Thursday, October 14, 2010

Art of Shopping: Snotty Salespeople

ou go into a retail store, perhaps a high-end one like Bergdorff's or Prada. It's a beautiful store with nice products...and sometimes cold, snotty salespeople. Some stores are downright intimidating, with everything locked behind glass and no prices. Other stores like Harry Winston here in NYC have locked doors; you can't even get in without pushing a buzzer and being looked over (aka "sized up") by security or the salespeople.

Whatever. We are the consumer public and we have every right to oogle over anything we want whether we tend to purchase or not.

Pre-shop: Before shopping at some high end stores, dress for the occasion. Wear your nicest clothes, but in a way that makes it look like you always wear them. The casual jacket with jeans and dress shoes is good for guys. Maybe one or two items - the shoes or shirt or cufflinks - is a step above "nice"; a little indicator that you wear high-end clothes on weekends and that's perfectly natural.

First impression: First and foremost: Just because a store is ultra swanky doesn't mean that the salespeople are mean or snotty. And since we're all gentlemen here, you don't want to come off as a douchebag if you're being treated well. So step one is to size up the situation as quickly as possible. Here's some signs that you're in for some rough treatment:
  • You aren't greeted when you walk in. It's not because they don't see you....they're standing in a corner glaring at you.
  • The security guard follows you around the store like a KGB minder.
  • The first interaction comes when you touch a garment or take something off a hangar. The salesperson runs over (literally) asks if you need help, and then hovers when you say no.
  • There's other people in the store being helped. There's available staff, and you're NOT being helped.
  • You're being talked down to.  The salespeople ask you stupid questions ("Do you know what kind of weave that is?") or give you useless factoids ("That lapel was hand-picked in Milan...") to try to make you feel intimidated.
These are a few of the more non-subjective ways you can tell you're dealing with snotty people. There's other things like "looks" or the vibe or whatever. Be careful not to misinterpret those.

Dealing with it:  You are the customer and everything should be done to please you.  Don't be intimidated.  If you're holding something and someone comes running over, don't put it back as if you're going to get in trouble.  Take it off the hangar and really examine it.  Look at the stitching on the arm.  Examine the liner.  Grunt, as if displeased with the item.  Then, jump in with some pointed questions:  "Are these genuine mother-of-pearl buttons?"  (...because you only wear those, and nothing short of that will do.)  "Is this liner viscose?" (they almost all are) "...oh.  Do you have any jackets lined with silk?  I tend not to choose products with synthetic materials."  Put it back, and don't be too picky about straightening everything out. As you continue to look around, make it seem that you're not impressed. The lights are too bright, the texture of the clothing isn't quite right....and what's that displeasing smell? If the salespeople are some distance away, pick off an imaginary spot of lint and toss it on the floor. If you're looking at something in a glass case, squint and then wipe a spot off with your hand or sleeve. Ask to look at things in the case. Never be surprised at the prices they tell you. You'd totally buy that $10,000 watch if the weight wasn't off, or if the hands were black instead gold. The white dial is nice but you wanted porcelain and not steel. The jacket lapels are too narrow. The weight of the fabric is too thin; you needed winter weight not summer weight. Shirts should be single stitched and not double stitched, so that's all wrong. You're a discerning customer and they just don't have what you want.

"We can have that done for you." Many high end stores will customize things for you, sometimes at a cost and sometimes for free. If your goal was to just look around and have fun, you need to be able to deal with that. Time is a good first argument. Can they have that done for you today? Probably not. Well, you're busy and you need to walk out with it. For clothing, you really prefer to go bespoke (a term meaning that the garment was designed and built specifically for you) if they need to make those kinds of alterations. They offer bespoke services? That's nice, but you already have a tailor that you're happy with who has your trust and your measurements on-hand. You're in this store because you needed an item in a pinch.....but they just can't deliver. You'll try the place next door.

Final thoughts: Don't be rude. You have too much class for that. The idea here is to appear knowledgeable and discerning; you are the one asserting control of the conversation in order to ascertain if their products meet your standards, and you're simply letting them know that. Perhaps you'll call on them later when the new line comes out....when is that again?



  1. The shoes are dandy. Different kinda blog. I like it. Come to mine when you have time.


  2. Hilarious. I hate shopping, but I would totally go shopping with you. What a hoot!
    -Dual Citizen

  3. The worst snobs are in Los Angeles. They are only there to become celebrities and they are P.O.ed that they haven't got discovered by whatever Hollywood Producer/Director so they are rude to their customers. But snotty sales people can be anywhere, even working at TJ Maxx and not just at the high-end stores. Some people are just naturally arrogant and it doesn't matter where they work, they are just going to be snooty.