May I help you?

12:37 PM

Coming from a country were customer service is quite execrable, in the beginning I thought India was great about it, but that was because I wasn’t too used to the concept of having someone assist you in a department store when you are looking for something specific, or when you have some questions about an item.
Truth is in certain places having to deal with more than one sale assistant offering to help you is a bit taxing, some store got it right, some really need to just revise their game, and the topper of the worst, most invasive customer assistance is Shopper’s Stop, the just don’t seem to understand the difference between offering help, and harassing people, and I’ve been to enough of their outlets across the country to know that it’s a general management issue rather than a localised problem.
On any given day I actually dread going there, because the instant you walk in you have the entire staff (and in man place there is more staff than actual customer inside the store) having all eyes on you at all time, eagerly watching for a sign of you slowing down, or a deviation in your stare which could possibly indicate an interest in a particular section of the store. Once they assumed that you are indeed going to step off the main path into let’s say the bag section, the staff designated to the aforementioned section will all jump on you like hungry vulture with a “May I help you ma’am” never mind that you have only the tip of your flip flops in the section, that you haven’t even got a chance to see what was there and get a first idea for yourself, the  staff eager to please is on the prowl and assaulting you wanting to know right away if indeed you need help. I usually reply by a “No thank you I just want to look around first”. In other stores, that usually result with the sale assistant melting in the background waiting politely for you to summon their help should you need it. In Shopper’s Stop that mean the sale assistant (or possibly 2 or 3 of them) will walk 2 feet behind you, breathing down your neck shadowing your every step, on the prowl waiting for the first chance to prove their worth should you just lift a price tag. The second you lift a bag or tag, they launch into a description of the bag which you never asked for in the first place, and if you put it back on the shelf annoyed by the clearly unwanted distraction they will go fetch whatever they feel  is right and push it on you, by then I just say it more firmly that NO I don’t need their help, that I’m just looking, but that THANKS for the offer but should I need help I am a big girl and can ask for it, and it results in them saying “Yes ma’am” and continuing the shadowing game. Once I had to actually yell at them to just stop following me around, and when they refused to comply I just left the store in irritation…too bad they missed one sale!
Yesterday DH and I visited one of their new outlet because we had points to redeem on a credit card and DH needed some office trousers and shirt, I left him at it as he got assaulted by 3 eager sale assistant who upon learning he was looking for formal pants emptied the whole section in his size and decided to head to the kiddie section to see what was on sale. Needless that I didn’t buy anything, didn’t spend more than 5 minutes in the section, as the same old scenario unfolded, a lady shadowed my every steps, 2 feet behind me, not even offering my help yet, but making me feel extremely uncomfortable having a total stranger in my personal space, so I spinned over and looked at her straight in the eyes, and I guess sheer instinct told her to back off…ONE FOOT! yes she continued shadowing me 3 feet behind me, at the edge of what psychologists would describe at the edge of a person’s intimate space, the second I touched…yes touched a pair of check pattern shorts two more assistants hovered dangerously near to me, having me feeling literally cornered like a pray who lost the chase against a predator. I ducked away and out of the area before any of them got the chance to offer a “May I help you” simply because at this point I felt violated and knew I would just bark at them and left the place. I have no idea if there was any good deal in kids clothes, I didn’t even feel checking if there was anything worthy in the women’s section simply because I wanted my personal bubble back.
Yes Shopper’s Stop is the one shop that gets it all wrong, by first not teaching their employees that you don’t push yourself on potential customers, that there is indeed such a thing as a private sphere one should never invade as a sale assistant, and that it is simply rude to not let people shop in peace. The secondly of all the shops I’ve ever been in India the Shopper’s Stop chain is the one that is the most overly staffed ever. Yesterday I looked around in the men’s section and out of about 10 people I saw passing around me only 2 were customers, all the others were sales assistant, half of them probably bored out of their mind and just jumping on the first person not carrying a name tag just to feel they are doing something of their day.

The two stores that get what non-invasive assistance are Lifestyle and Westside, Lifestyle staff let you first roam around a section alone, then offer help, which upon you declining it has them retreat a little, but upon seeing you trying to find a specific size in a pile will prompt them to ask you quietly which size you are looking for before you get to ask if it is available, and that is about it. Westside’s staff is the least invasive of all, and on occasions I had to just roam around until I found someone to ask for a specific question in pretty much the same fashion as back home, the only difference being that in Westside the sale assistant is looking eager to help on request, not bothered by a pesky customer the way they make you feel in Geneva.

Where things become really sketchy in all stores though is when you are taking them on their offer to help immediately asking for a very specific type of clothes such as “Kid’s short” and you have them bring you everything BUT shorts simply because they don’t want to tell you upfront that they don’t have anything like that at the moment in store, or when you ask for short sleeves simple kurti in non flashy colours and you are offered to look only at long sleeved items in neon pink/green/blue with lots of sequins and frills instead, but that is a whole different story. 


