fashion

"I'm tired of being shamed by shop assistants."

It’s 26 years on and every single woman I know can still relate to that iconic scene from Pretty Woman.

Not because we’ve all shopped on Rodeo Drive, or spent a week at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel with Richard Gere, but because we’ve all had at least one truly shitty, soul-destroying shopping experience.

We’ve all felt ashamed when shopping.

We’ve all left a shop embarrassed, belittled or holding a bag full of stuff we really didn’t want to buy.

"Every single girl I know can relate to that iconic scene from Pretty Woman" Image via Touchstone Pictures.

Every single woman I know has had at least one experience where they've been made to feel like they’re not good enough during a shopping trip. They've felt like they’re not thin enough, young enough, cool enough.

These are women of all shapes and sizes, of all professions, of all walks of life. These aren’t women with inherently low self-esteem, but a dire shopping experience can test even the toughest of us.

I lived in major cities and regional towns and it’s true; the main streets and the high streets are dying. The small local shops and independent boutiques are shutting up shop. For good. But I have a sneaking suspicion that customer service and the whole in-store experience died long before these shops closed their doors for the last time.

In my regional town it’s not unusual to hear women talk about how they won’t go into a certain shop because they don’t like the way the business owner makes them feel. Shame is keeping them away. In huge numbers.

"Shame is keeping them away. In huge numbers." Paramount Pictures.

They talk about avoiding another shop because the shop assistants hound them until they eventually buy something they don’t even want. Again, shame.

I’ve never understood this kind of attitude. Not even when I was in my early 20s and I was desperately trying to fit in (to skinny jeans and sparkly tops) and definitely not now that I’m older and I realise I can take my hard-earned dollars elsewhere.

When I lived in Sydney, I remember spending a lot of Saturdays travelling from one store to the next trying to find my size in the clothing items I wanted. This was before online shopping and before we had so much choice in retail.

I would spend nearly every Saturday morning at the shops just trying to find enough clothes to get me through a season. My options seemed finite and depressing. There were no plus-size stores, there were no online shops, buying things from overseas was reserved for people with a lot more money than me. Shame ruled these outings.

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But here’s the thing – unlike Julia Roberts circa 1990, we now have so much choice.

There’s a reason people are turning to online shopping in droves – not only is it easy, fast and convenient – but the computer screen doesn’t shame us or choose to gossip with its friend rather than help you find what you’re looking for.

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"The computer screen doesn’t shame us." Image via iStock.

I love online shopping - I love the instant gratification of buying something and then the delayed gratification of receiving it in the post a few days later.

I love the choice. I love the marketing. I love being able to find my sizes in what I'm looking for. I love being able to avoid the depressing dressing rooms. I love not having to change out of my PJ’s to shop.

How retailers trick you into spending more money. Post continues below. 

Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want. And I want a world where I don’t have to deal with snobby shop owners who remind me of Prude and Trude from Kath and Kim.

I want a world where I don’t have to deal with a preppy 20-year-old calling me ‘sweetie’ and pointing me towards their poncho section.

I still shop IRL occasionally, but I go armed with the knowledge that I can abandon the mission at any time and go running home to the safety of my laptop. And I love that.

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