It’s almost Christmas and if you’re brave enough to head to a major department or grocery store – as opposed to shopping online – here’s what you will most likely encounter (or not encounter, to be precise): customers as far as the eye can see, but very few sales assistants.
“Excuse me,” you say to middle-aged Mavis (*not her real name), whom you catch sight of, gossiping with her colleagues in a stockroom at a major department store. “Can I please get some help over here?”
You just want to purchase an item, nothing too taxing, but poor, ol’ Mavis purses her lips in the manner of a cat’s bum, adopts the air of a seriously slighted victim and regards you with contempt: how very dare you interrupt her, you needy, horrible customer?
Being ignored in retail is an all-too familiar problem these days, but equally frustrating is the barely-legal sales assistant who makes a mockery of helping you, almost as if his or her job is beneath them.
Just recently, my best friend and I were shoe shopping at a major department store, and when I asked a young sales assistant for a particular size, she delivered the box, and then asked me to return all the wrong size shoes to the shelves. Say, what?!
Then, another friend recently recounted the tale of when she dared to ask a very young sales assistant for a price on an untagged designer dress, only to have said sales assistant roll her eyes and say her manager would have to get back to her sometime the following week. Frustrated by this appalling lack of customer service, but keen to purchase the dress in a hurry for an event that very night, my friend persevered, and gently suggested: could said sales girl take the time to phone head office to get a price?! Problem solved.
Big business seems aware of the problem – take Myer’s new “Find wonderful” ad campaign: the retail giant’s first brand re-launch for nearly a decade. Finding wonderful? Hell, sometimes, you’d just be happy to find an actual sales assistant in this great era of cost cutting and automated checkouts replacing actual human beings.
And so for many people, shopping online is the Holy Grail: no queues, no parking woes, no one slamming their trolley into your ankles, no sales assistant’s drought = far less stress.
But avid shoppers will surely agree – online shopping definitely has its place, but when it comes to shoe or dress shopping, for example, nothing can replace that actual traditional bricks-and-mortar sensory shopping experience of being able to see, touch and feel different textures and fit.
And, listen up retailers: when you actually do get some great customer service, I don’t know about you, but I’m often so pathetically grateful I feel more inclined – obliged even – to spend up big!
And when it comes to dining out, or staying in a hotel, customer service horror stories abound here too. The smarmy waiter who greets every woman with “Hello lovely lady” who seems more intent on picking up than serving the hordes of actual hungry customers and/or the five-star hotel staff who never even ask you if you enjoyed your stay.
So, is poor staff training and/or an extreme lack of etiquette to blame for the dying art of customer service?
What do you think? Do you have a recent customer service horror story?
Main image via clubtroppo.com.au; second image via setster.com; and final image via blog.zopim.com.
Over the next few days and weeks, many thousands of families across this mighty nation are getting ready to fill their pantries, fridges, freezers and receive those Christmas gifts that they have been paying for all year. Painstakingly selected about 12 months ago, 26 or 52 payments later, here it comes. There might be some cool toys for the kids, a bar set for dad, some grog for the old uncle or even a five-star holiday for the family.
You might have guessed that I’m talking about Chrisco, Hamper King, Castle Hampers and others that cash in on Christmas via payment plan industry. These have been around for years and now the variety has stretched way beyond the humble tin of baked beans in a Chrissy hamper.
Now, I’ve looked into these before and seen many friends and family members empty their energy-sucking fridges and freezers to accommodate the goods they’ve purchased. Not only have they paid decent sums of money for this stuff all year, but then they pay overpriced energy companies for food storage all the way through summer and beyond. What, the air-con isn’t going to add to the price; you need to store excess food as well! Bad luck if the power goes out or someone mistakenly turns off the freezer. Now, I’ve seen that happen too. OMG what a waste!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been handed catalogues and marvelled each year at the ever-increasing range. Gee, that quad bike looks amazing, the kids would love that Metallica pool table and OMG I’d love that new computer. Now, that stuff I understand why people would be tempted. But tempted is all I’ve ever been.
My main deterrent has always been the price. I fail to understand why intelligent women and some men, for that matter, still go through these companies to load up at Christmas time. If I were to head down to the local shops or jump online and have it delivered, I’d be paying around 25% less than what people are paying these companies. That’s $25 for every $100, people!
I’m not the greatest mathematician, but I can certainly see when I’m being ripped off so significantly! So why is this still popular? Why are many struggling families doing this each year? Doesn’t anyone have a smartphone, table, laptop or PC where they can shop on-line and get a Christmas delivery to save a bit of cash? Personally, I’d rather pocket that extra cash. Don’t people do this because Christmas can be so difficult to afford?
Not necessarily. Sheer convenience is all that I can put it down to. I totally understand that it’s much easier to break down Christmas spending into a weekly or fortnightly payment, but there are much better ways to do it.
For example: There are some smaller supermarket chains which you can deposit funds into specifically for Christmas shopping. They offer the same thing and don’t charge you any extra; 100% of the money you pay each week or fortnight is given back to you to spend in-store. They provide a voucher and you don’t need to spend it in one big hit either. You can shop when you like and won’t end up paying extra for food storage.
