A little rant

A little rant

About service in shops.  Or rather, the lack of it.


My rant-ette has been building for a couple of weeks or maybe longer.  Perhaps it began when we began to use our own shopping bags and retailers found this the best reason for reducing the level of service they provide still further and opting out of wrapping our purchases altogether if possible.  Never mind that they could use a piece of tissue paper or even a paper bag to protect delicate or expensive items from sloshing around with the bottle of milk and the vegetables in that same shopping bag.  They had been told that we'd bring our own packaging and that was that.

OK.  I can deal with that, generally.  

What I find really difficult is to observe the shop assistant stand and watch as I place my purchase on the counter, swipe/insert my card and type in my PIN, replace the card in my purse whilst juggling anything else I might be carrying and then try to pack my purchase in my bag with absolutely no help forthcoming from the other side of the counter.   


Perhaps I am more aware of this lack of service having just experienced a totally different approach in Mumbai?  There, in a shoe shop, for example, the set up is more or less the same as here, where customers select a few pairs to try on and the correct sizes are brought from the stockroom by an assistant.  But there the similarity ends.  The Indian assistants are keen to "play", to have fun and to make the experience of shopping a pleasure.  They want to interact, to chat and above all, to be helpful.  So, even the cheapest pair of shoes are brought to the customer, unwrapped and opened up, and placed carefully on the foot by the attentive salesperson.  They make any necessary adjustments to straps and so on and step back to allow the decision making to begin.


Yes, I know the days of having quite so many staff on hand to provide this full service are gone here, but surely, those who remain have an opportunity to persuade us of the benefits of shopping in a real shop and not always online?  After all, it's that personal service that makes the difference, isn't it?

This morning I was shopping in Boots the Chemist, where I bought a small bottle of cuticle oil.  As I approached the tills, I spotted a vacant self service point, but as I moved towards It, I spotted an assistant with no customer waiting.  I'd always rather deal with a real person, so I placed the small bottle on the counter and got out my purse and Boots card.  During the transaction, the young woman assistant made no eye contact with me whatsoever and did not touch the bottle at all since her scanner could read the barcode there on the counter.  She simply stood and waited until I'd inserted my card into the machine.  At some point, she must have pressed a button, for my card was accepted and the instruction came to remove it from the machine.  I replaced it in my purse, put my purse back in my handbag and noticed that she was still just standing there, waiting for me whilst I faffed about.

You know what I did then, don't you?  I faffed some more!  I zipped my handbag closed and secured the clasp, almost willing her to hand me the small bottle.  But no, she was not going to move an inch nor lift a finger, because by now, she'd folded her arms.  It was down to me to take it, to pack it into my bag and to take my receipt from the machine, which of course I did.

I'd have had a more joyful exchange with the self-service machine, which upon reading my card would at least have addressed me by name.  

But actually, Hazel (I checked her name on the receipt when I emailed Boots later) was alive and breathing, even if she couldn't be bothered to interact with a customer.  How do I know that for sure?

She yawned.


I'm glad to say that I had more enjoyable transactions during the morning, in particular in Marks and Spencer, where the sales assistant not only wrapped the three T shirts I bought in a sheet of tissue paper, but chatted as she did (there wasn't a queue) and helped me put them into my freshly unfolded shopping bag.  I felt I wanted to acknowledge such good service and whilst browsing elsewhere in the store, asked an assistant if there was a supervisor nearby.  Apparently not - well, not until lunchtime today, she thought.

I could visit their website and leave a comment online, she said.

Good grief.  She knits and sews

Good grief. She knits and sews

The law of diminishing returns

The law of diminishing returns