Last week I had what I can only sarcastically describe as the best shopping experience I have ever had. This particular incident occurred in a well known department store, one of which will remain nameless but will quite possibly be easily guessed. Having browsed for quite a considerable amount of time, I found myself, naturally, in the ‘high end’ designer section, and before I knew it, leafing through the delicate garments and goodies at the Ralph Lauren concession. Now, it is worth mentioning for the purpose of this article that I, unfortunately do not have the money to spend on such a luxury esteemed brand, but that is far from the point.
So there I was, minding my own business when I hear a rather abrasive voice address me. “That’s very expensive madam”. I glanced up to find a characteristic shop assistant looking down intently at me.Yes, looking down. The atmosphere could be cut with an eye wateringly high louboutin stiletto as we locked eyes. My instinct reaction was to laugh, more of an outraged snigger than a genuinely amused belly laugh but not wanting to be seen as humiliated or intimidated for that matter, I replied with a quick (for me); “yes I can see that” and moved on to a more welcoming section of the store.
In actual fact I wasn’t humiliated, despite it being my first proper snobby shop assistant encounter but it did leave me feeling somewhat unnerved. Shop assistants are just that, assistants, whether they’re working the rails at Primark or Prada, they all essentially do the same job, albeit with different stock. The entire point of a department store with its wide variety of products is to encourage an equally wide customer basis. As a customer, department store or otherwise, you are perfectly entitled to browse regardless of how much or how little you have to spend. So what gives these glorified helpers the right to judge based purely on appearance? What they regard as ‘well-heeled’ (in more ways than one) seems highly irrelevant in our ‘secret millionaire’ culture and shouldn’t really matter anyway.
Some say it’s the management at fault. Retail guru Mary Portas recommends; “If the sales assistant is unhelpful or rude, state politely that you would like to continue to seek a resolution and ask to see the manager. There should always be a manager on the premises and they should be able to give you the assistance you need. It’s not the staff’s fault. I see them running around and think; who’s looking after you? Who’s training you, developing you? I feel really sorry for them. Sometimes, when I’ve had bad service I think; I’m not going to complain because this is someone’s job.”
But it is important to note that, thankfully, not all service is the same. I have had some good shopping experiences although I did have to think harder than I would have liked to churn them from memory. Sadly, they all seem to be either one extreme or the other; way over familiar, aloof or sometimes worse of all, average. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve walked in a shop only to walk out seconds later because I’ve failed to be acknowledged or the reverse, been hassled and tried desperately to escape, despite actually wanting to try something on or even purchase it.
Regardless of the experience you have, it’s nobody’s right to make you feel like you don’t belong in a public place where customer service is of course supposed to be vital. According to retail gazette; only three per cent of customers believe retailers offer a good service, while online sales continue to enjoy record growth rates. So don’t let the stares, sullen remarks or impolite service get you down. Hold your head high or even better, take your service elsewhere. Somewhere it’s appreciated.