Ask Me Anything: What to do about uncomfortable shopping experience, yapping dogs

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Q: I shop locally and try to support all Winters businesses. One particular employee is making me feel uncomfortable every time I walk in by saying, “Hi Honey, bye honey, oh honey what can I help you with?” What should I do? First off thank you for supporting local businesses. They all need it for sure and I bet they welcome your patronage. If you also worked at this business, this conduct would constitute illegal sexual harassment (more on that in a minute). Because you are a customer, it does not. However, calling customers “hon,” is considered disrespectful by many and is generally unwise, as the business will lose customers. It sounds like you are reluctant to continue to frequent the business and I’m guessing you are not the only one having this experience. Since you asked, I’m going to give you my opinion: talk to the store owner or manager and tell him or her about it. Be as specific as you can and simply explain how this affects you and your willingness to shop there. Any smart business owner would want to know about this. Not only is the business opening itself up to liability for a sexual harassment complaint (by another employee), but it’s also potentially suffering a loss of customers (and revenue). If the business owner is already aware of the behavior or doesn’t seem to care upon finding out, then there’s not much else you can do, except shop elsewhere. This would also tell you something about the business and how seriously (or not) they take this kind of thing. It would be disappointing, for sure, to find out that the owner choses to do nothing about it. If the owner doesn’t already know, I’m guessing he or she would be grateful for the feedback, even though it’s unwelcome news. This gives the employer an opportunity to address the issue and improve your experience. It also might help other employees who might be tolerating behavior that they find offensive as well. In any case, making sure that the owner knows allows the business to take measures to avoid a sexual harassment complaint and provide an improved workplace for employees and customers. There is a ton of information about sexual harassment on the internet if you want to learn more. In fact, California is fairly strict with its sexual harassment prevention laws. Every employer with more than five employees must provide harassment prevention training to each of their employees. As a reminder, sexual harassment is not based on gender and does not have to be directed at the person suffering the harassment (it can be behavior directed at another that negatively affects the sufferer). From the CA Office of the Attorney General’s website: Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Briefly, sexual harassment refers to both unwelcome sexual advances, or other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature and actions that create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment based on an employee’s sex. Under California law, the offensive conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire but may be based upon an employee’s actual or perceived sex or gender-identity, actual or perceived sexual orientation, and/or pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser, and actions that subject co-workers to a hostile work environment. Q: What should I do about a yappy dog who barks all day? Should I say something to my neighbor? Yes! And, please do so when you are in a good mood and not in the midst of anger or frustration. This way, you can make your request in a way that has the greatest likelihood of success. This kind of situation is tricky and can quickly turn unpleasant. Of course, it also depends on the relationship you have with your neighbor. Assuming you have a decent and friendly relationship, I suggest you talk with your neighbor in person and practice your request ahead of time. Although it may feel strange, I also suggest following a communication process called Non-Violent Communication. This process increases effective communication, which also increases the chances of you getting what you want without negatively affecting the relationship between you and your neighbor. Here are the four steps of the process from Marshall B. Rosenberg’s NVC website: Step 1: State your observations (I hear the dog barking all day). Step 2: Say how you feel (I feel tired, frustrated, discouraged, annoyed, or whatever you feel). Step 3: State what your need is (quiet, respect, peace, down time). Step 4: Request that which would enrich your life without being demanding (ask your neighbor to take a specific action). This might look something like this, “When I hear your dog barking all day, I feel frustrated and annoyed because I need/value quiet. Would you be willing to train your dog to not bark/put your dog in another location in your house/keep your dog inside, etc. or whatever your request is). If your neighbor says “No,” you can make a different request or ask your neighbor what he/she IS willing to do. If that doesn’t work, then you can take it to the next level and contact the city and/or county to find out what the bark/noise ordinance is and ask for help. It’s always better when people can come to a solution without involving authorities, but that doesn’t always work, so you’ll just have to see how it goes. Learn more on the NVC website, Ask Me Anything is an advice column in which you are invited to ask columnist M.L. Flagel anything. Submit your questions online at The advice offered is intended for informational purposes only. This advice is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal or other professional advice.

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