Did I miss a news update? Is the recession well and truly over?
I know that house prices have had an upturn and that, as a consequences, housewares are beginning to sell again (and why, oh why, do we call them housewares of all things?) But seriously, do my senses deceive me or does everyone suddenly have money to burn?
The reason I ask is because I was in the dreaded Bluewater last night. It’s not my favourite place to be, but the dort’s birthday is fast approaching and we like to spoil her just a little bit. The place was lit up like a Christmas tree at eight o’clock at night, but was otherwise pretty well deserted.
We parked all of a dozen yards from the entrance, because there couldn’t have been more than a handful of cars in the car park, and we strolled in.
That’s my kind of shopping.
I like to be attended to. I like to be helped. I like to be able to point and pay.
To help out shop assistants, I always make sure that I dress well and wear make-up. It’s much easier for them to deal with someone they know is a serious shopper, after all. I’m not there to browse, I’m there to spend money.
I had a list.
In one department store, I approached the dort’s favourite make-up counter. There wasn’t an assistant for miles around. I knew what I wanted, but I couldn’t find it on display. I opened cupboards and still couldn’t find what I wanted. Eventually, someone wandered over from another counter. She told me she could only help me if I knew exactly what I was looking for, because she didn’t know the brand.
I got what I wanted and asked if her brand carried another product. She told me it did, but that her brand was expensive.
Since she clearly didn’t think I could afford what she was selling, I decided that I wouldn’t bother spending my money with her, and I moved on. All she had to do was be pleasant. All she had to do was take an interest. All she had to do was manage not to insult me. Bad move, girly.
It was fine, the shopping centre was empty, and there were plenty of other places that would take my credit card.
|Choice, Bluewater where they chose not to serve me|
So I chose not to spend my money
I saw something in a window that I thought the dort would like, and the husband and I went into the shop. It was all terribly designer, but once in a while, for a treat, we don’t mind going the extra mile. I walked twice around the shop, but couldn’t find the item in the window. I walked around again, and then realised that none of the young, fashionably dressed, dissolute individuals ‘manning’ the store could be bothered to ask if I needed help. So I mentioned their fail to the husband, loudly enough for the sales assistants to hear, and then we left without buying anything.
It’s one thing being employed because you look good in the clothes, it’s entirely another making yourself useful and earning your sales commission.
Does no one take pride in their job any more?
My first proper job was in retail. I sold shoes on Saturdays, and every single sale was attributed to the member of staff that made it. Those sales were tallied up, so that we all knew where we stood in the pecking order. If I didn’t make more sales than anyone else on a Saturday, as far as I was concerned, I wasn’t doing my job. There was no incentive, no reward... I just expected to work harder and do better than other people. We all did, I think.
Most of the sales staff I encountered last night seemed to have no more ambition than to waft about fragrantly.
It was the same in almost every store we went into. In fact, our best experiences were in the shops where we didn’t expect help.
We saw something in another window and went into the shop. The boy in the shirt covered in daisies was lovely. He tried to take the article out of the window, but was stopped by the store manager, who then wasted a chunk of our time looking for one in the back. The boy ended up taking the one out of the window, because it was the last one. The poor kid had known it all along, and was prevented from doing his job, because his boss didn’t want to have his window display disrupted.
The customer, it turns out, especially if she is me, is the least and last consideration of your average shopkeeper.
I’m a great shopper. I know what I want, I don’t waste time, and I’m endlessly nice, so why can’t I get decent customer service?
The really daft thing is that sales assistants are shoppers too, so why don’t they do as they would be done by?
I haven’t got a clue, but if things don’t change, I’m going to begin to do more of my shopping on the internet, and if people like me start resorting to that sort of nonsense, our High Streets and shopping centres really will start to die out.