To Buy or not to Buy
Nadia Kabir Barb
I am sure that anyone who knows me will testify to the fact that I am a terrible shopper. I have over the years realised that I absolutely detest this particular recreational activity. The thought of having to venture to a shopping centre or having to brave the crowds on the high street sends me into a sweat. I have long since given up going to the sales as it is reminiscent of Darwin's survival of the fittest where people are jostling and pushing each other, stepping on ones toes and grabbing things in order to get a good bargain. Only the determined and indomitable shoppers are left standing.
This does not mean that I never go out to buy anything or am one of those people who orders everything online but let's just say that I have never really understood the fascination or benefits of retail therapy. But one thing I have found is that it really makes a difference depending on the type of service you get in any particular shop. Some shop assistants make you want to spend your money in their establishment and others make you make you want to flee.
A few months ago my husband and I were out shopping for a present for our elder daughter and decided to go to a newly built indoor shopping centre relatively near our house. We had a plan of action which was supposed to reduce the actual time we spent wandering around this monolith with its hundreds of stores, all enclosed under one roof. I sped off in one direction and my husband made his way to another part of the shopping mall in search of something suitable to get for my daughter. I traipsed in and out of shop after shop but after what seemed like an eternity, I decided to give up and call my husband and tell him that my mission had been unsuccessful. As I rummaged around in my handbag and then my coat pockets, I realised to my utter dismay that I could not find my phone. I was convinced that it must have slipped out of my pocket and the thought of ever finding it in a place that was as big as the shopping mall we were in was almost nonexistent. It was doubly frustrating as I had finally got a new phone after being teased by everyone for carrying around a prehistoric mobile phone.
It then dawned on me that my husband and I had not fixed a designated spot where we were going to meet after our separate shopping endeavours. I walked up to a young man who had some electronic gadgets and items on display on a table near where I had been standing and asked him where the nearest pay phone might be. He apologised and told me that he had no idea. By this stage, I was in a bit of a panic and blurted out that I had lost my phone and had no way of contacting my husband to let him know where I was. As I mentioned before the shopping centre is massive and not somewhere you might find somebody very easily as I believe it is the equivalent of 30 football pitches!
The sales assistant took out his cell phone and told me to call my husband and also my phone company in case I needed to block my number. I was very pleasantly surprised by this gesture and took him up on his offer. Once I had told my husband where to meet me, the young man suggested that I retrace my steps in case I had dropped my phone or left it in one of the stores I had visited. This sounded like sensible advice so I asked him to tell my husband to wait for me if he got their before I returned and made my way to the last shop I remembered having my phone. I have to admit that I was very sceptical about actually finding it but I went to the store I had last been in and found someone who worked there. As I recounted my missing phone story, he smiled and pulled something out from behind the counter and to my relief it was my phone! I thanked him profusely and made my way back to where I was going to meet my husband. Once again I thanked that sales assistant for all his help and after a few minutes of chatting about the product he was promoting, we ended up buying one as it seemed like the perfect gift for my daughter and a way of thanking him for his help.
However, not all sales assistants are as helpful as I have had numerous encounters where the shop attendants have been stroppy and uncooperative. I remember being in Dhaka a few years ago and having picked up some ceramic mugs in a handicraft shop and taken it to the till. I noticed there was dust inside the mugs so I asked the girl at the counter to clean it before she packed it. I was rather taken aback when she picked up the mug and instead of wiping it with a cloth, just blew in it trying to get rid of the dirt! She was definitely not a candidate for the employee of the month award.
I find that in some places, the shop assistants follow you around and make you feel uncomfortable if you are just browsing or give you the feeling that they think you might be a potential shoplifter waiting for an opportunity to stuff something in your bag. The other extreme is where you cannot even find someone to assist you or be told that they are busy (chatting on the phone to a friend) and will be with you when they are not otherwise occupied.
An incident that comes to mind is when my mother in law and my husband went to buy some saris just before our engagement. They went to a sari shop in Southall, a predominantly Indian neighbourhood with numerous sari and shalwar kameez shops aligning the streets. As neither my husband nor my mother in law is from the sub continent, buying a sari was not a run of the mill event for them. On the contrary it was quite a daunting task. What was surprising is that the shop keeper there sat in his chair and did not even bother to take out any saris from the shelves or glass show cases for them, instead he just pointed at the saris on display. Obviously he felt that it would be a waste of his time showing them any saris as they were probably not going to buy anything. So they just walked out and bought the saris from a different shop. This kind of nonchalant behaviour is a far cry from the vendors in Bangladesh, who are constantly vying for customers and beckoning to them as they walk past their sari shops.
It is needless to say that since then my mother in law has never stepped into a sari shop and I for one can hardly blame her...
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