Call it the “Pretty Woman” syndrome: When a salesperson at a store is too snotty or insolent for words. Whether we’re talking Urban Outfitters or Louis Vuitton, a snotty, bitchy, over-the-top entitled shop person can totally ruin your day. And while a good salesperson can convince you to buy something you don’t need or actually want, a bad one can have you in tears.
As someone who’s worked in service before — at about a zillion coffee shops — I understand that sometimes a retail employee is simply having a bad day. But when a salesclerk wields their power over you in a disrespectful or humiliating way, it can make you feel like you don’t actually deserve to be there.
And that’s the crux of it isn’t it? The idea that some of us deserve to shop at a particular store, and others don’t. A salesperson at a London store nearly had me in tears the other day.
I had a little bit of time to kill, and decided to visit Dover Street Market, a crazy, four-story shop designed and curated by Rei Kawakubo, the genius behind Comme des Garçons. The store’s unassuming front houses creations from Rei herself, along with collections from avant garde designers like Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens and Peter Pilotto. Most of the items in the boutique are strictly for ogling — they are way, way, way out of my price range.
But the guy working behind the counter didn’t know that.
And that didn’t stop him from speaking with me in a rude and condescending way. Was there something in the way I dressed or browsed that denoted that I didn’t have the money to shop there? For all he knew I was a wealthy millionaire looking to drop a few thousand dollars on a sweater coat. Contrasting my treatment, another woman was trying on blouses nearby, with three salespeople ogling her options. She was choosing between a plain white blouse that cost a thousand pounds, and another slightly less expensive, but more difficult to pull off, option. “But the white one is so much more versatile,” one of the sales girls cooed. It’s all relative.
What makes me balk is the assumption that one of us somehow deserved to be there, while the other didn’t. And compounding this is the idea that just because you work at a place you somehow have dominion over that distinction.
Have you ever had a really bad experience with a salesperson? What did you do?