Trade show or trade shoe?

  A recurring nearby event came along in early 2016, a "home show" that's basically a trade show for the local home-improvement industry with exhibits from quite a few contractors and suppliers.  I had been to several of these, both before and after a major renovation on my own place, and always took away some fresh ideas.  The hall where it is held is a big place, and shuffling around in the usual china-flats for that long is decidedly annoying so I figured I'd at least ask the show management about attending barefoot.  They were a little hard to track down, but I eventually found the right people to ask and they seemed reasonably receptive rather than returning the usual immediate stodgy stonewall I'd expect.  It involved two policymaking entities; the hall management said they'd check with the show company officials and come up with a decision.

Not only did they collectively decide in the negative, they went out of their way to print up a bunch of bright red signs saying "shoes required" and plastered them all over the entrance doors to the place.  As though someone raising the question needed that kind of direct slap in the face?  My innocent query evidently scared the crap out of someone in their organizations, even after I pointed out how well maintained I'd always found their hall floors and nobody should have any concerns over some trumped-up "liability" situation one way or the other.  I attended anyway, with shoes on, but stopped in at the show-management booth on the way out to ask about the situation again and try to state my case, and was treated rudely and unprofessionally and essentially kicked out simply for asking.

Afterward I called the American Home Show management, which puts on these events all over the country and was apparently behind this nonsense, and was assured that their C-level people would return my call to discuss further.  That was a total falsehood, because they never did.  Later that week I searched up some relevant addresses and sent this off to their management/administrative personnel, who I figured would be their most instrumental decision makers going forward.

To: Carol Bulzomi <>,
    Craig Gitlitz <>
Cc: Sheila Bissett <>
Subject: A plea for fairness

Hello, I'm the guy who contacted you last week about bare feet, specifically
with regard to attending shows and being in various venues without shoes.
With no followup emerging from your side so far, I've decided to try and
follow up on it from here.  I'm also assuming I'm reaching the same "Carol"
that I spoke with last week from your operations department -- if not,
please forward this to her.

I completely understand what we discussed about safety and setup/teardown
of show-floor environments -- I work plenty of production gigs myself and
am well aware of the hazards.  But during open public show hours, none of
that applies and attendees really should be allowed the freedom of various
personal lifestyle choices -- hair styles, clothing within applicable legal
guidelines, expressions of religious or ethnic or interest-group affiliation,
and footwear or lack thereof.  There is no difference among these things.
As I mentioned you don't require all visitors to wear gloves, so why shoes?
Let me assure you, the *hands* of the general public will carry many more
pathogens than their feet, and those same hands are exchanging greeting with
exhibitors, touching your food facilities, visiting the bathrooms ... to put
things in perspective, especially when we're in the middle of flu season
in the Northeast.  As I look around a well-maintained space like a typical
convention hall or even the Shriners facility in Wilmington, I see nothing
representing an obvious safety hazard that would dictate any need to be
shod or have any other sort of PPE at those times.  

Please visit and related websites and research this for
yourselves.  There are myriad benefits from going barefoot, very little
safety risk, and NO applicable health or safety laws, codes, or statutes
in any state regarding public places, food establishments, or driving.
All of these things are myths brought on by some unfounded social stigmas
developed over years of misinformation.  Someone choosing to not wear
shoes should receive the same treatment as anybody else walking into your
shows with a bright blue mowhak, nose piercings, or full hijab.  Would
you deny entrance to any such individuals on that basis?  I submit that
making a distinction about bare feet boils down to simple discrimination,
and any "safety" implications you might counteroffer are purely the
responsibility of the individual.  Your responsibility is to make sure the
building doesn't burn down, the show flows smoothly, parking is orderly,
etc -- nothing about bare feet would affect that in the slightest, or create
any sort of liability risk for yourselves.  As someone largely barefoot since
1980 or thereabouts in all seasons, please be assured that I can handle my
own situation and anyone else with similar preferences can as well.

I have attended several of the Home Shows at the Shriners hall, and have
even contracted with at least one exhibitor who's usually there and asked
numerous good questions of others.  I enjoy them.  I learn things, and I
teach other people things.  I do not appreciate being harassed by uninformed
staff over irrelevancies, regardless of who they work for, about a simple
personal choice that has no bearing on the success of the show.  I appreciate
even less being rudely asked to *leave*, simply for raising the question,
as your representative "Jackie" did to me at the recent Wilmington event.
[I had already toured the floor so it wasn't an actual impediment to my
intentions at the time, but what if I had wanted to go back in to talk to
more vendors??  Not the kind of "professionalism" you want your staff
showing the general public, I'm sure.]

Also please remember that results of conversations like this can end up
in very public places on the internet, so consider the public-relations
angles of any decisions that come from this.  The home-improvement and
energy-efficiency industries have many progressive and forward-thinking
aspects that I personally enjoy keeping track of, and I believe it would be
to the *benefit* of ACS and the venues they work with to set their public
events forth as "barefoot-friendly" and thus present themselves as similarly
progressive and well-informed to discerning attendees, especially around
the relatively liberal Boston area.  Far better than to be viewed as an
organization that discriminates at all, regardless of location.

Thank you for your serious consideration.
They never responded at all, and as far as I know the idiotic policy is still in place.  I can only hope printing and deploying all those paper signs cost *someone* enough money and time that they maybe began to understand the point I was trying to make [and I really tried to nicely at first].  Since my message also went to their CEO, I could just imagine him scrambling all over the office and calling the hall owners saying "do NOT respond to this freakazoid" to make sure they presented a uniformly unwavering and impassive front and hoped the battle would simply end in their inboxes.  A complete cop-out on their part, to be sure, but to what end?  *Home* should be where people feel most free to go barefoot, and if the show wants to make its visitors feel comfortable they should extend that sort of welcoming environment to their show floor as well.  Again, it's a well-maintained facility even if it's a bit of a concrete barn -- *I* certainly couldn't detect any hazards around the place, and I'm sure they wouldn't be able to either.

So American Consumer Shows (Syosset, NY) gets F for community-mindedness, and I'm not sure whether their direct and downright rude infringement on the rights of Americans in every city they tour puts them on the "permanent avoid" list or the "needs more work" list.  If they run shows in your area, the question is well worth posing to them again so they see the same thing coming at them from all quarters.  Maybe they'll finally get an inkling.

_H*   160209

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