The 5 Kinds of Sales Associates You Meet When Buying Retail

by Renee Dale
Originally Published: 

It is possible to escape with a hopeful parcel of things. Things that provide a sense of well-being just sitting there wrapped in tissue. Your rewards! Returnable too, should you put the stuff on in front of an undoctored mirror and wonder if you were having an out-of-body experience at the store. When will I wear this neoprene peplum skirt? Is it even cool? Who am I? (See: Risk)

The most fraught relationship in the retail experience is between the shopper and shop employee. The customer/sales clerk pact is thorny, as there are unpredictable combinations of personalities. Do you want to be left alone? Are you offended when they suggest a size larger than the one you wear? Do you feel validated as a human being when they suggest a smaller size than you wear? If this happened, was it the best part of your month? Are you ashamed of this? The next time you plan a spree, remember that the following types await you. Don’t take their treatment of you personally. Or do. It depends on what size they hand you.

1. The Can’t Be Bothered to Look Up

You might wonder if you’ve become invisible, or have died and are just haunting the store, undetected by the clerk perched at the counter. But then she accidentally makes eye contact and you realize you’re not supernatural, just a person wandering around a place that sells things. Look, the CBBTLU is BUSY. She is online doing something. She is eating lunch and wow, bummer that you’ve decided to shop during your lunch but you’re not going develop a Relationship, OK? And would you please bring your things out on their hangers when you’re done? Don’t be a lazy customer! Her pad Thai is not going to eat itself.

*Sometimes the CBBTLU is exactly what you need. The alternative, listed next, is my least favorite and the most awkwardness-inducing.

2. The Repeat Aggressor

Not only are you made to feel as though they’ve been hoping to see you all day, but the RA engages you on a number of topics. Looking for anything in particular? Wow, I love your sweater. I just want to let you know that everything in this area is 26 percent off and all our shirts are Buy Four Get a Fifth half-off. These are so amazing. I have 12. Can I start you a fitting room? When is it going to be Spring, right?!

You respect how hard she is working to get you into these four shirts with a fifth half off, but it’s too much. You need space. You’d rather not talk to her through the changing room door when she asks, “How’s everything going in there?” The worst possible outcome in a store managed by an RA is if there are no mirrors in the fitting rooms. You must come out EVERY TIME to see yourself, cautious as a wildebeest dipping into a river of crocs, at which time the RA will pounce, jaws unhinged, and tell you how terrific you look in the neoprene peplum skirt.

3. The Social Chair

How long will you have to wait—staring cranky-hard at the Social Chair Sales Associate while she chats, laughs and catches up with her coworkers—for your dressing room, for sizes, for registers to open up? How long? Time is elastic. I don’t know what that means, but I know you’re going to feel angry, and excluded, during your time with the Social Chair. Frankly, she thinks you and your shopping needs are boring.

4. The Blessed Fawner and Truthteller

I love the BF&T. Recent example: A gorgeous young man wearing false eyelashes and MAC LipGlass approached me as I browsed the racks and exclaimed, “Well…aren’t you the loooongest necked creature I’ve ever seen! Let me see THAT neck, Giraffe Girl. You should not be wearing this giant scarf on this neck! Scarves are for hiding, sweetie.” He appraised my scarf as if a live ferret had nestled under my chin. I removed it. At which point he admired me and insisted I only buy things that expose my neck and cleavage. I was freezing, but proud of my cold neck. When he suddenly turned on me and said the yellow dress I was trying did me “no favors, none,” I was deflated, but able to cope. Because the BF&T treats you with fairness. And because I was Giraffe Girl.

5. The Abusive Relationship Associate

The ARA is most often encountered at high-end shops. Knowledgeable about fashion and coolly respectful of your possible patronage, they spend more time complimenting the quality of their own merchandise than how you look in it. But you are fine with not being gushed over. After all, this is a store filled with Important Things and you are only you. In a detached but friendly way, they will warm up if you zero in on an item. The compliments uptick here, culminating in congenial banter at the point of purchase. The dynamic has the potential to become abusive and menacing when you commit the sin of browsing but not buying. As you pet garments on your way out the door with phony intent to seem interested in a purchase, the ARA knows what you’re up to. Your relationship has become toxic. Her smile, when you thank her for nothing, is thin. She hates you.

Shop retail at your own peril and occasional bliss. Or, make your own Apartment Clothes out of a pool cover. But just know: You look AMAZING in that.

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