L'Eclaireur in Paris: possibly the most intimidating retail experience on the planet.
I was just asked a question over on my Diary about how staff can be rude/intimidating at fashion retail stores, and seeing as it's something that we all have to deal with on a regular basis, I thought I'd try to figure it out. When I was a lot younger and I'd just moved to Auckland, I used to browse the high end stores a lot: Zambesi, Fabric, Wunderkammer and Little Brother were my regulars. I very rarely (if ever) bought anything due to my extreme lack of funds, and more often than not, I'd get so nervous walking through the door that I'd break out in a cold sweat. With every glance or comment or half smile I could literally see the retail staff judging my clothes and mentally assessing the contents of my bank account.
There were two problems: Firstly, sometimes the staff were just plain rude. Secondly, and probably most likely, I was projecting my own intimidated insecurities and imagining things. While it's true that I get treated better by retail staff now that I'm older than a lot of them, I have a little more money to spend and possibly most importantly, I work in the fashion media, I will admit that shopping still freaks me out. I hate trying things on because more often than not I won't want to buy the garments and then you have the whole putting-things-back-on-the-shelf dilemma, and what about when you realise you can't actually afford the thing at all. The worst!
Here's what we have to remember: Retail stores need customers. They need people who will buy now, and people who will look now and buy later. They need people who will talk about their stores to their friends and who will lay-buy clothes and even people who will only buy when everything is on 80% sale. If you don't like how a retail assistant talks to you or looks at you or treats you, then it's your choice not to buy. You can walk away. Or even better, you can complain to the manager...
And here's some advice from the retailers themselves:
Marty at Fabric: "I always tell my staff that the guy who's at uni now and can't afford it will eventually graduate. It's all about personal confidence I think. You just have to walk in and enjoy yourself. For us it's all about trying to encourage young guys to come in the store and to really enjoy the product."
Murray Crane at Crane Brothers: "Don’t go in. Quite simple really. The standard will never improve unless lazy sales people are held to account."
Debbie Hindin (my Aunty) at Moa: "What you've got to remember is that the philosophy is that the customer comes first. Of course pleasing the customer is the thing that is utmost important because the customer is the one the whole shop is geared towards. They're the main priority."
Sarah Mason at Area 51: "To the wholesome modest kids out there (who are a dying breed in inner city AK) the things that are important are your ability to hold a decent conversation, do that when you walk in and everyone has mutual respect, and remember you are the ones paying us at the end of the day...WE WANT YOU to be in our stores."
Jae Mills at Black Box Boutique: "I think if a young customer is feeling intimidated about walking into a store, it helps to build a rapport with the sales person. Sales people enjoy conversation and building relationships with their customers. If you build a good relationship with the sales person by being in turn friendly and accommodating they will look after you and offer all their knowledge and information about the product. Once you have established a good relationship with the staff there should be no reason to feel intimidated next time."
Frank Liew at Qubic: "There should never be an excuse for poor or intimidating service, ever. In our travels we see poor service all over the world and that was one thing we didn’t want to bring home to NZ. We've always said that even if a person doesn't want to buy something, it's good to share our insane vision with them so they know what we're about. You know, a lot of the time retail staff genuinely want to have a nice conversation with someone who walks into the door, and they might be more intimidated by you than you are by them! We’re humans too. Having a nice conversation with someone is a nice way of making the long day a little more interesting, and it’s always fun to chat the day away with people with similar interests, so don't be afraid."
Photo: French Truckers
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