Sunday, May 13, 2007

OK, I'm Not Invisible

I continue to rage against the machine that is Retail.

I want to be clear here that I'm not directing my anger at the salespeople.  The salespeople are, by and large, nice folks doing hard work.  I rage against the stupid corporate directives that instruct the employees (on pain of monetary sanction, I'm sure) to say stupid things to me.

I enter Victoria's Secret.  I'm looking to buy some bras.  An employee asks me if she can help me.  Yes, she can.  She can tell me where to find the Body By Victoria bras, please.  After pinning down exactly which type of bra I have in mind, she then says, "What size?"  I tell her.  She then aims me toward the room where the bras are so I can find the bra I need.

I walk away, puzzled.  Why did I have to tell this woman my bra size?  I think, actually, what she meant to ask is if I knew my size or if I'd be needing her assistance (as she had a measuring tape around her neck).  But now some stranger in Victoria's Secret knows my bra size for no good reason.  Sweet.  She also asked if I would be putting the purchase on my "Angel Card."  So did the woman in the back room, when I asked for her help in finding more bras.  So did the woman in the dressing room.  So did the woman at the cash register.  Clearly, they either get a commission on new sign-ups for Angel Cards or they all just came from a meeting where they were ordered to harass all customers about the damn thing.  But, really, having to turn it down four times seems a bit excessive.

I continue to walk through the mall.  Someone at one of the little carts (selling some random beauty product) walks up next to me and says, "Ma'am, can I ask you a question?"  ("You just did," I think.)  I don't want what she's selling so I have to (fairly rudely, I think) say, "No, you can't," and walk off.  (When I come back the other way, her counterpart on the other side of the cart gives me the same "Ma'am, can I ask you a question?" pitch.)

I'm headed to Bath & Body Works.  I want to buy a gift for a very close friend who has, unfortunately, recently been diagnosed with cancer and starts chemotherapy tomorrow.  When I enter the store, the employee does not say, "Can I help you?" or "Can I help you find something?"  Instead he comes up with, "Are you buying a gift for yourself or your mother today?"  I, actually, briefly consider, "No, I'm buying a gift for a friend starting chemotheraphy, thanks for asking, you moron" just to see what sort of effect I'd get -- but I instead wave him off with a curt, "I know what I'm looking for, thanks."

It wasn't just that it was none of his damn business who I was shopping for.  It was the particularly patronizing way he asked, "Are you buying a gift for yourself?"  I often buy stuff at Bath & Body Works, and, frankly, I don't really consider the bottle of Anti-Bacterial Hand Gel that I carry in my purse to be a "gift for myself."  Don't get me wrong -- being able to clean one's hands after using a port-a-john is a pretty valuable thing.  I just don't think of it as, y'know, a treat.

I wondered if people in other cultures are usually harassed in the marketplace by overeager sellers -- or if this is just peculiar to American shopping malls.

2 comments:

lanurseprn said...

I avoid malls like the Plaque.  I especially hate when they want to spray something on me.
Pam

rwdykt said...

They have to say whatever the manager tells them to say that day which is handed down by corporate every day.  If an employee doesn't say the correct thing, they might get dinged on a secret shop and that's one of the main things the stores are goaled on.  As for the sayings themselves, they try to make them as unique to the store as possible.  I worked at Target over the holidays for some extra cash and you HAD to say to every "guest" who came within 5 feet of you "can I help you find something?".  Which is absolutely ridiculous in that I was pretty much brand new for the whole time I was working there and didn't know where half the stuff was, especially not out of the sections I hadn't worked in.  With the credit cards, it's fishing just like telemarketers--if they ask 100 people and 1 of them says yes, that's one more than they might not have gotten.  I've worked a lot of retail and it's the same across the board--the basic employees are treated like children because some of them still are and they have to dumb it down to a repetitive level.  The people with the most responsibility in the store are usually the mid-managers/supervisors who are usually forced to work long hours and have more work than anyone else.  
Btw, Target's totally not worth it for the holiday pay.