British Sales Assistants

Get lost, I'm busy...My darling wife and I went shopping in Cheltenham the other day, to buy a dress. That makes me sound like the perfect husband, which I certainly am not, but I like shopping even if I don’t buy anything; leche vitrine as the French say.

DW had a nice little budget to buy one (within reason, we’re not made of money) and a willingness to do the purchase then and there as we were under time pressure with the kids and stuff. As far as I can tell, we were fish in a barrel.

The frustration is that British sales assistants are on the whole – generally – on average, a bit shit. We walked into shop after shop* and the concept of helping customers and actually understanding the sales bit in their job title seemed like a foreign language. In one shop the sales assistants were chatting, didn’t even say hello and offered no assistance at all, we eventually had to ask them and even then it was like we told them to pick up litter at play time. In another, the girl was so clueless they must have rehung the front door so it could be pushed or pulled lest it confuse her and her knowledge of the stock was pure guesswork.

Britain, famously derided as a nation of shop-keepers, is anything but. There seems to be a reticence to work in a shop because it is seen as a step down, to not be a career. Because of this, British sales assistants are bloody awful and sigh and tut their way through the working day, seeing customers as annoyances to their daily routine of chit-chat and nail polishing. The only glimmer of hope we have is the Americans.

On our last trip to America our experience of shopping was totally different. The sales assistants are useful, they offer to help, they know the stock and will suggest what will go together; what works, what doesn’t. They seem to care about the job, about the customer and this shows. Because of this you end up spending money; at least more than you intended to, anyway. American outlets in the UK (Apple, A&F, Gap etc) are trying to imbue this culture of care into their employees and I think that this is a positive thing. Some see it as pushy, but I think it is attentiveness.

On a positive note, DW finally got what she wanted in a shop that had all the qualities of an American outlet. The sales assistant was knowledgable, knew the stock, suggested what clothes could go with it and while DW was changing brought some alternatives that she might like. This time I will name the shop: Jigsaw.

* I won’t name them because firstly it would be a bit mean; maybe they had a bad day, under the weather or had just been dumped by their boyfriends…or something. Secondly, I think that bored legal teams of big companies like that trawl the internet looking for noob bloggers to give the big, old corporate slap down to…

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6 thoughts on “British Sales Assistants

  1. My husband worked in Jigsaw during sale periods which I’ve always (very meanly) thought of as a subject of great entertainment. Love the clothes but can’t do the assistants I’m sorry to say, except, of course, my husband!

    1. Oh dear, have been reprimanded by aforementioned husband who tells me he always seeks advice of excellent sales assistants at times of anniversary, birthday, christmas, grovelling for misdemeanour occasions. I have to say my gifts are beautiful but I thought it was his good taste not the assistant’s……..

      1. The best advice I was given about shopping for clothes was by a friend who worked as a buyer and she said: talk the sales assistants and look at the mannequins – I sometimes find it difficult to separate the two…

        I have never worked in a shop, except as a shelf stacker at Waitrose when I was a teenager.

  2. your description of british sales assistants (shockingly) reminds me of our own soviet inspired ex-yugaslavian sales assistants in Sarajevo who still haven’t realized today in 2009 that USSR is no more and that they work for a private company (mango, zara and the likes) that CAN fire them if they don’t say hello or refuse to go to the stock because its coffee time. and don’t even get me started on the post office….

  3. “On our last trip to America our experience of shopping was totally different. The sales assistants are useful, they offer to help, they know the stock and will suggest what will go together; what works, what doesn’t. They seem to care about the job, about the customer and this shows. Because of this you end up spending money; at least more than you intended to, anyway. American outlets in the UK (Apple, A&F, Gap etc) are trying to imbue this culture of care into their employees and I think that this is a positive thing. Some see it as pushy, but I think it is attentiveness.”

    I really dislike shopping in America because the SA’s are paid provision for their sales, its not pushiness, its not attentiveness , its greed, in short it means that means they’ll try to sell you anything, its disingenuous and you can’t really trust what they say.

    I’d rather take no help over someone trying to sell me something. Maybe its just because im a peoples person and i can tell these things : )

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