want anyone over 40 (kinda dumb when you consider all they experience we have & are willing to share!)>

James said...

As a heavily tattooed male, I get the same reaction when I walk into some yarn shops. I walk in and they immediatly look for the panic button. I don't have a lot of patience for rudeness. I not only refuse to buy from such stores, I let them know where I'm going to buy that exact same yarn instead.