"On n'attrape pas les mouches avec du vinaigre..." as the French saying goes, "You won't catch flies with vinegar..." so why is it that some shopping assistants (and the managers who hire them) think they can?
Look, I'm the first to admit that I don't shop much outside groceries and essentials and the occasional and uncharacteristic splurge on clothing and accessories. However, I do have an extensive background in branding and advertising so shopping, or rather the art of selling, remains a bit of a hidden and guilty pleasure, to be savoured, like a cup of hot chocolat at Cafe Gerbeaud. (That's in Budapest. I know, it's harder to get to than your local Starbucks but the cup is small, the brew strong as coffee, and you could stand your spoon in it. In a word, it's DIVINE. And don't get me started on the pastries.)
Where was I? Oh yes. So, if I walk into a chocolate shop... I expect the shop assistant to be warm, generous and of a sunny disposition, and to look like she (preferably she - chosing chocolates is a bit like trying on lingerie: I don't want to have to pretend I'm a size smaller than I am) actually eats chocolate and enjoys it and that she has indeed sampled every chocolate on display. I want her to make me think that chocolate is sexy, that eating chocolate is sexy, and that I will feel like Dita Von Teese if I eat some. I want to bathe in the myth of chocolate and make it froth.
Are you still with me? The last thing I want is to experience anything that might yank me back down to earth to remind me that under the pretty ribbons and the ruched pastel boxes, lies a confection of lard and sugar which is fattening and may give me spots. (For the record, if I just want an anonymous quicky of a chocolate hit, then I go to my corner shop and and buy a tablet of Lindt 70% cocoa, (100g) with chilli and scoff it when I get home, square by square.) So no surly, uninterested, rude or unknowledgeable individuals need apply! If I don't like the vibe, I'm outta there and back home in less time than it takes to say "you have yourself a nice day". (Which by the way, is only used in a passive-aggressive or post-ironic way here in the UK... unless you are dealing with non British staff who have latched on to Americanisms, in which case it can safely be taken at face value.)
Same goes with sales assistants at the beauty counter, expensive luggage stores or one of those oooh la la shops that sell expensive naughtiness. (Not the cheap and nasty ones, 'cos that would just be smutty.) The one exception is when I buy a new bra. There, I want a cross between my 2nd grade teacher and a matron on a hospital ward. Someone tough on the outside but with a heart of gold, a bit intimidating, in their 50's or 60's, with the presence of a steamliner coming into port, and who knows her bra cups from her chest measurements. So apart from Bra Godmother, they have to wear and display their wears with style and confidence and make me feel like I belong.
Is this what this is all about? Fitting in? Being part of a tribe? It's only chocolate, or lipstick afterall... or is it? And what about Dita? What does she have to do with it? Dita is the epitome of glam. Dita is a live Vargas girl. Dita looks good enough to eat. In my little girl mind, does this somehow equates with universal acceptance and everlasting happiness? Or is that the chocolate talking?
All I know is that if I'm going to overcome my natural aversion to the long term commitment of the act of purchase I have to be lulled into a sense of well being, transported into a world of fantasy and made to feel like a cross between a goddess and a princess. Let me catch a glimpse of Dita land and I will be putty in your hands.
When it comes to shopping, I'm still a five year old. If you're gonna sell me some magic, make it sparkle!