Some days ago there was a blip on the horizon with Oprah Winfrey facing a snooty shop assistant who was rude/insidious racist and this led to many a generic and specific debates/tweets, where else but “Twitter” the first resort of ranting for all of us.

I personally had quite an interesting exchange with Meetaaa Sengupta and then with GutterFly who actually faced an Oprah moment but managed to turn it to his advantage.

I have personally faced this but never for more than a couple of minutes, some points that helped achieve this would need a separate post. Reading HT brunch on saturday and Seema Goswami article Are you being served? struck a chord.

Most of us have faced a similar problem at some point of our shopping expedition, it does not matter whether in India, Europe, USA, Far East & Middle East.

If we try to con ourselves that skin colour does not matter, then you’re just deluding yourself.

Skin Colour does matter. The next time around when you are shopping, look around you, the fair get attended to quicker than the dark.

Well dressed & English speaking does matter. More so if you speak with an accent.

Cash rules A discreet flash of cash or Black card works wonders.

Now all of this in detail can be read from any of the link above. The Shop assistants perspective is what I thought was also relevant.

Based on locations, most shop assistants are poorly/decently/well paid BUT still not enough for them to be able to buy/use the stuff they sell. (Yes, I know abc & xyz brands do allow discounts etc, but we are not talking lipstick or food here) So there is a serious element of jealousy that exists and no you cannot do anything about that.

Most of the ‘Brands’ have a kind of process/policy (or if you prefer the word ‘Profiling’) on identification of consumers who walk in to the store. This is so ingrained that it is on auto mode.

A lot of this is also dependent on the ‘Brand culture’ which percolates down to the poor shop assistant.

Profiling & Culture are taught to the frontline staff by ‘Trainers’ mostly support personnel, who are far removed from business to understand, the long ranging implications of an attitude/rejection of consumers.

Does this absolve the Shop assistant or the shop? Nope it does not & should not. However, there is little much you can do here. If you do not believe me, Try calling up one of our ‘Designers/Photographers/Hospitality/Media/Bankers’ without the right name or connection and then with the relevant name. Feel the difference.

My personal experience in shopping at expensive places – not that I’ve shopped as much as Oprah or some others – has mostly been nice. And NO I do not dress up or carry branded bag, but some simple things.

Always smile and greet the server/shop assistant without waiting for them to greet me. Always seek their expertise, even if I know more than them; share that I would like to take a look at the more expensive stuff, that may/may not be beyond my reach.

However, this does not guarantee that there may not be Snotty Shop Assistants. There always will be. But then there are Snotty Consumers also, many who forget that by being able to purchase an item in the store does not mean you can trample the self respect of that assistant.

Written by AD
ex waiter, angadia, travel agent, dotcomer, dukaandaar, marketeer, people watcher. appreciates single malt, food, friends