  1. Yeah I fell for the "Indian customer service" is fabulous bit too early on. Yes there is always someone there to help you but they're not always friendly, helpful or hospitable in any way. Most times they aren't any of those things and are just shadowing over you hoping for a sale. We have a couple of stores I frequent now and a few of the sales girls know me and how I shop so thankfully I don't get bombarded everywhere. It's funny how you say your Shoppers Stop employees are bothersome. We too have an abundance of employees there but none of them speak to me (which is nice lol). I've only had one approach me and that was in our kitchen section on one visit. I don't go in there much though because their items are overpriced and the exact same things are available elsewhere here for less money. I've noticed that about Standards Max too if you have them. They sell the same goods as Reliance Trends but they mark them up higher and the employees are more obnoxious.

  2. Please, please send them this post as a mail! I once had 5 people showing me kurtas for a 5 year old and had to explain to each one of them that I wanted one without any golden embroidary. After all that effort, they still kept showing over the top ones. Finally left without buying one.

  3. OMG! that is so true about Shoppers Stop! Here in Delhi they drive me crazy, which is unfortunate because they have some good things, especially basic work shirts. I've had the same experience-shadowing that borders on threatening, people staring at me incessantly, stalking around the shop, invading personal space, and most irritating, young guys (always men) shoving hideous things at me that I never once indicated I'm interested in. I don't get why it's almost always men who work in women's retail in India. Unless you are a fabulous fashion savvy gay man, I really don't want your 'fashion' advice. Do I look like a person who wants to buy a tacky orange floral polyester kurta in size XXL? I've shouted at sales people in shoppers stop to stop following me, and stop staring. I've learned that only by being really rude and aggressive can you get them to leave you alone. But they will still stare, from a distance. I was also in Shoppers Stop once when there were quite a few customers, all Indian, but I noticed that the Indians didn't get bothered the way I-blue eyed, blonde foreigner-did. I even told one sales "assistant" to go help someone else!

  4. Kristy, Lucky you to be left alone in Shopper's Stop, now I know ther is at least one safe outlet :) But yeah their home section is ridiculously overpriced, I rarely shop in Home Stop if I can avoid it.
    I don't think we have Standards Max around here.

  5. Nisha, I'm actually toying with writting them a complaint because this is ridiculously insane. They just don't get it and worse I have a feeling they aren't even listening to you when you ask for help because they always show you stuff you specificall asked them not to bring you instead of what fits your request...ugh

  6. Cameron, I laughed out loud at the ugly polyester orange kurta thing, because I had quite a few similar horror shown to me too. Though I would say I had female sales assistant as fashion and style challenged showing me stuff too. Not to mention the ladies in the lingerie sections that instead of honestly tell you that no sorry they don't have the bra you want in 38D will show you the same in in 32B and tell you this will fit! And when you tell them that no you know your size and it won't fit, they say "Ma'am it will be tight at first but it will extend with time and it will feel comfortable then"...WTF? DO they seriously think bras are like shoes?

  7. Ugh, don't they always show the most hideous, unsuitable items! Every sales assistant seems to think I would like orange!! No matter that I DO NOT!! I've never worn orange in my life. It looks awful on me.

    Cyn, I'm even so sick of being stalked in Haiko that I've returned to D Mart!


  8. Sharell, I get sick of being stalked at Haiko too :) I stopped buying shampoo and face cream there because of their harrassing attitude :) I buy online from a site called "Good Life" or my local pharmacy.

    But D Mart and their whole lock your purse in one of their tote thing annoys me to no end too, especially since on most time I'm out shopping with Ishita, I don't have the patience for them to lock my purse into one of their stupid bag, fish my mobile phone out of the purse before because I may need it, and then get them to free my purse at the check out counter. On occasion we want to check something at D mart I send DH in :)

    So for now I'm sticking to Haiko, but I go in with a determined walk, highly assertive and refuse to make eye contacts to minimise the stalking thing. The guy in the non-veg section is still not getting it though, for some reason he is desperate for me to buy seafood stuff and doesn't even understand "no thanks" ugh!

  9. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Oh yes! This is something I hate - every time I go shopping in one of these places - I have had this experience in Lifestyle, Westside and Shoppers Stop. One time I had the shop assistant trying to gauge my size!!! This after I told him that I was fine to browse around on my own..

  10. I never had it happen in Westside, but yeah on occasion a helpful sale assistant in Lifestyle tried to anticipate my need and show me things in size he thought would fit...this is a bit insulting really. I don't mind asking if there is my size if I can't find it and am really interested in an outfit, but don't shove size L and above stuff in my face when I didn't aks for it first...ugh!

  11. Go to Health and Glow..they almost jump into your arms the moment you enter and will not leave you even if you shout at them. After H&G, you'll feel SS is better..haha..

  12. Enigma, I hear you about H&G I HATED that place in Bangalore, like you said they jump on you, refuse to leave you alone, and for some reason everytime I visted the place they tried to encourage me to buy....FAIRNESS CREAM! I amen come on people! I would actually benefit more from a tanning cream.

    I haven't seen any H&G or Foodworld in Mumbai though


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