The recent demise of my beloved trainers forced me to visit a major
London sports store. After all, shoes that are going to have to support
the weight of my lardy carcass in the park require special
As I stared in bewilderment at the row upon row of left shoes, I became
aware that a youth, too fit for his own good, had sidled up to me. He
got off to a good start by asking me if I needed any help. Grateful, I
explained my requirements and awaited the benefit of his training and
experience. The build-up was intense, before his informed opinion burst
through the silence like a tidal wave: ’Have you seen anything you
like?’ My confidence as a buyer was immediately shattered.
If I need advice before I buy, I want it from someone who knows their
stuff or, at least, sounds as if they do. I am, after all, a sucker for
a good sales pitch. Like most people who live above the poverty line, I
have money to spare and I’m eager to spend it. I long to be sold to.
To be manipulated in such a way that I walk away from a shop confident
in the knowledge that without my new shirt/cooker/aftershave I wouldn’t
be able to exist. I want to buy from people who have genuine
proprietorial interest and not those who just want to flog me something.
Sales assistants who are willing to suffer when I don’t like what
they’ve given me and who are grateful when I’m a happy customer.
All those conglomerates who bang on about ’relationship marketing’ would
do well to remember that it’s not all about loyalty cards or buying
double-glazing from British Gas but actual eye-to-eye contact with a
person who knows and cares about what shoppers want.
Increasingly, I’ve found that retailers simply present customers with
banks of the products they have decided we can choose from. Not the
products that we want, but the ones they’ve deemed suitable. Am I that
irresponsible that I’d get bewildered if I was faced with more than
three brands of trainer or even coffee?
It’s about time shops made a decision. Either trust us with making our
own decisions on what to buy, or educate their staff. I’m not talking
just trainers, I’m talking food, stereos, kitchen
equipment ... everything.