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Read Chapter 19 “Shopping as Symbolic Interaction: Race, Class, and Gender in the Toy Store” (pages 207 – 218) in Mapping the Social Landscape – available on Canvas under the ‘Files’ tab.

For this Discussion Board post, you will be asked to visiting a retail establishment to analyze some of the ways that race/class and gender shape customer/server interactions. You may visit a retail establishment such as a department store, or toy store. Good options include Elephant Trunk in the 5th Street Market or Valley River Center or Toys-R-Us near the Valley River Center. Your visit should last at least 20 minutes and you will need to take notes on what you are seeing, including specific details about customer/worker interactions, images that you observe, as well as notes about the layout of the store, surveillance (video cameras etc.) or other details that you find to be relevant.

You may have some suspicions before you do this exercise about what you will find, but try to let your analysis be guided as much as possible by what you actually see in the store – rather than your preconceived notions of what you will find.

After you have completed your visit please answer the questions below:

1. What store did you visit, when, and what did you do in the store in order to observe customer/server interactions without disturbing the event?

2. What observations did you record about the interactions between store workers and customers – based on race, class and gender? What different treatment (if any) did you observe between the race/class/gender of store workers and the race/class/gender of customers? (For example: Was a customer from a poor or minority background treated differently than a white middle class customer and how?)

Note: In your prompt, while analyzing your findings from the store you chose to visit, you may wish to draw comparisons from your own experiences working in the service sector. This may be based on your own race/class/gender – but does no need to be. For example: The peculiar emotional labor required to do a particular service job, the stereotypes that develop around certain types of customers, social control and surveillance from management, or other interesting insights known only to workers in your former/current service job.

3. What was your overall impression of the store you visited?

4. Analyze what things seemed positive to you and what things seemed negative; anything that surprised you or caught your attention? Also keep in mind the concepts and ideas about socialization, norms, deviance, and the social construction of race/class/gender that we have/will cover in class as ways to develop your understanding and talk about what you are observing.

5. Optional: Feel free to provide additional comments about something interesting that may have occurred while you were conducting your short sociological observation. Why this event is interesting from a sociological perspective (ie: connections to larger (macro) social patterns or dynamics).


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