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In Search of Middle Ground

Head in HandsI’m aware that I’m lacking patience, particularly recently. There are things that I used to let slide, or maybe even laugh at, that I just don’t want to put up with anymore. Our lives are filled with lots of things that are annoying and frustrating, and most of them don’t need to be. I know we’re supposed to learn not to sweat the little things, but when things that used to be enjoyable now become nerve-wracking, I find myself biting my tongue so that my true feelings don’t come spewing out.

So, I did some walking in the mall this weekend, and stopped in at what used to be my favorite lotion and hands.1potion store, thinking I might buy some hand cream. I used to love shopping there, before they remodeled and turn it into some kind of harsh, futuristic nightmare. There is nothing even remotely relaxing about shopping there these days. It used to be enjoyable, stopping and checking all the soaps, gels, and creams and trying all the samples until I either smelled like a fruit orchard or a bakery – either way, delicious. But now, everything is very white and sterile-looking and not fun-cluttered, just difficult to navigate.

But stepping through the open portal into that glaring world was just the beginning. Within the span of approximately one minute, I was approached sequentially by four overly cheerful salespeople, asking what they could help me find. I told them, one by one that I was just browsing. For some reason, that stumped them. I guess browsing is no longer encouraged. In fact, it seemed to be frowned upon. How could I possibly not have a purpose upon entering this store?

One girl couldn’t let it go. She pulled out a sample of one of the creams I had just checked out.

“How about this one?” she asked. “Here, it’s my favorite. Why don’t you try it?”

Why do salespeople think that if it’s their favorite it must be my favorite? Is the ringing endorsement of a girl younger than my children really going to influence my decision? But I tried to be nice.

“Oh, thanks. I checked that one out already, and I’m still trying to decide,” I told her as fake-nicely as I could.

puppies.playingBut she followed me, like a playful puppy. I do love puppies. I didn’t love this girl, however. She didn’t know how to take a hint. “Well, what do you like?” she asked.

And so began the tongue-biting. There were a lot of things I felt like saying. But I just told her I was still in the midst of the decision process, and I turned around to check out the samples again. I guess she got tired of looking at my back, so she moved on to more welcoming customers. Now please understand. I have worked in retail. I have had to approach people and offer services the store provided. And 99.9% of the time, I got a palm held up two inches from my face. So I have empathy for those who have been instructed to do the same. But in a tiny store, they should not have every person on the sales floor going up to every customer who comes in and persistently insist that they can help them find what they need.

I was approached by another salesperson. “So, have you decided what you like, or can you use some help?”

I don’t know if these people now work on commission or they’re just instructed to be as annoying as possible. But I promise, I was not feeling happy or relaxed at this point. I let my teeth show in an approximation of a smile.

“I’m fine, thank you,” I replied through said teeth.

“OK, just let us know if you need anything,” she said cheerily.

beach.blogAnd so it went with the other two salespeople. Finally, I found a beachy-type of scent that I liked and I went to stand on line. The salesgirl carrying around the samples obviously misinterpreted this as a signal that she could once again approach me. I tried to avoid eye contact, but she barreled over, anyway. “So, you found something you like?” she asked, smiling approvingly at the tube in my hand.

I nodded. “I did. Thank you,” I said, attempting to match her enthusiasm. The fact that I was holding an item I was planning to buy seemed to be code for letting her know her job with me was done, and she walked away. Like magic. I tucked that nugget of information into a deep corner of my brain for future use, as if I might actually remember it.

But then I thought about the choice I had made. Maybe I liked the cherry scent better. Or the citrusy OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAone. Or even the tropical one. So I left the line for a moment to make sure I had chosen wisely. I thought about switching, since I really did like the cherry one. As I picked the sample up in order to try it, I turned around. In the few seconds since I had abandoned my place in line, there were now at least 15 people who had taken my place. Pretty much like everything else in my life. You snooze, you lose.

I knew then what I had to do. I put the hand cream down, turned around and left the store. In my mind, the salespeople were waving me back, assuring me they could help me. That they had all the answers.  While it’s nice to not be ignored, it is not nice to be bombarded by both sensory input and overly eager salespeople who make it impossible to enjoy the experience of just browsing.

maze.blogThere are some stores where you could jump on the tables and do a song and dance while stripping off your clothes, and still, no one would bother to ask if you needed help. I do appreciate a little attention. I appreciate being asked – one time – if I need help, and if I say no thank you, just let me know you’re available if I change my mind. But walking through a crowded, shiny maze while being jumped at by multiple people who won’t leave you alone is like navigating a nightmarish video game.

Boing boing boing – no, thank you. Really, I mean it. Have a nice day.

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

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