I’m sure there was a time when going shopping was a happy Saturday pastime, often enjoyed with friends, punctuated by a café pit stop for coffee and cake. I’d try on a few bits and bobs, see if anything I liked had moved from the front window to the sale rack yet, maybe even start my summer holiday wardrobe, or the Christmas shopping, if something caught my eye.
Now it seems that for a long as I can remember, shopping has been a confusing, disappointing, rushed and stressful experience.
I know what you’re thinking – if I don’t like going to shops then why don’t I shop online? I could be enjoying that coffee and cake in the comfort of my own home, while Firefox does the walking. Sounds good in theory, but with a try-to-buy ratio as bad as mine, I’d spend three mornings a week queuing up in the post office to send stuff back.
My clothes shopping experiences are frequently aggravated by the modern breed of helpful shop assistants. Responding to questions about how my day was and what I’m doing this weekend does not help me to find a dress, a handbag or a last minute birthday gift. Please, just chill until I need to ask for something. Otherwise, you’re going to scare me off and I’ll just end up in Myer, where I can browse in peace.
There are of course some circumstances in which I will eventually need assistance with the purchase process; such as when shopping for large electrical goods, furniture or a mobile phone, but it is pretty rare that I need any assistance from a total stranger to help me decide whether or not I like a pair of shorts.
I understand that engaging the shopper in conversation is often required by corporate policy, but I truly hope that vacuous comments on the shopper’s current attire - “Oh that’s cute you’re wearing a business suit with runners; but why?” – do not actually feature in the training manuals.
To avoid unnecessary interactions with staff, I tend to stand at the very front of a shop and perform a 180 degree scan of what’s on offer. Only if there seems to be a reasonable chance of finding something I like will I venture in further. This is where the next challenge kicks in – unless I’m in a very familiar shop, I have no idea what the price tags are going to look like.
I’ve got no problem paying for quality but when I pick something up thinking “that looks nice for about $50” then find an extra zero on the price tag, there’s no amount of sales banter that’s going to make me entertain the purchase. Yes I know it’s a lovely top (that’s why I picked it up in the first place) and yes I’m sure it will look fantastic alongside my hair colour, but the fact remains that it’s just not $500 worth of nice and I’ve already put it down and stepped back out over the threshold of your shop doorway, so please cease and desist.
One place I can always manage to make a purchase is Priceline. Priceline also suffers from overly helpful staff but at least everyone always has a purchase in mind when wandering into Priceline, so as long as you can remember what you went in for when challenged then you’ll be escorted to the location of the product, then onwards to the till and you’ll be back outside in a jiffy.
That’s in a perfect world of course. There are two things that can and do go wrong in Priceline. Firstly, when asked if I need any help, my mind goes blank and so begins a long awkward pause until I remember that I might be looking for a toothbrush. Once I’ve been escorted to the toothbrushes I then have to remember if I needed anything else, and potentially the whole “Do you need any help?” process gets repeated more times than is comfortable.
The second thing that can go wrong is that I get distracted by nail polish. Oh yeah, it happens. In fact it happens about once a week on average. I can usually manage not to buy, but not before I’ve spent a good few minutes inspecting the latest range of tiny pretty coloured bottles and wondering if there is possibly a new shade that is not already represented in my personal collection. (Please rest assured however; I am not this woman: click here).
With a purchase of a toothbrush, if nothing else, finally complete I emerge breathing a deep sigh of relief back into the bustling hallways of Westfield. Following the time honoured method of making a return journey, I turn back the way I came and look for the escalator back down to the ground floor. But no! The escalator down is in a completely different location! In fact, it may be on a completely different level, which is still two levels above the car park but is now inexplicably called level 4 instead of level 2 and can only be accessed from the opposite end of the shopping centre.
Image credit: ariwasabi / 123RF Stock Photo
Nicki Ranger is a freelance writer currently based in Perth, Western Australia.
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