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       Volume 11 |Issue 16 | April 20, 2012 |


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Shopping with the Shadow

Aasha Mehreen Amin

Image: Courtesy

Shopping, for many people, is more of a therapeutic exercise than just a necessary part of life. In fact buying necessities is not even considered 'shopping' in the self-indulgent, cathartic sense. Shopping is a way of forgetting one's troubles and being immersed in the world of sweet, charming materialism where your ever decreasing wallet/credit line is the path to temporary nirvana.

This is however, not always the case. A perfectly serene shopping experience can be completely ruined by the person known as the shopping assistant or salesperson. In the usual service industry jargon we have always heard that the 'customer is always right'. But these days it is more like 'the shopkeeper or salesperson is always right'.

There are those salespeople who have taken their job of 'assisting' a bit too seriously. Hence the sales girl or boy, literally breathing down your neck as you are trying to decide which outfit to buy. The idea of personal space is non-existent at times and one may find a salesperson at an uncomfortable proximity giving unsolicited advice: 'This is a very good choice ma'am, it is uncommon, it is the latest addition and everyone is buying this.' To the discerning shopper for whom uniqueness is the deciding factor, the very idea that everyone is buying it, is an instant turn off.

Sometimes the salesperson will follow you around like a second shadow, going with you to every row or aisle, stopping when you stop, moving when you move. You can play a game of hide and seek by pretending to be interested in a particular section and then make a sudden sprint to a different aisle leaving the salesperson quite confused about your whereabouts and intent. Soon the salesperson will catch up and if you are serious about shaking them off tell them to see if they can get something in a different colour/size/or configuration, insist that they go to the store even if they are quite sure it doesn't exist, then when they are out of sight, make a run for it.

Many customers however, have solved the problem quite quickly by turning around and simply stating that their hovering is bothersome and could they please stop otherwise a talk with the manager will be necessary. They will look shocked and hurt but the best thing is to ignore this reaction for the sake of an unhindered shopping experience.

There are some shoppers, those with big wads of cash, who feel it is necessary to have a person to follow them around, carrying the goods they pick up indiscriminately from the shelves or rows. It is these self-important individuals that give salespeople the idea that every shopper needs such personalized, in your face, attention.

One has to admit, however, that not all salespeople are obnoxious or obtrusive. There are those that keep their distance but suddenly appear at your side with a trolley or basket just when you are about to fall over with the weight of the items you are carrying and which you were not supposed to buy. And then there are those angels of consumerism -the sari-store salesmen who will bring down their entire stock and show them one by one, even wearing them with disturbing alacrity to obligate you into buying at least one. Shopaholics, needless to mention, are considered royalty and will be treated as such with free sodas, hot beverages and even phuchka and chotpoti!

On the other side of the spectrum are the reluctant salespeople – those who think they are doing you a favour just by being there. It may seem that they actually don't want you to buy anything from their store. Their sour expressions and hesitation to show anything will certainly put off even the most determined shopper. You will be made to feel guilty for interrupting their snack time or chat with their significant others on the cell phone. They will impatiently fix the clothes you have just looked at and touched as if you have committed a crime and blatantly tell you the stock is finished when you ask for something in particular. So whether your shopping experience is exhilarating or exasperating, will often be determined by the kind of salesperson you end up encountering.



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