I am a copywriter but I have also spent lots of time in retail. Honestly, if it paid better, I wouldn’t mind a career in retail, even though there are claims that it is dying. Personally, I don’t buy clothes, shoes and jewellery online much as I like to see and touch the products I purchase before I buy – so I meet a lot of sales assistants.
Having spent lots of time working in retail (I have experience selling jewellery, surf wear, office wear, men’s suits, footwear and even skateboards and Swiss watches!) I know how tough the role of “sales assistant” or “shop assistant” is. Customers are a pain in the ass. The hours are long. Your toilet breaks are timed. Even your manager is badly paid.
7 varieties of shop assistants you’ll come across on your next retail shopping trip
#1: The over-enthusiast
“Hi there!” she screams as you walk into the shop. “What are you looking for today/I love your outfit/have you seen this new Herve Leger-inspired design?” It doesn’t matter that you’re on your phone, talking to your friend or otherwise disengaged from conversation with her, she’ll speak to you as enthusiastically as if you were a long-lost friend.
#2: The hipster
Probably has a pieced face and uncomfortable-looking, non-sensible shoes that are not suited to his/her workplace or job. Might be wearing a hat to hide from the eyes of prying customers, and uses this as a shield if necessary. Best not to ask their opinion or advice on anything, to avoid being met with blank stares and vague, open hostility.
#3: The new recruit
Like the over-enthusiast but less confident. This sales assistant will bound over to you with enthusiasm but won’t be confident enough to compliment you on your outfit or to recommend goods or suggestions to you. He or she will shyly ask if you need help and if you say no, they’ll look as crest-fallen as if you’d just run over their favourite puppy.
#4: The surly
You’ll find a few in every mall, a sales assistant that looks so bored and angry with life, you daren’t ask them where the changeround is. Worst case scenario is if you get someone like this ‘serving’ you when you really need advice. “Does this watch have titanium banding?” you ask. “Dunno,” they say, when what they mean is, “Don’t care.”
#5: The gang
This a troupe of two or three sales assistants that work in packs, following each other around the shop, squalling at each other in hapless abandon. They’ll yell to each other from across the shop floor and often have pet names for each other, like “Darl” or “Girlfriend”. Being in their shop (near their little gang) makes you feel like a less-cool outsider.
#6: The phoner
Constantly talks to someone on the phone, despite the shop being full of customers. When you approach the point-of-sale desk, they’ll switch tones, making it seem as if they’re on the phone to their manager. Makes you wait for 15 minutes just so they can tear themselves away from the phone to unlock a change room for you.
#7: The boss
For once, it seems that you’re getting decent service. This person knows the stock, seems to care and is just a little bit older than you’d expect. Hang on – you realise – this person owns the shop and is now trying to up-sell me to a more expensive product in a really pushy way. You make a mental note to avoid that store in the future if you come across them in it.
What do you think? Have I left any categories out? Had any bad customer service experiences lately? Tell me!