Shopping: Are you being served?

For most of my life, entering a clothes shop, all on my lonesome, has been a pretty traumatic affair and something best avoided. I’m well aware that many guys have an aversion to clothes shops, for a variety of reasons, others proclaiming shopping as too tedious (yet they will happily spend all day shopping for fishing gear or model trains). Some are probably like me and just find them daunting, the feeling of being totally outside a safe and familiar environment, in a place where you might rightly feel and look quite foolish and very obviously so. Take me to a place selling high-end tool or a good book shop, and I’ll be happy, confident and at home.

This piece is thus dedicated to those that wish to see more people like me in their shops.


I thought I’d write a little about my experiences of shops, the people who work there, and how the interaction works for both parties. I’ve previously written a few posts about my shop visits, mainly about good experiences (which naturally enough are the most likely to inspire me to write about them), so this will be more of a summary. Hopefully this may be food for thought for some shopkeepers and shop assistants, as there are many very poor specimens out there.

On the big list of jobs, working in a shop doesn’t score that highly, although if you’re good at it, you score much higher. If you’re the sort of shop assistant whose primary feature is to affect an arrogant and bored attitude, you’re doing no favours for anyone; this doesn’t help either customer or employer. You work in a shop and your job is to sell as much stock as you can. And here are some tips on how to do so.


When I enter a shop, I like to be greeted. It doesn’t take much, but a “hi!” and a smile goes a long way. Being noticed makes me feel valued and welcome. I don’t need or want someone rushing over immediately to offer assistance. That feels more like I’m being intercepted. This can be too much and will make me feel crowded. Let me know you’re available, and maybe after I’ve had a peek around, approach and offer assistance, or just a chat. Don’t engage in puerile small-talk, I really don’t want to tell you about my holiday-plans or how my day is going. I don’t know you, you don’t know me, our interface today is about me being interested in things in your shop, and you representing said items. We’ll probably not end up being lifelong friends, but that doesn’t stop us having an enjoyable exchange. Heck, show some enthusiasm and knowledge and we might well become friends. And that will be a massive score for you. Notice what I’m looking at, notice what I’m wearing, work with that.

If I’m looking at a certain expensive brand of clothes, and happen to be wearing an obviously recognisable jacket of said brand, don’t start giving me the introductory spiel about said brand as if I’ve never heard of it, that just makes me think you’re not paying attention, right? You had an obvious “in”, but failed.


Some examples to think about:

Consider a sparsely stocked shop with a staff of 2-3 trendily clad young chaps, probably with creatively gelled hair, arms full of colourful tattoos, and a riveting selection of hardware inserted into their faces. They’ll likely be engaged in a discussion about their weekend plans, or admiring each other, while one of them is undertaking the arduous task of re-hanging a shirt. They don’t appear to notice me, so I’ll make the round of the shop without interruption, and exit. I’ll probably not return either. If I did ask one of the staff about something, they’d be pleasant enough, but not really too interested either.

I’ll enter a different shop and the place is pounding with music. Not in itself a bad thing, I do appreciate music, but when the invariable young assistant swans by with a barely heard “Alright?”, I do wonder what the idea is here. I can wander around on my own, but asking the typically young, female staff for assistance is usually not productive. They can operate the till and rehang clothes, but have rarely been hired for other reasons than being available and willing to work for minimum wage. Asking an opinion on whether a piece fits well is sadly unlikely to see much in the way of a qualified reply.

My final example: Upon entering the shop I’ll be met with a smile and a “hello!” and instantly I’ll feel welcome. Perhaps an offer of a cup of coffee? An offer of assistance if required, or just a well-chosen opening comment? Establish a dialogue and much is done. If you have a good shop, the rest is easy, you’ll find me an appreciative customer that returns again and again. I have a short list of these shops, and whenever possible, I’ll stop by to buy something, or just say “hullo”.


And this may be part of the reason why so many men find shopping online to be preferable to visiting traditional shops. Unless the shop is exceptional, or offering something the online shop can’t offer, what is the benefit of leaving the house to go shopping?

Oh, and if you have a website or Facebook page, where customers can contact you: Have someone keep an eye on it and reply to queries! I find it quite intensely annoying when I send a question and either don’t receive a reply, or maybe 2 weeks later receive it. There is a reason it’s called Social Media, you need to make an effort to be social.


  • WDG 06/10/2013 at 14:20

    Us females often experience this as well, and are just as prone to do our shopping online for the very same reasons. When you walk in to a shop where it´s obvious that you are just a nuisance you tend to just leave and never come back, no matter how much you want the shiny stuff on the shelves.
    High end shops tend to be a tad better, but I´ve had my experiences there as well… Like when they have a quick look at you and decide that you probably can´t afford what they sell anyway.

  • Scratch 07/10/2013 at 11:09

    One of the worst experiences I’ve had was on trying on a pair of Oli Spence trousers – and not liking them – the tattoo drapsed shop guy informed me that they were actually very nice trousers and the issue was that I “didn’t get the brand”. Truly piss poor service and as customer, I obviously must try harder.

    • Well Dressed Dad 07/10/2013 at 11:16

      A classic case of “it’s not the garment, it’s you”. A good shop assistant would appreciate that you weren’t after the slim fitting pair of trousers and directed you to a pair more to your liking. The arrogant approach seldom works in situations like these.

  • Matthew Pike 12/10/2013 at 10:07

    Most get it wrong, you remember the terrible ones and the very good ones. The good ones set the bar high, but it’s there to be broken. Commerical vintage shops are the worse.

    • Well Dressed Dad 12/10/2013 at 11:01

      I think one of my worst is a certain vintage place within spitting distance of Seven Dials. The level of sullen silence displayed by the guys working there is almost an art form! Probably part of the concept together with the incredible stench of musty old basements.

  • David 13/08/2019 at 18:54

    Well, reading this post 6 years after it was published, I find it still painfully relevant. It saddens me when I’m on a weekend trip and looking forward to visiting “so-and-so” shop that I have been obsessing over on Instagram, only to be ignored by the staff. Sigh. And I had walked in the door fully prepared to by something.

    I think I’ll open up a shop called The Surly Hipster and hire all these bad sales people so we can congregate them in one place and avoid it.


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