With trepidation and a heightened sense of adrenalin, I cautiously entered the store, lured by ‘Sales’ signs and the promise of ten-dollar dresses. She was there. Prowling the perimeter of the changing room with a Grinch’s smile and poised for attack. I would have to be careful to avoid her… the dreaded over-bearing shop assistant.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate people’s help from time to time; in fact I’m all for helping the needy. The problem is, I don’t consider myself ‘in need’ when I’m simply trying on the odd item of clothing. What I really don’t need is someone banging on the door and asking if my outfit is awesome when I’m standing rather vulnerably with just my trousers around my ankles. And more often than not, the ‘outfit’ that said person is demanding to see, is a monstrous concoction of clothing that looks utterly horrific. It’s the same old scenario – you ask to try on one skirt and they produce an entire array of hideous shoes, scarfs and shirts to go with it. (NB Months later you’ll get confirmation that the shoes you were physically bullied into trying were indeed a fashion monstrosity because they’ll be marked 75% off in the ‘rookie buyer made a boob’ sales rack).
On this particular day I was already prepared for the over-zealous sales assistant having encountered her services just a few weeks earlier, when she had demanded I try some mustard-coloured boots. Yes mustard – on occasion in fashion, but for the most part, a particularly offensive colour. This time I quite adamantly said no to all of her, (and to be quite frank, terrible) suggestions. I was trying on a simple black work skirt and the conversation went as follows:
“Ah fab skirt. Let me get you a gorgeous shirt to go with that – show you how great it can look”
“No? It really would look good.”
“Well okay, but it really doesn’t go with the grey top you’re wearing, but if you think you have a good imagination….”
“I do.” Slam door.
Firstly, when has grey not gone with black and secondly, who is she to judge me on the quality of my imagination? Which I’ll have you know, is exceedingly vivid. Next minute she was banging on the door asking about size, style, suspenders – you name it, she said it. All while I stood rather uncomfortably in my underwear. I am half ashamed to admit this, but I ended up ignoring her until she went away. Sort of how you’re told to deal with a poisonous snake – make no movement, they’ll think you’re just part of the scenery and slink off. She did, but she didn’t half give me some evil snake eyes when I threw the skirt back on the rail and ran out the door.
So my question is this, when did the boundaries between being helpful and being infuriatingly intrusive become so blurred? And why does it occur so much in fashion? It’s not like you’d ever go to Tesco, pick up a carton of cranberry juice and the shelf stacker enquire if you have a water infection? Or if you bought a pregnancy kit and the pharmacist assumed you’d like a pair of maternity pants to go with it. No, because that would be inappropriate. Having someone constantly second-guess what you need, or worse, forcibly tell you what you need goes way beyond my idea of helpful. What they’re actually doing is interfering and I don’t like people, especially strangers, interfering with my fashion quests.
Only moments after my first interrogation, I was standing in the changing room of a jeans’ store with three pairs of Levis to hand – with a tag marked at three times the price I was willing to pay. But of course, I needed these jeans, or so said the ever-helpful shop assistant. The next minute he is also slamming his hand on the back of the door (a common theme), asking if I have them on, and if so can I ‘come out and show him’ …..erm, no young man I cannot, because I don’t know you, I don’t care what your opinion is and to be perfectly honest that would just be weird.
Fortunately he was too busy admiring the stitching on another customer’s pocket to care too much about me. Once again, I snuck off claiming I’d have to wait until pay day to buy the beautiful jeans he had pressurised me into trying. His response? He actually clucked at me. A genuine, disapproving cluck. It seems my ‘type’, the sort with no money to buy things they don’t want, are not welcome in his neck of the changing rooms.
I return home angry and mildly humiliated. In the space of an hour I have been forced to justify the quality of my imagination, make excuses for a lack of funds and tell two complete strangers my dress-size in the middle of a shop floor – all so I can try on clothes that I didn’t have the mildest hint of an interest in. And the result of all this meddling into my personal space? Well I certainly won’t be returning to either store. Ever. Good job! Bonuses all round.
Image courtesy of brandspace.com