I really don’t enjoy shopping for clothing at brick and mortar stores anymore. I love the end result of shopping – new clothes and shoes in my closet – but I don’t like the process of getting them into my closet. I feel like shopping used to be fun, but it no longer is for me much of the time. It is an annoyance, in large part due to the sales clerks.
Take a store like Macy’s on State Street. First you have to make your way through the perfume and cosmetics area, where clerks are standing around shoving perfume samples at you and trying to spray you with perfume. (And that’s after you bypass the environmentalists or other charitable panhandlers standing outside the doors who want money.) Then, once you get up to level 3, there is a constant barrage of salespeople trying to help you and start a fitting room for you.
The whole “starting a fitting room” deal is overrated. At times it is nice when you have an armload of clothing or are on a powershopping binge. But generally, if I’m holding one or two items of clothing, the pressure to “get a fitting room started” seems strange. Half the time I’m looking for something to go with the items in my hand, so I don’t want them to go away just yet. The clerks always look at me like a crazy person when I turn down the request, which I don’t understand. The few times I’ve done it at Macy’s, it’s turned into a wild goose chase to track down my clothing. I can’t find the clerk who started the fitting room for me and can’t find my clothing at all. Then I have to remember which of the six women hovering in the area took off with my clothing and in which direction she went. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. Who was it that helped me? I think she was wearing a red shirt. In which of the three fitting rooms in the general vicinity of where I was did she place my clothing? (Macy’s has fitting rooms everywhere.) Where is she? Inevitably, I end up thinking that I should’ve just held on to the clothing because by the time I track it down I could’ve been finished trying it on.
What’s worse, though, is that there is no sign of communication between the clerks of who they have already approached. It becomes more and more annoying to me when clerk after clerk approaches me within a five minute span asking me if I need help or need a fitting room started. For God’s sakes, I’m holding one shirt, wandered into your area 30 seconds ago, and am intently looking through a rack of clothes. Do I look like I need help? I’m doing fine! I often want to wear a bright red sticker (or something) that says “If I need your help, I will find you” or “I already turned down help.” I understand that some people want help, but usually I don’t. Generally, I just want to shop and be left alone, and to not have to talk to a clerk. The last thing I want to do is be rude to anyone, but at times it almost borders on harassment due to the number of clerks that approach asking the same questions. Of course, when I actually need help, there is usually no one around to help me.
Likewise, when I am ready to pay, there is no clerk to be found at any register in the general area. Ever. It’s like there is a beacon they are all drawn to, far away from whatever department I am in, the second I decide I am ready to pay and get the hell out of there. I’ve wandered across the entire floor at that Macy’s just trying to pay before. (And it is a huge, huge Macy’s.)
Smaller boutiques and stores have the same issues (minus the register problem, usually), but add to that the staredown you get from three clerks hovering around the register when you are the only person in the store. It’s so uncomfortable. And if you pull something out of the rack to look at it, the next thing you know one of them magically appears next to you with some other item of clothing cooing “This would look great with that!” Hell, lady, I haven’t even figured out if I like it yet! Or “Let me show you our new arrivals!” Hell lady, I haven’t been in this store in a month, so I’d like to see the old arrivals also, and I think I can make it to the other side of the store on my own without your guidance. These are also the clerks that are constantly bringing you items of clothing you aren’t interested in. Look, sometimes I do want help and then I’m happy to have them bring me clothing. When I’m in that kind of mood, I make it clear. In fact, I say “Bring anything. I’ll try anything.” Other times, I’m either not in the mood for it or in a hurry and don’t need blouses and sweaters shoved over the top of the fitting room door at me.
The solution to some of these issues is to go to TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Filene’s, Nordstrom Rack or those types of stores, where there are no clerks wandering around. But there you are digging through racks of clothing, and I definitely have to be in the right mood to do that nowadays.
I buy a lot online now, but unfortunately trying on clothing can be a necessity. Many people buy stuff online in different sizes and ship back the one that doesn’t fit, but that seems like even more of a hassle to me, and some stores make you pay return shipping so you end up paying more. (I’m looking at you Neiman Marcus.) When I find a brand of clothing that fits me consistently, I go back to it because then I can solely buy online and 90% of the time everything fits. But that can lead to a rut…which leads to the necessity of braving the brick and mortar stores from time to time...who often don't even have the item in stock at the store...and offter to order it online for you. Which defeats the entire purpose of going to the store and putting up with the harassment.