Then there’s banks or saving institutions. Why not hunt around for a low-fee, high-interest account where you can get a small portion of your pay slipped in there each payday and withdraw the lot at Christmas and shop where the specials are? You can do the Christmas crawl to the shops or shop on-line. It doesn’t matter, because it’s your money to spend anyway you like.
You certainly won’t be limited to what’s in a few catalogues, that’s for sure! You can even pay off holidays and cruises these days, so why on earth are people still doing this? My only advice is, that before you order next years goods, check out the supermarket prices on-line and look into other options. You might still want to pay for the convenience, but with on-line shopping and other options, you can still have that, without the hefty price tag.
Anyway, hopefully I’ve given you something to think about while you’re gearing up for a great Christmas!
Image source: http://automediya.ru/wa-data/public/blog/img/Christmas-Delivery-Dates.jpg
With hundreds of museums and cultural institutions located throughout the five boroughs, visitors and locals can purchase personalised gifts that are unique to New York City.
Find distinctive gifts at various museum and cultural institution shops throughout the five boroughs:
For more than 50 years, the American Folk Art Museum, located near Lincoln Center, has featured works from self-taught artists from the United States and abroad. The museum’s gift shop sells a selection of unique folk art pieces, from home decor to jewelry, similar to the displays seen throughout the museum (folkartmuseum.org).
With products ranging from jewelry to puzzles, the American Museum of Natural History has gifts for all ages. The museum’s three-level store offers a different shopping experience on each floor, including The Museum Shop, The Shop for Earth & Space, Cosmic Shop, Dino Store and Exhibition Shops. Gift ideas include educational books and games, apparel, stuffed animals, gems and minerals, science kits, posters and fossil replicas (amnh.org).
The Bronx Museum of the Arts, known for its contemporary art exhibitions, will be launching a holiday pop-up shop in collaboration with Puerto Rican fair-trade retailer Concalma The Store through Thursday, January 15. The holiday shop will feature accessories, T-shirts, books, home goods and iconic handbags (bronxmuseum.org).
One of the largest wildlife conservation parks in the country, the world-renowned Bronx Zoo is open year-round. Visitors are encouraged to come when the weather cools down, as many of the animals are more active then, making for an entertaining visit. The zoo gift shop offers DVDs, books and more (bronxzoo.com).
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s garden shop has an extensive selection of bulbs and seeds, making great gifts for those on your list with a green thumb. The shop also carries garden supplies, books for adults and children, indoor plants, jewelry and apparel featuring the garden’s logo. Plants for sale include bonsai, orchids and tropicals (bbg.org).
With permanent collections featuring ancient Egyptian masterpieces, African art and European painting, the Brooklyn Museum is full of fascinating exhibits. Newly renovated in 2012, the Brooklyn Museum’s shop offers a variety of gifts including books, toys and prints. With a special section dedicated to Made in Brooklyn, visitors will find unique art, jewelry, bath products and apparel made by local artisans from the borough (brooklynmuseum.org).
Staten Island’s Historic Richmond Town dates back to the colonial period, bringing alive American history with over 30 original structures and artifacts from the 17th century. The museum, which presents events, exhibits and concerts, also has a unique gift shop, featuring a wide selection of books discussing the history of Staten Island and, more specifically, Richmond Town (historicrichmondtown.org).
The Louis Armstrong House Museum celebrates the life and legacy of the famous jazz musician, set in his home in Corona, Queens. For music lovers, the museum store offers CDs, DVDs and books relating to Armstrong’s life, jazz history and African-American history. Additional gift ideas include tote bags, Frisbees, T-shirts and more (louisarmstronghouse.org).
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum offers three ways to view the museum: a walking tour of the neighbourhood, various building tours and an interactive Meet the Residents tour featuring a costumed interpreter. The gift shop, located adjacent to the museum, features a wide selection of books and souvenirs related to New York City’s immigrant history, in addition to a range of unique children’s books and toys (tenement.org).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest museum in the nation, uniquely develops products based on collections being shown in the museum to be sold in its gift shop. Items sold include jewelry, home decor, textiles, stationery, printed reproductions, calendars and books, which can also be purchased via the museum’s online gift shop (metmuseum.org).
At the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), shoppers can find designer gift ideas, including glass, ceramics and wood for home decor; fashion accessories and jewelry; stationery, books and children’s toys. Some examples are bookends, menorahs, totes and bowls (madmuseum.org).
The Museum of the City of New York has a selection of New York City–themed products, ideal for those looking to share their NYC experience. Gift ideas include memorabilia, books, clothing and more from its NYC Subway Collection. A fun option is the Eat Like a New Yorker tote, which gives tips to fit in with the locals, like, “Fold your pizza in half the long way” (mcny.org).
With multiple locations and offerings, the Museum of Modern Art has a lot to offer those looking for holiday gifts in New York City. At the flagship gift shop, visitors can purchase art reproductions, modern-design objects for homes and books for all ages (moma.org).
