Last week I went shopping for just a little bit, which did not produce any results nor was it particularly enjoyable. One of the reasons being that I was trailed as I was shopping.

This is what that looks like. You enter a shop and 2 assistants are happily talking to one another, but as soon as I step in, one of them comes standing very close to me and starts following me at close distance as I go through the shop’s merchandise following my every move.

It happened again in the next shop I entered, only this time 2 assistants kept an eye on me! Both following my every move and every time I dared touching an item, they would straight away tell me lots of details about the garment and informed me that this item was also available in 3 other colors. As I was moving further into the shop, the assistant would adjust those clothes that I touched.

I don’t know about you, but I REALLY dislike this behaviour. It makes me want to flee and leave the shop as quickly as possible.

I like to browse the shop by myself without being watched. This gives me the time to explore an item, to check the fabric if I’m more interested and to ponder wether or not I have a need for it. That whole process is terribly interrupted when someone starts interfering or I feel 2 eyes burning in my back.

If I want assistance I know where to find you. Until that time, please leave me alone.

I also cannot stand it when an assistant starts adjusting the clothes while I’m still looking. It makes me feel like I’m interfering with their impeccable shop environment. This happens most often in small shops which are not busy, so why not wait until I have left the shop? This is not how you would treat guests in your own home would you?

I love shopping in small independent stores, but here in Singapore this kind of behaviour from the shop’s assistants is very common and it really puts me off. What a relief to then enter a bigger store where I’m just left alone and can take my time browsing.

So what should the shop assistant do in a small shop you may wonder? This would be an ideal approach.

  1. By all means welcome me with a friendly hello and a smile.
  2. Offer your help, but let me choose as to how much. You could say: Welcome, is there anything I can help you with? If I say no, or answer that I’d like to browse then leave me alone. You can also offer you help in a committal way: Welcome. Let me know if there is anything you like my help with. (before moving on to doing your own things).
  3. Then start doing something in the shop or keep yourself busy. Don’t watch my every move. You don’t consider me a potential thief do you? Really, if I need your input, I know where to find you!
  4. If I’m trying something on, THEN you can be of service. (It’s funny that sometimes assistants go missing when you really need them). If I’m by myself, I will need someone to get me a different size etc. This is the best time to build some rapport and perhaps make some of your suggestions.
  5. And please, give me honest opinions when you comment on the clothes and their fit. I will respect you so much more and will trust any recommendations that you make.

I realise that not everyone is the same, but I believe a good shop assistant should try and get an impression of the kind of customer that walks into the store and not treat everyone the same. The first welcome and possible question will give you all the information you need. If shop owners/assistants understand their customer better and give them only the help that they want, everybody will win.

What kind of a shopper are you? Do you like to be followed by the shop assistant? Do you like to engage them in a conversation and actively seek their help?

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