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At Eddie Bauer's entrance on Nichols Road, one door was wide open. Cool air flowed out onto the sidewalk, so we stopped to enjoy it.
"They're throwing it away!" Sommers said of Eddie Bauer's air conditioning.
He and Housh were being extremely good sports, walking around the sweltering Plaza and talking about plain common sense.
"Over the last six or eight months, we've had a lot of calls from retail clients wondering what they can do, because there's a heightened awareness of global warming," Sommers said. He noted that businesses are beginning to understand they can use their green status as a marketing tool.
At Restoration Hardware, double-doors were agape at the store's east entrance; just inside, a display of patio furniture made a smooth transition for customers strolling in from the heat, unobstructed by anything as oppressive as a door. Farther inside, fake antique fans — evocative of those carefree days when none of us had to worry about global warming — were all turned on, blowing the A/C back toward the open doors.
This was bad.
"I'll be eager to see what the store managers say," Housh said as we headed back toward the Classic Cup, where he and Sommers stayed to have lunch.
At my office, I made some calls.
Eddie Bauer manager Petra Swift sounded concerned. "We have company guidelines that say if the temperature is hotter outside than inside, the doors have to be closed," she said. When I told her the north doors were open, she said, "Let me check on that." A moment later, she came back. "You are correct," she said. "I assume that's because a customer walked in and opened the door. It's hard for us to follow each customer in or out."
Sheesh, I was glad I'd called, because the door had probably been open for a couple of hours by then. Apparently, no one on the sales floor had noticed.
Then I called Restoration Hardware. Hillary, the young woman who answered the phone, told me she was a manager.
"I don't know if it's corporate policy or what," she told me, "but I know we don't keep doors open all the time. And I can tell you we're probably one of the only stores on the Plaza that recycles everything we possibly can. We take cardboard to the recycling center, cans from the break room, everything."
When I asked for her last name, she told me she wasn't authorized to talk. She put me on hold. Another woman came on the line and wanted to know what the problem was.
The second woman told me I'd have to call corporate headquarters for the answer to my question. She'd identified herself as something like Marti or Marnie but wouldn't give me her last name, either. "You're hostile," she said.
I protested — calmly — that I wasn't hostile. "I'm just trying to ask a question about why it's a practice in the retail industry to leave doors open with air conditioning on."
"It gets customers to come into the store." (I want to note that she hissed these words, but that might be hostile.)
"OK, you've just answered my question. Can I get the spelling of your name?"
"No, you can't. It's my personal opinion. If you want to find out what our company policy is, you'll have to call our corporate headquarters."
I did call last Thursday, but the California headquarters never called back. It didn't matter anyway.