It may come across like I am complaining, but I am not. I just find it interesting how different people act and how in different countries the simple acts of going about everyday life are handled in different ways. I would also like to ask if you have an opinion on any of the things I write about and if you do, then comment either here on the blog or on facebook.
I am currently sitting at Oklahoma airport waiting for my return flight to Winnipeg and would like to tell you about an experience I had whilst shopping yesterday.
I had gone to an out of town outlet centre to see if I could find some new clothes before returning to Canada and while buying a new shirt, I had an interesting conversation with the shop assistant.
She had asked about my accent and was really funny and friendly, so I enquired about the way shop assistants greet the shoppers over here. Usually when you enter a shop there is an assistant who will greet you as you enter with ‘How are you doing today’, or ‘How is your day going?’ I don’t mind this at all.
However, when you then get into the shop another assistant is sure to find you and ask you:’ Can I help you with anything today’, or ‘Are you looking for anything particular today sir?’ Again, I can take this in my stride, say no thank you and carry on looking, but then they now go into another spiel:- ‘ We have an extra 1% off all our strawberry coloured t-shirts and 35 inch trousers come with a free hat...etc etc’. Errrm, did I ask for that information or am I unable to read the sign next to you that states exactly what you just said? No. Now go away. I obviously don’t say that, but it’s what I am thinking. If I had asked ‘Do you have any deals on at the moment?’ It would be the correct response from them, but I always say ‘No thanks’ to the previous question, unless I want something in particular.
This happened in Dallas last week:-
I walked into a shop.
Assistant: ‘Hello, (Greets me like a long lost brother) How ARE you today?
Me: Fine thanks
Assistant: Are you looking for anything in particular today?
Me: No, just browsing, thanks.
Assistant: If you buy a pair of socks, you get a pair free. We also have 10% off these t shirts and as its winter we also have 25% off gloves. (He moved closer as if he was telling me a huge secret as he told me this)
Me: Oh, ok, I just am browsing.
He left me at this point.
2 minutes later I was browsing near the jeans.
Assistant (Who appeared magically from behind the sweaters) I have those jeans (points at something about 15 feet away) at only $20 today.
Me: I’m just browsing (I then left the shop)
Some would say he was just trying to help, but I say he was just trying!! I understand he is trying to sell me something, but at no point did he actually listen to what I (the customer) was saying.
Going back to the shop assistant I chatted with yesterday. She told me that they attend a course to learn how to greet shoppers and sell more stuff. On that course they are given the statements they have to make to the customer such as ‘How are you doing today sir’ and ‘Can I help with anything today sir’. I asked why they have to add ‘Today’, to everything? She didn’t know. I mean can you imagine in everyday life using the word today in every sentence? How about this:-
Mum: What would you like for breakfast today?
Kid: I want toast today please mum,
Mum: Would you like peanut butter on that today or jam?
Kid: Peanut butter today please mum.
Now take the same conversation and remove the word today – it’s just the same. It doesn’t need it!
My main reason for this discussion is when you actually do buy something in a store. When you go to the checkout, the assistant invariably asks you: - ‘Do you find everything ok today sir?’ (They sometimes ask you this while you are browsing too at which point I am desperate to reply ‘No I can’t find the medium sized snow coated waterproof purple coconut hose washing socks" ’. But I don’t like to be rude and bite my tongue)
What does this actually mean? ‘Did you find everything ok today sir? Firstly, you don’t need to say today, unless you are planning on talking about yesterday, last week or next Tuesday. Secondly ‘Did you find everything?’ I have never planned to go into a shop and ‘find everything’. It’s not a fucking scavenger hunt or a competition. I may be browsing or looking for something in particular, but I don’t have time to look for and find ‘everything’! I would be perfectly happy, at this point, for the assistant to point out anything that is on sale or may interest me. For example, if I am buying trousers, he may point me towards a belt. Or if I am buying gloves a matching scarf might be good.
The assistant I spoke with told me that the course they attend tells them to ask these pertinent questions when a customer enters the shop, when they are browsing and when serving them at the till. But I wonder if they take the instructions too literally. As a customer I would prefer to be spoken too like a person. A simple ‘hello, how are you ‘, when I enter.’ Can I help you with anything’, when I am browsing and even if the assistant tells me their name:-
‘Hi, I am Susan/Muhammad/Svengali/Brad, if you need anything, just come get me’, would be brilliant. I don’t need to be reminded that today is actually today and I don’t intend to look at everything.
When I spoke with the nice assistant, it was a nice experience, she was pleasant, friendly and I will remember her for this. I hope she remembers me too, because I explained all this in our short conversation and she agreed that she would prefer to be herself and talk to customers in the same way she was talking with me. (She even made sure that as she greeted the next customer, she didn’t use the defined wording. The customer seemed happy with this and started to chat to her in the same way I had)
So to any shop assistants out there – stop being a robot. Be yourself, smile, say hello, be friendly and ask me how I am doing. I may then actually buy something.