A thong-wearing mannequin, an angry mother

Victoria's Secret window display may dismay

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Depending on the age, a trip to the mall can build embarrassing moments and hostile memories.

About a month ago, my 12-year-old son, Daniel, and I took a much dreaded trip to the mall (I'm not a fan of malls). It was the usual "Mom, I need a pair of shoes and they cost $75" conversation rebutted with "Dan, it's not going to happen - do you really need a new pair?"

In the midst of this normal banter, I felt a sudden tug from him followed by "Don't look, Mom!" Much to his chagrin, a practically nude mannequin whose buttocks - situated perfectly at Daniel's eye level - gleefully faced us. Oh, we must be at Victoria's Secret, I thought.

For him, however, the experience of seeing - in front of his mom, mind you - a provocatively posed mannequin wearing quarter-sized fabric to cover the privates brought every ounce of blood to his pale young cheeks.

Of course, I didn't move. I just stood there and stared, surprised they could get away with these seductive and fabricated women. I also wondered what Daniel was thinking beneath his layer of disconcertion.

Last week, I received a phone call from a woman named Deborah who lives in Vallejo and frequents the mall on a weekly basis. On this particular day, she said she was summoned for jury duty in Fairfield but wasn't needed, so a trip to the mall seemed like a good idea - until she faced "the mannequin." Her story:
"I took a salesperson out to the window, walked her toward the mannequin whose derriere is facing me and asked her about the display. Her body language let me know she was surprised, but all she said was, 'Would you like the 800 customer service number?'

"I went inside to implore someone to do something, put different underwear on the her, but more salespeople offered me the 800 number. I let them know I was going to the movie theater and would be back in two hours. I hoped they would have put some pants or some different underwear on her."

OK, what are the chances of having a Victoria Secret mannequin wearing boxers within two hours? Absolutely none.

Deborah returned, and to her dismay, nothing changed.

"I went to a clerk who was folding panties and placing them in their mini cubbies. 'Is it possible to get some decent underwear on that mannequin?' I don't think she responded," Deborah said.

Filled with despair, she requested to see the manager and asked, "Can't you change that? It's offensive and demeaning."

She was handed the 800-number. And then she was escorted out of the store by three security guards, called in by Victoria's saleswomen.

"I was told I couldn't go back in the store," she added. "I think one of the guards used the word harass. They don't want me back in the store. I'm so frustrated!"

A lot of folks across the country feel the same as Deborah and have brought it to the media's attention. Perhaps this is Vicki's marketing technique to encourage sales - free advertising.

On the flip side, maybe they just weren't thinking about the consequences. There is always the possibility they just don't care what people think. I decided to find out.

I phoned the district manager of Victoria's Secret to find some answers but was sent to his voicemail. Michael, I believe is his name, never phoned back. I called public relations and spoke to Sarah, who told me I needed to speak with Anthony because he has answers to these concerns. But Anthony was not at his desk. He still hasn't called back.

I phoned the Fairfield Victoria's Secret store and was referred to public relations. I was back to no-help Sarah. OK, one more try. I decided to call Westfield Shoppingtown mall to hear if they've heard many complaints about the window display. Ruth very graciously gave me the 800-number. "When people call about Victoria's Secret, we give them the 800-number," she said.

I called the 800-number, pushed an array of buttons, waited for a bit, spoke to a person who gave me the number to Sarah. Not again.

Bottom line, some pun intended, I didn't get any answers.

Complaints like this have surfaced everywhere, beginning with the Washington areas Tyson Corner, where Victoria Secret's thong-wearing posse are posed alluringly in front of a children's store.

Some find it degrades the moral fiber of passers-by as well as aggressively foists unwelcome sexual imagery upon the public. Protesters even created on-line petitions and blogs!

Others, meanwhile, want people to just get over it, it's a lingerie store for crying out loud!

As for me, I don't want to visit the mall with my son anymore.