Yes, I know that it has been said before, but I will say it again and again. Maybe if we all whine long and loud enough it will finally sink in. So this goes out to all those who work in any sort of shop: politeness is not optional when facing that strange animal we refer to as The Customer.
Ideally, the politeness is also upgraded to a discrete friendliness but let’s not try to run before we have found our feet and focus on the basics for now.
Throughout my long and distinguished career as a shopper who buys way more stuff than she needs, I have had it proven to me time and time again that the sales-assistant who shows a shred of humanity is a rare phenomenon.
Sure, there are some decent types to be found if you look long and hard enough. This post is not about them. This post is about those kinds of shop-assistants that make me want to wrap my fingers around their neck and press hard. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Where the metaphor refers to a good kick up the butt.
1. The one who is afflicted by a sudden case of deafness/blindness/dumbness/all three.
There you are, waiting patiently item in hand waiting to be cashed. There is no other customer ahead of you and the shop is empty save for the person at the cash register and another sales-assistant hovering around. Who both happen to be conducting a conversation across the shop floor.
You wait patiently for a couple of minutes. After hearing all about how their boss showed up wasted the previous week, the conversation peters out and you spy a glimmer of hope. You smile at the cashier… Who promptly disappears towards the back of the shop with a cursory : “a minute Miss”.
You wait there for another five minutes, feeling like a right wally. Well, in my case you don’t. In my case you place your item back on the counter with an icy “don’t bother” and exit the shop feeling all righteous and deflated at the same time. Because no-one else carries those sandals in that colour, dammit. You just can’t win.
2. The one who seems to think that permanent residency at the bottom circle of hell would be a better option than serving you.
She (it is always a she) rolls her eyes when you politely enquire if they carry a bigger size for your chosen item. She hands you said bigger size with an audible huff and goes back to filing her nails. Then, when you eventually decide to buy the item she slams it in a paper bag and shouts “eleven ninety hi” or something to that effect.
You hand over fifteen euro and she huffs and puffs and rolls her eyes some more. Making a big show of fishing out the change, she gives you a baleful stare before handing it over. You scurry out before she adds a death ray to her arsenal of looks, only to find that she short-changed you.
3. The unstoppable chatterer.
This one goes the opposite extreme and gets über-friendly, probably because of the insane boredom. Yeah I know that this comes across as rather mean but I really don’t care about what a great weekend you had/ how your partner is messing with you/ that you spent half an hour on the bus-stop before making it to work. Not unless you are a real friend, anyway. And you are not. So please do shut up and cash my stuff so I can leg it out of there and get back to my life. Thank you. And good day to you too.
Now let me go hide behind that wig and that big floppy hat. There’s a spot of shopping to be done.
An edited version of this post appeared on The TV Guide (Times of Malta).