Whenever you enter any store, it’s second nature to behave appropriately towards customers and workers. People don’t come to stores to witness disruptive behavior because its uncivil and impolite. Behaving differently would cause such a scene, people tend to avoid communicating with anyone to avoid it. But what happens when you disrupt this silent rule? How would other workers and customers react to this public behavior? Would there be any repercussions for breaking this norm? How would I feel? The reason why all of us act proper in public is because of store etiquette.
This norm is followed because of our fundamental belief “treat others like you want to be treated”. We wouldn’t want to be treated poorly in the first place. My experiment broke a folkway which is a desired behavior in a certain setting. For instance, at the store people believe you need to use inside voices and keep the place neat and tidy. Not trying to create a mess of things that you grasp is common courtesy for those who have to work there and those who might want to find other items. I decided to break this norm by purposely creating a mess around me by throwing things on the ground and avoiding to clean my mess.
I also made sure I was being loud during this process to attract more reactions. The first experiment was conducted in a Target in Dublin, CA. It was around 7:15 pm on Saturday. Target is the second largest store retailer behind Walmart, and its franchises are located all other the world. I have only been to this Target once when I was with my friend, Samantha. I chose this location because I experienced discrimination and racism from the one time I visited. I wanted to figure out if this was still the case for this environment. This area of the East Bay is, for the most part, a uburban neighborhood with the majority of the people being white and Asian.
Of course, being in this area already made me feel out of place, especially being one of the few minorities this city has. Now, I have to perform a task that would completely ostracize me from the crowd. The reaction I would get from the customers and workers were starting to frighten me. I kept telling myself the worst that can happen is getting beaten for my actions. Clearly I wasn’t thinking straight. The amount of workers were mostly white, and they seemed really nice because I asked where the restrooms were prior to my experiment.
This made me feel more of a jerk when I started disrespecting their workplace. I felt more self-conscious than ever, wondering if I could even pull off a stunt like this. When | build up the courage to do it, I immediately took notice of the people surrounding me and how they felt. It was not surprising to see the people surrounding me to have negative reactions to what I was doing; after all, I was thrashing clothes all over the place, loudly criticizing each piece as if it were the only opinion that mattered.
An old white man saw me throw a pillow on the floor and yelled at me to pick it up because I had no right to do that. I was scared because this man seemed really furious. I felt the judgement and fear held in the eyes of the other shoppers, probably thinking that I am insane. I didn’t want others to perceive me as a lunatic because this would influence my social identity. A social identity is composed of the characteristics others see in you. So if these customers saw me as a rude, disobedient teenager I would probably start to think that as well regarding my identity.
The security guard of the store must have also believed that I was just causing trouble because around those five minutes into doing this, I was asked to leave the store or be escorted out. I quickly explained to the security guard that this was a social norm experiment. This only made me sound more detrimental. I wanted to tell everyone that I was doing this as an experiment, but I was escorted out before I uttered any words. My next location was at another Target, this time at Bayfair Mall in San Leandro, CA. This was on Sunday around 2:00pm and there was a handful of people in the store.
I am very familiar to this mall and the culture around it. At times this location can get somewhat shady, so it was a completely different environment than the Target at Dublin. This would be my second round of breaking the social norm, store etiquette. I wasn’t as nervous as I was in Dublin because I didn’t stand out from the crowd. I confidently walked in there knowing my objectives. When I started criticizing the clothes in a loud manner, and throwing them on the floor I got occasional stares and glances. People seemed to ignore how I was acting in the store, which encouraged me to do it more to try to get some sort of reaction.
I was baffled that not one worker was nearby either organizing or putting an item back in its place. After ten minutes, of failing to get anyone’s attention I stopped making a mess and tried fixing everything I dropped. I believe people in Bayfair weren’t surprised by this disruptive behavior because people having loud outbursts and tantrums is a new social norm. It’s common in this environment to stay in your business and for others to stay out which avoids problems. In fact, I was more shocked than that I wasn’t getting critiqued for my actions.
I believe this norm of store etiquette was created as a way to show mutual respect for those who work in stores and a way for us to show appreciation. Both experiments had different results, and this social norm experiment was redefining the culture of the two Targets. The values everyone holds when shopping explains why individuals decide to have manners in a store setting, and choosing to not abide with them made my actions improper. Our society uses material goods for consumption, while these objects don’t have any meaning to them.
Throwing these material goods on the ground, and people negatively reacting to this proved that these objects influence the way in which people live. I decide to go to stores because shopping is one of the two most frequent activities Americans do on their own time. Most Americans identify themselves with what they can buy, so capitalism spreads with the help of consumption of products. During this process, I was changing the social role I usually partake in which means I wasn’t doing the roles I was taught to do through school, family, and media.
During both experiments, I was worried about my social identity. Because these actions weren’t things I would do, so committing these awful things made me question what characteristics others were identified me as. In conclusion, disrupting and disrespecting the workplace at Target gave me two perspectives because of the culture and location. The people in the Target, located in Bayfair, were used to disruptive and rude behavior because so I didn’t receive any reactions when breaking the social norm. When I broke the norm in Dublin, I got reactions. People were calling me out for creating a mess.
People were scared that I was doing this because they haven’t witnessed this before in this public setting. They never witnessed these actions because of social norms input these standard behavior for everyone to follow. I was uncomfortable breaking the social norm because I’m a very shy person and I like to think that I’m kind to other people. But during this experiment it was interesting observing different reactions on a norm which isn’t technically a rule or law. My social identity was on the line during this experiment and as much as I wanted to go back and tell the people this was an experiment I cannot.