The husband and I went shopping today.
We were in London on Wednesday night, working, and yesterday we left the house at 5 am for a long working day in Warwickshire. We were due a break, so we decided to pop into Bicester Village to do a bit of retail therapy on our way home this morning.
Bicester Village is quite a good designer outlet complex, it’s the dort’s birthday next month, and, besides, we rather enjoy shopping.
The first woman who served me told me that I was her dream customer. She said, ‘You’re so lovely to serve, and you’re very patient.’ I was delighted that she’d enjoyed working with me to find the things that I wanted, but I was a little surprised that she’d felt the need to say something about it.
The shop where I made the purchases was moderately busy and not fully staffed, so the woman who was helping me was also helping several other people. She gave great service, but was clearly rushed off her feet. It didn’t matter to me; I was out shopping and intended to have a fun and relaxed time doing it. I was in no hurry; there was no urgency; if I spent a few extra minutes browsing while the woman helping me had other things to do, it really didn’t matter to me. She was lovely, as attentive as she could possibly be, given how busy she was, and she was very organised, so there was no extra waiting when she had to check stock. This woman was absolutely the right person in the right job.
We visited several other shops while we were at Bicester Village, and made other purchases, but the incident with the woman who had helped me with my first purchases gave me a new perspective on what was happening around me.
Bicester Village is popular, and it seemed that a lot of the shoppers were very driven. They knew what they wanted, and they wanted it right now! Many of the shoppers barely looked at the staff who were helping them, and certainly didn’t engage with them. Everything was a demand, everyone was cross, and I don’t think I heard a single ‘please’ or ‘thank you’.
I don’t know if I was raised better than other people when it comes to being polite, or whether I’ve simply developed a comfortable way to deal with people because I’ve had to do it a lot over the years. I do know that people are always more willing to help me if I give them a reason to like me, and it isn’t difficult to engage, to say hello and smile, to look at the person I’m talking to and to respect the fact that he is she is doing a job.
There was clearly a lot of money in the pockets of the shoppers at Bicester Village, today, and money can buy a lot of things. There was old money and there was new money, and there was a difference in attitudes between various types of shopper, but they were universally disconnected from the experiences of the people who were serving them.
Some of it looked like entitlement. Some of the old-money types were clearly used to having their every need attended to promptly and precisely. They were other; they had so little in common with the people serving them that they took them utterly for granted. I don’t think their rudeness was deliberate, but that doesn’t mean that casual rudeness is acceptable.
Some of it looked like a kind of insecurity. The newly rich had everything in common with the people serving them; they could have been servers themselves if they hadn’t made some money… Some of them probably did work in the service industries at some point in their lives… But, now, they had money, and that seemed to make all the difference to them. They had bettered their own lives and didn’t owe anybody anything.
I guess that’s probably true, but the men and women working at Bicester Village are people too, and I found many of them delightful. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to do their jobs and deal with rude and entitled people all day long.
There’s a way to be a person, and, for me at least, that way is to treat everyone as you want to be treated. I enjoy engaging with people, and if they enjoy the connection too, everybody’s a little bit happier. That can only be a good thing, right?