Now, before I begin with my totally controversial topic, let me just start by saying I know that not all ‘Shop Assistants’ are the devil incarnate and I’ve actually had some lovely experiences with SA’s in the past – but unfortunately it’s not usually the nicer ones that stay stuck in your head, it’s those mind-baffling experiences that leave you shocked; mouth open and wide eyed!
When I talk about impolite shop assistants I’m typically referring to the ones that stride in circles in the expensive stores along Bond Street in London, although there are some SA’s that have really irked me in the past in a few high street stores, yet the ones that really do get under my skin are the ones that wear a branded name tag and walk around as if they have a string attached to their noses – yes you read correctly.
When I walk into a store I want to feel welcomed, maybe not to the ‘pretty woman’ extreme after Richard Gere flashes his credit card (although I’m not discouraging the idea completely) however what I’m saying is I don’t want to feel as if I’ve walked into the ‘Mean Girls’ cafeteria with a ‘look at me’ sign plastered on my head or in comparison sometimes I feel like I’ve walked into a store in head to toe camouflage and not one shop assistant can see me – I must be really good at blending in on those days!
One shop assistant experience that will forever stay in my mind was in a designer store in Kensington (I wont say the name of the store because firstly that would be a little mean and secondly I actually really like the brand as a whole), after needing to re-order a pair of shoes in a different size just days later, the price actually went up, which is ridiculous but it happens, and I (kinda) understand (kinda).
Yet, of course we asked whether we’d have to pay the new full price even though we had bought it already and after a good 10 minutes of very ‘hush hush’ foreign whispers the lady turned around to us and said “For you, we will honour the price but only because the price went up today”. Now just from reading it, it doesn’t seem all that bad, but in person it was said in the most condescending tone and almost seemed as if they were doing us the biggest favour ever, which I really didn’t like. Needless to say I was really put off from going to that store again!
Another experience I had whilst out shopping, was when we asked an assistant where the jewellery was and the SA replied, after looking us up and down and keeping silent for a few seconds “the expensive jewellery or the… cheap jewellery” and all I could think was “The Cheek!!!”
I think the problem I have (and I know many others do as well) with shop assistants in designer stores, is the pure entitlement they appear to have. It’s almost as if they think they own the bloody brand! Again, I don’t want to offend any SA’s reading because I know these are only a very small minority but, seriously, it’s like some of them think they are Coco Chanel herself back from the past!
I never want to assume as I think making assumptions is a nasty trait, but I always have to question why those snotty SA’s get to be quite so condescending when you are the one shopping and they are quite literally the ones serving you?
But like I said at the start, I haven’t met only ‘all bad’ shop assistants and the ones in Selfridges are actually some of the nicest I’ve met. Every time I’ve purchased something in Selfridges, especially in the ‘Shoe Gallery’ I have had SA’s who have been completely helpful, kind and respectful who actually have helpful input rather than just judging from afar!
So, how to deal with rude shop assistants? Just remember you’re the one shopping (or browsing) and they’re the ones stuck in the shop till the end of the day working!
Words by Maija Lily
The UK's first Career & Lifestyle Magazine for women in the Creative and Media industries.