Shower Power–Part 1
Angeline's honey-blond hair bounced as she breezed through the revolving door of the downtown Westin Hotel. Its peach-marbled floors lining the lobby and dazzling chandeliers soaring overhead were impressive. "I'm sure glad I don't have to dust those monstrosities," she chuckled as she gazed at the sparkling fixtures.
Angeline searched for the ladies' room and located one near the house phones. "Need to check for last minute touch-ups," she thought. "After all, this is one of the top cosmetic companies; everything has to look perfect–I can't afford to blow this interview on something as silly as a run in my hose."
She gave herself a once-over glance. Her navy designer suit was perfectly tailored, falling just above the knee. Her hose were intact, her blouse lay flat, and her hair was in place. A last-minute check for lipstick on her teeth revealed a slight smudge on her left front tooth. "Whoops! Sure glad I caught that," she thought, quickly wiping away the excess color.
She walked out of the ladies' room toward the bank of house phones. Lifting the receiver, Angeline asked the operator to connect her with Jim McReardon. As the phone rang, her heart beat with anticipation.
"Jim McReardon," a voice answered.
"Hello, this is Angeline Lawrence. I'm here for my 9 o'clock interview. Where would you like me to meet you?"
"Oh, hello, Angeline," Jim's friendly voice responded. "Please come up to the suite. I have coffee waiting and I'm all ready to get started. It's room 1302."
"I'll be right up," Angeline chirped.
Angeline currently worked for a competitor, but she felt her opportunities were limited. The ad for this position sounded promising, and she was eager to interview.
Jim greeted her with a warm handshake and offered her a chair. The suite was surprisingly formal. The furnishings were traditional mahogany, and Jim seated her at a table with Queen Anne chairs.
Hotel interviews were generally uncomfortable for Angeline. But somehow, the formality of the suite made the environment seem more like an office. She subtly breathed a sigh of relief.
Jim skillfully engaged her in small talk to put her at ease and then reviewed her resume in detail. He asked her about her current employer and why she wanted to leave. She was impressed with how thoroughly he covered her background and how knowledgeable he was about her company. Next he focused on her selling skills. "Tell me, Angeline, you've been selling cosmetics for a while now. How would you persuade a customer to buy our soaps and bath oils?"
Angeline thought for a moment. "Well, since the soaps and oils complement your perfumes," she said, "I would point out how they help provide a consistent fragrance and sustain your cologne or perfume throughout the day."
"And how would you tell them to use the soaps and lotions, Angeline?" Jim asked, coaxing her on with a raised eyebrow and a smile.
"I would tell them to prepare their bath water with the bath oil and use the soap for bathing. When they're through bathing, towel off and generously apply the body lotion. Finally, spray on their cologne," Angeline responded.
Jim looked disappointed. "Angeline, it sounds like you're selling me a vacuum cleaner, not hopes and dreams. Remember, these women want to feel romance in their lives. Our product offers romance, not just cleanliness and smell goods. Tell me specifically, how do you bathe?"
"How do I bathe?" she asked, slightly clearing her throat and stalling for time. She was hardly prepared for such a personal question.
"Yes, walk me through the motions," Jim encouraged her.
"Well, I um . . . fill up the tub with bubbling bath oil, and I soak for a few minutes and relax. Next, I soap up a washcloth and wash my body," she replied, trying to remain matter-of-fact.
"Do you lift your breasts to make sure you get underneath?" Jim asked in an equally matter-of-fact tone.
"What?" she asked, flushing slightly.
"You know that you perspire there. It's important to cleanse that area," he advised.
Angeline was speechless. She sat glued to her chair, trying to get a fix on the situation. "What's with this guy?" she thought, looking around for a hidden camera. "This can't be for real, I must be on Candid Camera."
Jim broke the silence. "Perhaps you're having a difficult time explaining it in words. Let me show you one of our newest products. It's designed to give women an allover glow when they don't have the time to take a full bath. It's called Shower Power. Perhaps I could demonstrate the product for you. We could take a shower together, and I could show you how to wash all those delicate areas. Then you'd have a real understanding of the beauty of our product. Would you like a demonstration?" Jim asked earnestly.
Angeline was dumbfounded. She kept looking around the room for some clue that she was having a dream–that he wasn't really asking her these questions or suggesting they shower together. She wanted to race out of the room as fast as she could, but she felt immobilized. She kept telling herself that this wasn't real, that any moment she would wake up from this nightmare.
Finally, Angeline realized she had to do something fast so she could escape gracefully. "Gee, Jim, I don't think I can fit it into my schedule. My husband is waiting for me downstairs and I'm expected at the office in an hour," she lied. "What I would like, however, is your card, and then we can pursue discussions at a later time. How long are you going to be in town?"
"For two more days," Jim answered.
"Oh, that's too bad, I'm scheduled to be out of town the next five days. But do give me your card. I'd like to stay in touch," she said, using all her resources to hold herself together and remain calm.
Angeline remained composed, thanked him for the interview, and slowly walked to the elevator as Jim stood at the door and waved farewell as though their exchange had been perfectly normal. It seemed like an eternity before Angeline reached the lobby floor. When the doors opened, she raced for the ladies' room. Once inside, she grabbed the cool porcelain of the sink and stared at her crimson, angry expression. Her image began to fade as the steam from her cheeks clouded her glasses. She felt humiliated and angry. To clear her thoughts, she splashed cool water on her wrists and cheeks.
Angeline left the ladies' room and headed for the nearest pay phone. She fished out Jim's business card from her purse and called the corporate number listed on the card.
"Please connect me with your vice president of human resources. It's an emergency," she instructed the operator.
The operator connected Angeline to Doreen Brown. As soon as Doreen answered, Angeline hurled out her story without taking a breath. Doreen's teeth clenched and her body stiffened as she listened intently. She knew the sales force was a fun-loving group, but this behavior was preposterous. Doreen assured Angeline that the company did not condone Jim's behavior. Then, she told Angeline that she would investigate her claim and inform her of the resolution.
Was this common practice for Jim? Click here to discover what Dorren unearthed…
Excerpted from Sex, Laws, & Stereotypes, by N. Elizabeth Fried, Ph.D.©