The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, is dedicated to the art, history, technique and technology of the moving image in all its forms. The museum’s gift shop has books for all ages, a wide selection of DVDs, and specially designed museum souvenirs that make for perfect gifts for film fanatics. Additionally, the museum hosts frequent book signings, offering the opportunity to give a personalized holiday gift (movingimage.us).
At the New Museum’s gift shop, visitors can find a unique and comprehensive selection of contemporary art books and other gifts. Books include monographs, critical texts and visual reference volumes. The store also sells CDs, DVDs, two- and three- dimensional art home decorations, apparel and accessories (newmuseum.org).
The New York Aquarium, located in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, has multiple exhibits and feeding shows for families to enjoy. There are two gift shops on the grounds, located at either end of the aquarium. Gifts that can be purchased include stuffed animal replicas, clothing, children’s books, jewelry, key chains and postcards (nyaquarium.com).
The New York Hall of Science in Corona, Queens, has exhibits, demonstrations, workshops and participatory activities relating to science, technology, engineering and math. The gift shop, located in the museum and online, offers science books, clothing, hats, mugs, calendars, posters, toys and games (http://nysci.org/).
The New-York Historical Society Museum & Library has a wide selection of gifts, appropriate for all ages. For adults, gifts include apparel, accessories, American history books, stationery, home decor and jewelry. Children’s gifts include books, toys, educational games and themed gifts based on the museum’s Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans exhibit (nyhistory.org).
The New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn is one of the largest museums in the United States devoted to urban public transportation history. The museum shop offers books, wooden train toys, apparel, cell phone cases, home accessories, magnets, posters, puzzles and stationery. Visitors can also purchase personalized gifts ranging from key chains to umbrellas (mta.info/mta/museum).
With a newly expanded venue, the Queens Museum continues to grow as a space with contemporary art from around the world. Located in Flushing, the museum’s gift shop offers a special section with goods crafted by local artists from the borough. Additionally, the gift shop sells historic memorabilia, T-shirts and more. (queensmuseum.org)
The Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea is home to a comprehensive collection of art from the Himalayas and surrounding regions. Visitors can purchase fair-trade cashmere shawls, scarves, books, candles, artisan jewelry and handcrafts at the gift shop, or attend a happy hour, live music performance, film screening or other special event (rubinmuseum.org).
On the Upper East Side, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is known for its exhibitions of international modern and contemporary art. The museum’s gift shop sells a variety of books, children’s gifts, jewelry and more. A bunny girl sculpture titled “I Have Seen Happiness,” created by Xiang Jing, is one the shop’s featured gifts for the holiday season (guggenheim.org).
At the hands-on Staten Island Children’s Museum, families can partake in interactive educational activities where kids can bring home handmade presents for family and friends. The museum’s Walk-In Workshops have a limitless supply of crafts, paints, glitter and glue, which children can use to show off their creative side (sichildrensmuseum.org).
In the Bronx, Wave Hill’s gift shop features items from local artists that want to connect people with nature. Gifts that accomplish that mission include educational toys, handcrafted soaps, seasonal plants, nature-inspired ceramics, glass and jewelry. Another unique gift idea from Wave Hill is honey from the garden’s hives (wavehill.org).
Hitting the shops to do your Christmas shopping this week? Stockland’s Ben Allen shares his top tips for a stress-free Christmas shopping experience.
1. Make lists
Plan your gift and food shopping by making lists and include the store details you need to purchase them from. This will help plan which stores you need to visit and avoid multiple trips to the shopping centre.
2. Plan a budget
Have a budget in mind and keep a record of your purchases to try and minimise unconscious over-spending.
3. Shop sooner rather than later
To avoid the last-minute rush, make your first trip sooner rather than later.
4. …or hit the shops at night
If shopping earlier is unavoidable, take advantage of the extended trading hours in the last week before Christmas.
5. It’s not a bloodsport!
Rest and refuel during your shopping trips. A coffee or lunch break will help clear your mind and rest your legs.
Check with your local butcher or supermarket whether you need to order your turkey or ham by a certain date.
Are you an early Christmas shopper or do you leave it to the last minute?
Witchery’s black heels ($139.95)
- Portmans bengaline black boob-tube dress ($89.95)
- Witchery?s black heels ($139.95)
- Witchery?s beaded clutch in white ($59.95)
- Gloss up with Philosophy?s pink lip cream ($33)This girl Rox!
SheSaid blows a big birthday kiss to Rox Gems & Jewellery who this month celebrate twenty-five years in the Australian jewellery biz. Timeless and contemporary, Rox have carved a stylish niche for themselves as purveyors of elegant and sophisticated pieces.
The Spring/Summer collection 2002/03 highlights the triumphant return of the earring. The must-have piece for every party princess this season is a Rox pave set diamond drop. Spinning from an intricate white gold link, the pave set diamonds capture and reflect light superbly, and clearly encapsulate the Rox signature
Witchery’s beaded clutch in white ($59.95)
Gloss up with Philosophy’s pink lip cream ($33)