I was a shop assistant for a long time.
I spent the better part of my late teens and early twenties working everywhere from ice-cream shops, to high-end retail. I wore little paper hats and collared uniforms and plastic aprons and expensive dresses that we had to sneak back onto the shop floor after wearing.
But none of these jobs lasted very long, because I was usually fired for either eating in front of customers, or sleeping in the changerooms on my lunch break.
But even during those long years where my days were split into shifts, and food courts became my second home; I never bonded with my fellow sales assistants. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I’ve disliked shop assistants of any kind; a burning, unjustified, undeserved fury for any man or woman who dare approach me whilst I am shopping.
And I am not alone.
Women become vicious creatures when shopping (particularly if the item in question is a bikini). We are often on a strict time limit and an even stricter budget; hunting down an item so specific that we can almost SEE it before we know what it looks like.
As an example, the last shopping adventure I went on was in search of a long, striped, jumpsuit with a wide leg and slightly inappropriate neckline. You know what I walked out with? A long, striped, jumpsuit with a wide leg and slightly inappropriate neckline.
And it took me 20 minutes.
It is my utmost belief, you see, that the success of a shopping trip exists in direct correlation with the involvement of the sales assistants.
Take boutique #1.
The 23-year-old Media/Comms student who is working there is desperately trying to make her day’s budget so she can slam that staff discount down on the $950 Miu Miu stilettoes she’s been eyeing off since the start of semester. And you? You’re nothing but a little hamster in her wheel.
Your first mistake is making eye contact. She can smell your fear.
Your second mistake is getting into the changeroom. You’re trapped.
And then the routine begins: how does the medium feel? Can I grab you another size? We have a top that’s really similar. What is it you’re looking for? Is it for a special occasion? Did you have something in mind? Don’t you just love deconstructed Jean Paul Gaultier?
By this point, you’re trapped in a one metre square cube without a mirror, pulling desperately at a satin cami in the wrong size down over your boobs and sweating so profusely that you can almost detect notes of last Wednesday night’s pinot binge.
“Uh, no, I’m fine…” Your words will be muffled by the now-damp satin cami in the wrong size that doesn’t fit over your boobs, whilst you scramble desperately to find the price tag to check how much it’s going to cost you to escape this mortifying hell.
You can feel the burning stare of the determined sales assistant through the flimsy calico curtain. She’s not going anywhere. She wants her daily budget filled, dammit.
And so you crumble, painfully aware of your grunting and the sound of seams tearing as you work to disengage yourself from the now sweat-soaked satin cami in the wrong size that doesn’t FIT OVER YOUR BLOODY BOOBS.
Now, let’s imagine another scenario.
You’re in boutique #2.
There’s a few salespeople working the floor, so you get no more than a polite nod and smile.
Feeling confident, you take your time to browse, eventually traipsing off to the changerooms with an armful of weird items that you wouldn’t usually try on, but hey! What the heck! You’ve got all the time in the world, so why not find out whether high-waisted suede mini-shorts are your thing?
You spend a lazy 20 minutes trying on and evaluating each item in great detail. You study yourself from all angles in the large, subtly lit changeroom mirror INSIDE YOUR CUBICLE, unflustered, and undisturbed.
You walk out, dropping 13 items of well-priced items in the arms of the smiling sales girl, who doesn’t even ask you where the coat hangers are.
Just sayin’….this is what shopping SHOULD look like. Post continues after video…
There is a disclaimer in all of this, of course.
It’s not the person behind the sales assistant which I dislike. It’s the flawed system of pouncing on people, people who are likely to already be feeling rather shitty after dealing with a three way mirror/fluoro lighting sucker punch from the shop before.
It’s not the sales assistant’s fault. I know that. It’s whoever decided to write the rulebook; which I can only assume is called, “How To Lose Customers and Alienate People.”
To me, shopping is a battlefield. There is always someone, or something out to get you.
Maybe it’s a price tag with vague decimal point placement.
Maybe it was a salesgirl who popped her head over the change-room door whilst you were mid-struggle with a one-piece swimsuit that is either back-to-front, or designed to showcase your labia.
Or maybe it’s your Mum, busily filling in the sales staff on how child-bearing hips are hereditary in your family, and that’s why you (yes, you) can’t ever find jeans that fit right.
So I did a bit of a vox-pop of some of the Mamamia girls: what did they make of sales assistants?
“It’s better for them to stay away,” says girl A. “I tend to be very surly when I’m shopping – they should probably keep their distance.”
“Just leave me alone please I am old and I know what suits me and how much money I have the end!” says girl B.
“But I would like them to please go away,” says girl C. “I had one girl who kept handing me things to try on and I had to politely explain several times over that I didn’t want to because I didn’t like them. POLITELY! That’s actually really hard you guys.”
“I try to be genuine and live with the faith they will pull a face and/or suggest something else if I look bad,” said the girl D.
“I really liked the sales assistant who helped me over the weekend. She made me feel good about my purchase and also laughed at all my jokes.”
Well, there you go, shopgirls and shopboys. Apparently there are some females in the world who don’t have secret fantasies about locking you in the stockroom and pulling all your carefully folded t-shirts in annoying tissue paper onto the floor.
And as for me? I’m sticking to online shopping from now on, where I have nothing to worry about except for steady WiFi and free delivery.