Saturday, 18 June 2011

what has happened to shop assistants?

Another Groan about modern life – what has happened to shop assistants?

I set off this morning to buy a small tube of hand cream, something light to put in my luggage on my next voyage out. I also need some tinted moisturiser, as that saves putting on foundation, at least in theory. It’s the lazy woman’s maquillage.
I tried a small chemist on the Chiswick High road, one of those that stay open even though there rarely seems to be any customers. The cream was all expensive. I asked about the moisturiser and a tiny, very smiley Asian girl directed me, vaguely, towards some stuff new in, “organic” cream at £12 for a small tube.
I asked if they had any other more regular brands and she went moving about the shop listlessly before disappearing altogether. I found some tinted cream, but an expensive French variety, and decided to give up. On my way out I saw her again, looking out of the window, and told her where she could find the tinted moisturiser in case anyone asked for it again.
Traipsed on to Superdrug. As soon as I got there I asked the young Indian assistant if they had any such face cream. “We have no cream tinting,” she said emphatically, looking quite pleasantly apologetic. I looked in a different aisle and found Nivea, Daily Essentials, tinted moisturising day cream, a neat little row of the stuff.
What is going on? I had a similar situation a few months ago in the apparently up-market, “As Nature Intended,” organic food shop on the Chiswick High Road.
I asked a large Asian girl on the till, swathed in black robes, if they had any cherry juice. She’d never heard of it and seemed annoyed that I could ask for something so unlikely. Now deeply cynical about girls on tills, I found another assistant at the far end of the shop and asked again. She had heard of it but said they didn’t have any. And as I turned to go, there it was, but a cherry stones throw away, bottles of it, and perhaps the most expensive item they had on sale.
Is this some kind of girlie conspiracy to undermine the shop’s owner or manager, or perhaps the already failing British economy. Do they not want to serve foreigners, (i.e. English people) or any customers who have the temerity to bother them, or are they simply not expected to know anything?
Perhaps they got the job through family connections, or are just waiting to get married. Jobs in shops are not great, but work of any kind, for most of us, is hard to come by.
If I ever had a boring job to do, in the days when I could get a job, I always found that really throwing myself into it was the key to sticking it out. I once had a job on a till in Boots where this plan didn’t work and I nearly went mad with boredom and disgust at some of the customers. Girls in dress shops are generally happier because they are genuinely interested in clothes and keenly eye up all the stock.
But the business of how these idle girls get their jobs and keep them does puzzle me, and I know if I tried to get one myself, I’d have no luck at all.

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