Mastering Communication, Part 2, Bloomingdale’s Gaff: More Than Words

Maybe you are like me and scoff at the notion of purchasing anything from Bloomingdales, a high-end department store owned by Macy’s Inc.. Of course, what girl wouldn’t love to meander through their clearance racks for the deal of a lifetime!?! I mean, even if I could afford anything high-end, I seriously doubt my frugal gene would allow anything that wasn’t marked down.

However, maybe you are a fashion-forward Mr. or Ms.. If that is you, then prepare yourself for a rude awakening when flipping through their newest catalog. Within the pages of holiday promotion and cheer is a colorful ad communicating how they think you should treat your best friend, your co-worker, and women in general. Here is the advertisement, attributed to Bloomingdale’s, a subsidiary of Macy’s Inc.


I am in a state of shock and appall.
It is difficult to understand how such a high-performing, high-profile company makes such a tremendous communication gaff.

How did this advertisement get approved for print?

Who thought it was a good idea to promote violent, illegal, and unethical violation of human dignity and rights?

Equally terrifying is Bloomingdale’s response, found on their Facebook page, concerning the decision to print:

In reflection of your feedback, the copy we used in our recent catalog was inappropriate and in poor taste. Bloomingdale’s sincerely apologizes for this error in judgement.

It takes reaction to make right choices? How does the creation of this ad, the sharing of the ad during the approval chain, and the print of this ad NOT violate Macy Inc.’s Code of Conduct?

“No associate, male or female, should be subjected to unsolicited and unwelcome sexual advances or conduct…An intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment may be created by such circumstances as…the display in the workplace of sexually suggestive objects or pictures. This would include the placement of offensive materials on walls or bulletin boards or the circulation of offensive materials received electronically through the Company’s email or other electronic systems.” Macy Inc.’s Code of Conduct, P.26.


The corporate response reminds me of a child being forced to apologize for sticking their finger in a wedding cake. The kid isn’t really sorry, they are just sorry for getting caught. Macy Inc. shows a serious lack in ethical character and conduct. Bloomingdale’s apology ignores the need to speak life into human dignity and respect.

Why not communicate the importance of respecting other human beings?

Why not communicate the need to establish values of honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, safety, security, goodness, gentleness, peace, self-control?

Why not communicate the human responsibility to protect humanity rather than prey on humanity?


There is so much to learn in light of this story.

1. Words alone are not enough.

Communication is not just a verbal interaction. Communication is a reflection. Communication is an invitation. Communication is a revelation. Communication is an entire package of word, action, and imagery that presents the communicator to the world.

2. Perception is reality.

It is a one shot deal. You do not get to erase what you portray. You must make every element count, and be certain that the truth seen is reality. From the top of your head, to the tip of your tongue, to your social media key strokes, to the smirk of your face, to the glaze of your eyes, to the outfit you wear; know that it is an element of your communication that shapes other’s perception of your reality.

3. Communication and Character must match, or one will be distorted by the other.

Communication carries on long after presentation is said and done. Every element of your life becomes a “(cont.)” communication platform. How you engage the cashier at the grocery store. How you react to your kids. How you act toward people who nearly hit you as they are texting and driving. Do your everyday moments serve as a contradiction or a complement to past communications, and your communications to come?

It is impossible for us to be perfectly on point every moment of everyday. We must give grace to others, and to ourselves. The necessity of grace cannot negate the responsibility of communication. Leaders are life-long learners. Leaders are transparent, yet wise. Leader, let wisdom reign and prudence guide what you communicate, and who you are becoming.

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