A few years ago I wrote a post about the ghastly upselling that goes on every time you nip into a chemist to buy a pack of paracetomol these days (HERE). But it's moved on, hasn't it? Now, in a desperate attempt to claw back trade into the high street, shop assistants must now not only try to sell you more stuff at the counters, but pretend to be super-interested in everything you're buying, probably because the marketing departments have decided that what's missing from online shopping is the personal touch.
I've ventured from home and done a bit of high street shopping in the last month or so, mostly to buy clothes and presents. In most shops, the assistant has packed up my purchase, saying, 'This is a lovely coat/scarf/shirt, isn't it?' Or extolled the softness of my jumper/socks. Yes, that's all very nice, but if you're waiting in a long queue, you notice that they make a similar remark to everyone, whatever they're buying. M&S are the worst for this. One one occasion, I was buying a not inexpensive coat. The chap who served me pretended he loved my coat (I was waiting for it... yes... yes... 30 seconds in, he didn't fail me: 'This is a lovely coat, isn't it?'), then pointed behind him at some advent thingy he thought I might be interested in. I said, in a jocular fashion, 'Why, am I not spending enough money here already?' He looked at me blankly. I imagine his instructions were something like if it's a middle-aged woman and she's spending more than ***, try to flog her one of these bloody advent thingies we can't shift.
There are two women who work on the only till left at my local Asda who also inspect and comment on my food purchases, which I actually find rude and invasive - far too familiar. Then there's 'Enjoy the rest of your day', once the transaction has ended (Sainsburys). Yuk. 'Thank you' or 'Goodbye' will do nicely. Each time, I want to stop and say, 'Do you actually care if I enjoy it or not? If you don't, and I don't expect you to, why bother to say it?' I don't, because it would be too rude and it's not the shop assistant's fault he has to trot out this trite rubbish; he probably hates having to do so. It's the fault of the daft marketing people who are under the impression that it has a positive effect.
Thank you, Julia - this sketch from Caroline Aherne is sadly all too real:
There is another, more sinister trend going on now, too. It's this:
'Would you like to provide your email so I can send you confirmation of your receipt?'
Er, no. I'm, like, holding it. I always shop in cash, but I know most people don't, and surely if you need further confirmation (other than the piece of paper they have just given you), it's on your bank statement?
The first time I came across this one, in New Look, the four (yes, four; I am not exaggerating) people in front of me handed over their email without hesitation. Like they thought they had to.
And here's the worst one. Last week, at the Clinique stand in Fenwicks, I bought an eye pencil. After we'd established what colour and type I wanted, the assistant said, 'That's lovely, all I need now are a few details so we can build a profile of your colour and product preferences and make sure you get your discount vouchers'.
All you need now?
Do you remember when you could walk into a shop, choose the item you wanted, and leave with no more interaction than, 'That'll be £17.99, please. Thanks. Bye.'?
This assistant wanted me to provide my name, address, age, email, phone number and skin type, all of which she was poised to enter on her screen. I said, 'I don't want to give out all my personal information, I just want to buy an eye pencil.' Her attitude then became decidedly less personable. I resented the way she asked, though, apart from anything. The way she attempted to make me feel as though I was to be treated like a Clinique VIP who would get special treatment, so that I might sell my soul to the great data compilation.
Seems like these days you can't buy from any shop, anywhere, without having more products pushed at you by an assistant who's been on a one day 'engaging the customer' course, and being offered loyalty cards, store cards, email alerts, etc.
What with the assault of Christmas music in every shop, it is more likely to drive people to Amazon than draw them back to the high street. Sales and marketing people, think on.