opinion

"I was in my favourite shop and took a handful of items to the change room. Then my heart sank."

There are two types of shoppers in this world – and I am the anti-social kind.

I don’t want to be rude about it, but when I’m on the hunt for sparkly new clothes, I get in and get out. No time for small talk.

The internet should be my sanctuary, but I’m a tactile kind of gal and I don’t like returning things. So every few months I take a deep breath and binge shop for the winter, or spring, or whichever season lies ahead.

Recently, for my pre-summer splurge, I ventured to my most favourite (slightly expensive) women’s clothing store to Pretty Woman the shit out of the place.

After circling the racks and reluctantly fielding small talk from three different sales assistants, I entered the fitting room with my arms full of sleeves and skirts, and a brisk optimism that these shiny new clothes would transform my life.

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But when the super friendly sales assistant pulled the curtain closed, I turned towards the change room mirror to find there wasn’t one.

This anti-social shopper’s heart sank.

Everybody knows change room mirrors are for a) cursing the unflattering lighting and b) vainly calculating how much better sparkly clothes will look once you find yourself with shaved legs and a spray tan all at the same time.

These shallow equations can’t play out in a communal mirrored area. And yet this is where we increasingly find ourselves. Thanks Winona.

Despite this first world setback, I rallied and tried on the pretty clothes anyway.

Listen: Can you ever comment on someone else’s clothes? (Post continues after audio.)

Within seconds, the super friendly sales assistant re-appeared. She really loved the dress. In fact, she owns that dress too (not one of history’s great coincidences). And for the record, it looks really cute with the pair of wedges they have at the front of the store if I want to try them on too.

It was an ambush of comments and feelings. And they were all hers.

Overwhelmed, I retreated back to the change room for my next costume change. When I came out again I was pummelled by a running commentary on the print, and the cut, and anecdotal evidence of how easy the fabric is to wear.

A pattern was beginning to emerge (no clothes pun intended).

I know. What a horrid plight. A friendly stranger bearing compliments.

But somehow, without even asking for it, I had wound up with an overbearing sidekick and I wasn’t rapt about it.

customer service code for the anti-social shopper
"When I’m on the hunt for sparkly new clothes, I get in and get out. No time for small talk." Image: Supplied.
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Yes, she was just doing her job – and in a tough climate. But I didn’t want a bar of it. Life is already social and busy and loud, and shopping is precious alone time. She was ruining everything.

With every new outfit I offered less and less to the exchange. I thought she would get the hint. She did not get the hint. I wanted to get out of there so badly, but clothes sooo pretty.

This wasn’t an isolated incident either. In fact, it’s happening more and more.

I know it’s a hard slog for retailers in a digital world. And yes, their point of difference is customer service. But it’s also the ability to touch the clothes, and see the colours, and get comfortable with the fabrics, and do it in a space where we can hear ourselves think.

At 30, I know what suits me and I know what I like. If I need help, I’ll ask. But if I don’t, please, for the love of unicorns, read the room.

A lot of my friends won’t agree with me. For them, shopping is a gateway to the sisterhood. Women helping other women. Exchanging information and advice. Lifting each other up. Some have even made legit friendships with staff.

But for me, shopping is a gateway to the clothes. Finito.

Maybe it’s time we had a customer service code for the anti-social shoppers among us? Those of us who don’t want to be cold or disrespectful, but who just want to go about our business without the assumption that we want a personal shopper with our off-the-shoulder shift dress. Think of it as a polite mutual understanding.

I floated the idea of a colour system with my husband. Enter a store and declare whether you’re a green shopper (open to banter and forging friendships) or a red shopper (on a fucking mission). He thinks I’m clinically insane, but I think it has legs.

When we date online, we put it all out there. If we’re not looking for anything serious, we say so. If time wasters need not apply, we say so. Why do we have to fake it in real life? Let’s be adults. I’m here for the clothes. Let. Me. Get. To. Know. Them.

We have fast walking lanes in shopping centres to avoid ‘walk rage’. If that’s not a way to say ‘get out of my way, assholes’ I don’t know what is. But when it’s out there in the open, it’s not personal. It’s just another option. And one that is open to everybody.

Maybe it starts at a staff training level? In the same way we each think differently, and learn differently, we shop differently too. We can’t assume that that a one size fits all model is the way to go (sorry, I can’t help myself).

I for one would spend a lot more if left to my own devices. Retailers, please listen. I am giving you advice on how to make me spend more monies.

Let social shoppers be social and leave anti-social shoppers to get in the zone, without the guilt of feeling like a stone cold biatch.

Because for some of us, less really is more.

It’s not personal. It’s just farshun.

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