This month in lieu of my usual question and answer column, I’ve decided to address an issue of personal importance, Shopping Etiquette. High Season is upon us and the stores will soon be filling up again, with lines for the fitting rooms, waits to check out and, inevitably, some cranky shoppers and sales clerks.
Working in retail is, for the most part, wonderful, and I have made friends with many of my customers. However, there are things that frankly drive me bananas in my line of work. After discussing the subject further with colleagues and doing some online research, it seems I’m not alone in my frustration. And the same things tend to bother us all. The bottom line is that shopping should be a pleasure. But in order for that to be fully realized, the experience should be mutually pleasing for both the customer and the sales clerk. Here are some rules to shop by. And while I’m sure that you’d never do these things, consider this a friendly reminder before you head out to make your next purchase. 1. Be polite I was recently shopping in Manhattan at a well-known, high-end shop that I will refrain from naming. I was in the store for over 20 minutes and the two giraffe model-type girls working on the floor hadn’t so much as blinked at me. They were completely “unaware” of my presence and were instead focused on taking pictures of each other in various poses for, I assume, Facebook.
I left soon after, annoyed and empty-handed. Point being, you should always expect to be greeted and acknowledged when walking into a store. That being said, a response is appreciated. Ignoring a “Hello” is quite rude in any setting and can set the precedent for the rest of the visit. Beginning with a pleasant rapport is the best way to ensure an enjoyable experience. 2. Bathrooms
Most boutiques do not have public restrooms. Yes, department stores have bathrooms, but most boutiques have limited space in the back, often an office, stock room and storage in one small area. The restrooms therefore are most likely unglamorous and are reserved for employees only. Don’t be offended by a refusal to let you go, it’s not personal and I’m sure that there’s (almost always) a Starbuck’s near by.
3. Children I shopped with my mom all the time as a child. Her mantra to me was, “look with your eyes, not with your hands.” If, on the off chance I wasn’t being angelic, and I was touching things or misbehaving, we left immediately. We don’t mind your kids in the store, but seriously, they have to be on their best behavior. Crying, screaming, pulling clothes off the racks, crawling on displays, foot stomping….not okay. As a general rule I would say to reserve actual shopping trips, when you’re looking for new jeans, for example, for a kid free afternoon. If you’re popping by to browse or say hello, kids are cool, but they lose patience quickly and quite frankly, so do we.
4. Discounts It’s really never okay to ask for a discount. Let me first make a few exceptions, though I stand by my first statement whole-heartedly. If you find that an item on the floor is damaged, point it out to the sales person. In the event that it is the only one and you are willing to take it as final sale, a discount will most likely be offered and if not, it’s okay to ask for a percentage off. If you work in a nearby store and there is a courtesy discount generally given, you may ask if the store you’re in participates. However, in both instances, the shop owner or sales person is free to decline.
Simply asking for a discount because you want to pay less isn’t okay. Most stores have sale items and asking if something is on sale is fine. But choosing your items and then trying to haggle the price is just plain rude. If the owner of the store or sales clerk is able to offer you a discount, they will, and I can guarantee they’ll be more inclined to do so if you’ve been polite and haven’t behaved as though you deserve a discount simply because you’re you. 5. Returns/Exchanges
Boutiques generally operate differently from large department stores and their policies on returns and exchanges are probably somewhat less lenient. Understand the rules where you’re shopping before you make a purchase. Because stores are required to have their policies displayed, claiming ignorance while trying to return something most likely won’t be effective. Arguing with a sales person about the store’s policy is also probably not going to work in your favor. And I hate to even have to mention this, but I do, wearing or altering a garment and then trying to return it . . . never okay. 6. “High” Prices
When walking through a store, if you find that the prices seem high, that’s fine. But please, keep that to yourself. It is impolite and offensive to scoff at prices, or say things like, “this skirt isn’t worth x dollars?!” or “I could get this at Target.” Perhaps you’re not familiar with the lines carried at the store you’re in. Asking polite and respectful questions is, of course, okay, and even welcomed. Just don’t say, “Why is this so expensive?” because that just sounds silly.
7. Making a Mess
It is the job of a sales person to keep the store looking clean and nice. That means re-folding things, re- hanging things and such. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to unfold every shirt in the store and leave them in a ball. It also doesn’t mean leaving things you’ve tried on in a pile on the floor. It’s disrespectful to treat things that don’t belong to you that way. In closing, remembering the adage, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” is a good rule of thumb when shopping. In my experience, people respond so much better to someone who is polite and nice, rather than aggressive, pushy and rude. Most people working in retail enjoy what they do and love what they sell and sincerely want to help. And having good manners and proper etiquette is always in fashion. Rigel Herman is the Manager of Atlantic Avenue boutique, Palm Beach Native Sun, a freelance stylist and closet re-organizer. She is also a die-hard follower of fashion. Ask her your questions by emailing her at: firstname.lastname@example.org