After spending most of the weekend inside, except for a trip into the city the night before to check out the Vivid light show in the pouring rain thanks to my daughter’s decision to brave the weather, and to avoid killing MOTH who was pissing me off for no apparent reason, I decided to hit the shops and partake in some retail therapy. As most shopping centres in Sydney give you three hours of free parking, I figured that would be enough therapy time.
On raining days wandering around the department store on my own is very relaxing. It’s nice to go with friends occasionally but you feel obliged to go into shops you wouldn’t normally go. And on days when I’m agitated, I just want alone time, left to my own thoughts. Not only did I want to be left alone, I didn’t want to speak to anyone, let alone people I don’t know and especially shop assistants.
However, sometime in the last 10 years most shop assistants have been taught that customer service should start soon as an unsuspecting shopper enters the door.
“Hello, how are you today?” or “Can I help you?”
To that I’d love to reply with a “do I know you?” and let’s be honest “do you really care?” And, “I’m capable of helping myself and you’ll be the first person I call if I need help”.
Then there’s the larger shops where at every turn there’s another assistant to ask the same question “can I help you?” And there’s my personal favourite after you’ve alighted from the mini dressing room that you struggled not to smash your elbows on the walls and mirror and the two year old shop assistant tells you how great you look in that poo coloured top that looked yellow in the dull shop lighting a moment before when you picked it off the hanger. I wish they would shut their stupid mouths and leave me alone.
Am I being unreasonable? Am I turning into a cranky old woman? – (don’t answer that).
After facing way too many of these mundane questions I quickly retreated to Myers. You’re lucky to see a shop assistant let alone asked how my day’s going or how can they help me.
The Myer shop assistants are generally older women who work part time for pocket money so they can afford make-up which they cake onto their tired sun-damaged skin. Their hair is usually dyed jet black or platinum blonde and has that just out of the hairdressers look. And let’s not forget the bling bling jewellery. For some reason they feel the need to adorn every finger with rings, usually gold and expensive looking – not that I’m a jeweller and I can’t really tell an expensive piece to a good fake one.
These tarted up has-beens make you feel like the cat dragged you in – which is usually how I look on days like the one in question. They look you up and down, head off in the opposite direction tut tutting to themselves, giving me the impression there’s nothing in the shop for me.
Anyway, on this day they predictably left me alone to wander from one designer clothes display to another, which is all well and good, but when I finally make a selection and head to the cash register, low and behold not a ‘shop assistant’ in sight. When I finally track a couple down huddled together behind the watch display they looked at me as if I’ve just interrupted an important merger meeting. I was waiting for one to say “what the fuck do you want?”
As they whispered something under their breath the least threatening of the two walked ahead of me towards the cash register, she took my money, threw my purchase in a bag and without a by or leave quickly retreated back to her huddle session behind the watch display.
I can’t help but think that the two year old shop assistants and the middle-aged shop assistants get together and find some middle ground. And that middle ground should be:
Shut the fuck up until you’ve been asked a question or finalising a purchase in which you should be nice and polite, make small talk about the weather and don’t under any circumstances tell the customer how they’ll look in their choice of clothing – it always sounds fake. Follow these simple rules and we’ll all be happy campers (or shoppers as the case in question).