The Customer (Isn’t) Always Right

Is it just me, or is being the only customer in a small boutique incredibly awkward?  I hate going into small stores when there are clearly no other people in there, other than the person working there.  I feel like there’s so much pressure on me to buy something; that the sales associate is sizing me up and deciding if I can actually afford anything in there.

Yesterday I finally broke down and purchased this wallet I’ve been eying for the better part of a year.  I’m not sure what’s prevented me from getting it, but each time I go into said store I run my fingers over it lovingly but walk out empty handed.  This weekend I finally got sick of looking at my wallet, which used to be so cute and new but is now reaching its last stages of pretty.  So I headed down to Union Street and purchased the beautiful black wallet.

And then I decided to walk around and check out some of the other stores.  I walked into one store that had two other women in it – who left right after I walked in.  I was trapped with the sales woman (owner?  who knows).  The clothes were all out of my price range (over $100 for a shirt is not something I’m willing to pay), but I wanted to at least give the impression that I was interested in the things she had to offer.  Just as I was about to make my escape, however, the woman started talking to me.

And not just in a Oh-how-do-you-do sort of way.  No, this woman was full-on telling me a story.  Right as I was about to leave.  Now I’m stuck sort of looking at clothes and also trying to listen to this story.  “You know, ” she says to me, “I’ve worked in this business for a while now, and I haven’t had that many awkward moments.”  I start to look around, wondering if she’s going to tell me something that would make this situation awkward (for her, that is, it’s already reached that level for me).

“But one time, ” she continues, oblivious to my discomfort, “this heavier woman came in with her daughter.  And I can look at people and tell what size they are.”  Here she stops to look me over, as if she’s about to guess my size right there and I wish I were wearing something more flattering.  She doesn’t guess out loud, however, and continues with her story.  “They’re looking at jeans and how do you tell someone that we don’t carry that size?  So the woman asks about a pair of jeans and I tell them how they fit and say, ‘But I don’t think we’ll have your size.’  And you could tell the woman was upset by this.  But, I mean, how do you say something like that?”

The answer is: you don’t.  You let the woman tell you her size and then you nicely root around in your piles of jeans and say, “We must be out of that size.”  Or, if you really want to point out to the woman that she is, in fact, too heavy to wear said jeans you could say, “Unfortunately, they don’t go to that size.”  And possibly point her in the direction of a designer that does go past size 30 (by the way, when did size 30 become the end of the spectrum?).  Because here’s the thing: no one likes having someone else point out that they are outside of the “normal” spectrum.

I remember trying on shoes at this fancy schmancy place in Santa Barbara.  I asked for a cute pair of heels in size 9 (I know, I know, I have huge feet – what’s even worse is that I’m only 5’6″) and the woman said to me, “We don’t carry anything above a size 8 in heels but I can special order that for you.”  I don’t think I ever went back in to try on shoes there again.  Admittedly, I do have large feet.  But do I want someone pointing that out to me?  No.

And I’m sure the woman with the jeans story wouldn’t like anyone pointing out that her hair looked great on Jesse Spano back in the day.

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