My shopping habits have come full circle over the last few years.
When I first started working in Central London, my office looked directly into the window of John Lewis' flagship store. Lunch hours were spent wandering up and down Oxford Street, usually starting with a bit of optimistic window shopping in Selfridges, and finishing with a few, more realistic purchases in H&M.
Then came the iPad and with it the growth of shopping sites and apps like ASOS. Many an evening was wasted scrolling through literally thousands of dresses, in the hope that my size would be available when I eventually found something I liked.
I spent a lot of money unnecessarily during the ASOS years. Don't get me wrong, I think their clothes are great, but I could never be bothered to return anything. So if I purchased a dress that would look better on me if I skipped breakfast, it would just sit in my wardrobe gathering dust. The 'return by' date would pass and then I'd be stuck with the guilt of buying something I'd never wear.
I had a serious declutter of my wardrobe recently and all of those clothes went to a good charity.
And now I'm back to shopping, in actual shops, but for clothes that will last for more than a few weeks. I'm opting for quality over quantity.
Clothes shops are a mixed bag. The majority of high street stores make the shopping experience enjoyable, with knowledgeable and friendly staff on hand to get you another size when you're feeling most vulnerable with the changing room curtain wrapped around your naked torso, and an orderly queue for the till.
But there are some notable exceptions. And we are a nation of shopkeepers so we really can do better. Which is why I'm starting a new series called 'Reasons I won't return to your...'
So here, I appeal to the UK's clothes shop owners and managers to improve the customer experience, with my eight reasons I won't be returning to your shop:
- I browse for several minutes, and despite there being two shop assistants and two customers, only one customer is offered help by both the assistants - and it isn't me.
- Or alternatively: I have barely walked over your threshold when you ask if I need help. Blimey, give me a chance.
- You employ shop assistants who would rather talk to each other than help any of your customers, or tidy up the sale items - most of which are on the floor.
- Your window display doesn't show your prices. I have to ask. You are thinking "if you have to ask, you can't afford it." I am thinking - "I wish I was Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman right now and could give you the 'big mistake' speech."
- I try on a few outfits, they really don't do anything for me. You ask if you can have a look. You think they look AMAZING! They really don't. Please don't lie to me for the sake of a sale.
- I have a receipt and haven't worn my dress, but you won't refund my money. I don't want a credit note, I want my money back.
- I bring back an unworn handbag having changed my mind about it. You turn the bag inside out and give it a shake, you talk to your manager in hushed tones. You clearly don't believe that I haven't used the bag. I am insulted.
- You have a dress on display in the window. I REALLY like it. When I ask where it is within the shop, you explain that it isn't available yet, it's next season's stock and will be available next week. So you've dressed your window with an item that you're not actually selling. "Isn't that against the Trades Description Act or something?" - I say, trying to sound knowledgeable. You just shrug.
I realise this all makes me sound like a horrible, bitter, curmudgeon. I'm actually not. In the main, I enjoy shopping. I always make conversation with shop assistants and am grateful to those who let me browse unmolested. But there are shops whose doors I will never darken again, for the reasons above.
If you have any good or bad shopping experiences you'd like to share, please comment below. And if there are any types of shops or services you think deserve my wrath in the 'I won't return to your...' series, please visit the blog at www.lifestylemaven.co.uk and leave a comment with your suggestions.
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