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 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.
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.