I love shopping (now there’s a surprise!) but there have been times when I’ve come out of a shop feeling severely disappointed at the way I’ve been treated. In the shops I frequent, I get the feeling most (not all) of the shop assistants are there purely to earn money so they can abuse their staff discount (shamelessly I use to be one of them!) . Very few actually enjoy or take pride in their work, and they don’t really care about customer service. I’ve worked in a retail for ten years myself, so I know how boring and tedious the job can be, but I also know that you’re paid to provide a service!
But just because some shop assistants don’t care about giving us a good deal, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t demand one. Remember that when you’re handing over your hard-earned cash (or your card). You are doing them a favour, not the other way around. You’re paying their wages and you deserve good service!
I like to think I’ve got shopping down to a fine art now, and what I don’t know myself I’ve learned from other great shoppers so Here are my top tips on being the most savvy shopper out there!
- Argue Your Case:
If there is an advertisement in the store / in a magazine for a discount or a freebie, and the assistant either doesn’t mention it or tells you there’s an error, argue your case. So what if the poster is wrong? The poster is up in the shop, and therefore you are entitled to your freebie. Don’t be a bitch about it, but calmly question it and I pretty much guarantee you’ll get your freebie / discount anyway. Rudeness will just result in everyone getting annoyed. Even if the assistant is rude to you, try to keep your temper, ask to speak to a supervisor or manager if you have to.
- Keep Your Till Receipt:
I can’t stress this enough, a receipt is gold dust. You aren’t guaranteed any rights without them. Even if something looked good in the shop, who’s to say it won’t look terrible once you get home, or fall apart after 3 wears? Generally, a receipt guarantees you a refund or a credit note, especially if the goods are faulty. Refund rules differ from shop to shop, but most will give you a full refund up to 28 days after purchase if you have a receipt. This doesn’t usually apply to underwear or pierced earrings, (and sometimes sale items or special offers). Some companies (especially big names like John Lewis – a company I use worked for) can afford to give you a refund even if you’ve lost your receipt, but it’s best to be safe. I keep all mine in my purse and go through it at the end of the month, throwing out any I don’t need. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
- Beware The Store Card:
If you’re over 18 and have been offered store cards, be very wary of getting them. The introductory offers (usually 10% off and / or a free gift) are tempting, but unless you can guarantee you’ll pay the entire bill each month, you’ll soon void that discount. Store cards have ridiculously high interest rates, and the debt soon builds up. You’re often better to pay cash, or use just one credit card for all purchases, rather than spreading debt across 5 or 6 cards. If you do decide to go for a store card for the discount pay off the first bill and then chop the card up. You’ll still get the letters inviting you to promotional events, but you won’t have the debt. Don’t be tempted to use the store card every time you’re in the shop, or when you know you won’t have the money to pay it off. Debt piles up very quickly, especially if you’re a student. On a side note. I use to hate trying to sell store card to customers as I would feel it was so amorally wrong but I would have my manager slamming me for not meeting target. Thanks god I don’t have to do that anymore.
- Blag a Freebie:
While I’m not suggesting you go into Topshop and ask for a free skirt because you’re such a devoted customer, showing interest in products (especially at beauty counters at department store) can result in freebies, discounts or preferential treatment. The lovely people at Lush Cosmetic often will slip in a freebie when you are buying something or are happy in giving you a small sample to take home, all you have to do is ask. Those beauty counter girls can be a bit scary, but they’re just doing their job. If you really are interested in a luxury make-up product, keep them talking, explain how it’s a big investment for you and you’re trying out the range with the hopes of coming back to buy more. She may well give you freebies with purchase, or a makeover, which is always fun. Don’t feel like you HAVE to purchase just because you’ve been made over. It’s not a requirement. Shops like Sephora are also great for freebies (so I’ve been told) as the more you buy, the more perfume and make-up samples they’ll throw in.
- Get To Know The Staff:
If you visit a frequent shop or a specific shop, say a local boutique or a specialist bookshop, get to know the people who work there so they recognize your face when you walk in. This way they’re more likely to give you advance warning of sales, or let you know as soon as new products come in, especially if you buy quite a lot when you go there.
It’s very tempting, especially when the assistant is paying more attention to her friend on the till next to her than to you, to utter a nasty retort as you walk away (I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ don’t bother saying ‘Thankyou, have a nice day!’ under my breath as I’ve walked off) but try to curb that tongue, especially if it’s a small shop with the same staff all the time. Even if you’re making a complaint, smile and be polite, and they should do the same to you. If they don’t, then just don’t shop there anymore, it’s as simple as that!
- Speak up By Using Your Voice:
This is a tip my mother taught me. If there’s only one dress left in your size and it has a big make-up stain across the neck from the person who tried it on before you, don’t just buy it with the hopes it’ll wash out at home. Explain (politely) to the cashier that this is the only dress left and a) do they have another in the storeroom, or if not b) could they offer you a discount? You’ll probably find they’ll give you a minimum of 10% off if they product has a problem. This includes missing buttons, pulled threads and suchlike. Try your luck because usually you’ll succeed. Make it clear you will not buy the item at full price. A discounted sale is better than no sale at all! But remember, some of these discounted ‘faulty’ items will be void any return rights, so before you part with your cash, make sure you definitely DO want it, and it fits.
- Try Things On:
It amazes me how many people I know who buy items of clothing from shops without trying them on first. Ok, it’s fairly easy to take things back if they don’t look right, but why put yourself out? And what if you do accidentally lose that receipt? I always try before I buy. Most shops (especially newer branches) have fairly reasonable, individual fitting rooms nowadays. But remember that mirrors are often slightly tilted to make you look thinner and taller!
- Wise Up:
This doesn’t so much apply to clothes and make-up as expensive electrical goods and real investments. Go into the shop with a fair idea of exactly what it is you want, particularly if you’re female and buying something expensive and technical (cars, computers and stereos are perfect examples) without your dad / boyfriend / brother etc. An assistant in a shop like Apple Store or Pc World will spy a girl alone a mile off and prey on her, trying to sell her the most expensive product, even if it’s not the most suitable (a lot of them work on commission, so who can blame them?) Charm them with some technobabble and prove you know what you’re talking about, and they might be a bit better at helping you pick the perfect product. Don’t be afraid to disagree with a shop assistant, sometimes we’re all wrong.
- Pick Your Shopping Partner Carefully:
I do my best shopping alone. It’s a bit odd the first time you go shopping without your partner (in my case my hubby), but you’ll soon learn to love it after a while. There’s nobody to cloud your judgement, encourage you to impulse-buy, rush you home or talk you out of something you adore. If you must take somebody, think carefully about what you want and pick accordingly. Men’s are terrible if you’re buying shoes, but they’re great if you’re after a new Playstation game or foods. Most men’s will not think highly of following you round the beauty counters in search of a new lippy, but your sis might. And moms will do one of two things – tell you that you look gorgeous in everything, or tell you that you look like a tramp in everything. Best friends will result in a very big credit card bill but they also give great advice. And finally, if you do go alone, don’t listen to shop assistants in the snootier stores, they are evil.
My apologies to anyone who works in a shop. I’m sure you’re not like the people I’ve mentioned, but I’m sure you work with someone who is! I’ve worked in a shop, I’ve seen both sides, and I know what it’s like!