Monday, October 27, 2014

Your Personal Stalker

Some Chinese shops seem to have a very strange idea about customer service. As a Swede - springing from a less-talkative, chillier culture - I'm most comfortable if the clerk says hello and asks if they can help (not saying hi is rude, OK Sweden?), but lets me do my own looking once I've declined.

Here, though, entering a shop might get you hitched with a bodyguard/parasite/human surveillance camera. A staff member who does not say hello or welcome or anything at all will latch onto you and silently follow you around the store. At some point they might try forcing wares on you or informing you about deals (which, often, you won't be able to understand). But it doesn't matter whether or not you are interested: they will keep heeling you until the moment you leave. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be some sort of butler concept or if shoplifting is a big problem in China, but it makes me feel like either a wanted criminal, or someone being stalked by a restless ghost.

general tip: if your staff is giving off a slenderman vibe, you're probably doing it wrong?

In other stores, they take customer service to unprecedented heights. I visited a small shop selling hair accessories. Its two rooms could easily have been staffed by one, two, or perhaps even three people on a busy day, but there were five or six women working simultaneously. Several women would greet you as you walked in and one would follow you, anticipating what you wanted to look at as soon as you took a step or turned your head. It was extremely difficult to move around because each customer had their own attendant standing behind them - usually in another customer's (read: my) way.

A Beijing tea shop actually had two women race each other to see who could get to my friend first. The entire time we were there we had the shop assistant breathing down our necks and shoving teas in our faces for us to smell. At a clothing shop with no other customers, the girl behind the counter followed me with her eyes and proffered products to me but didn't speak a word. It's really weird. And usually makes me leave a shop prematurely, because I'm not comfortable shopping while my spine crawls.

I mean, I understand that the shop personnel are going to be extremely annoying in a fake-goods market where all that matters is being able to hawk the loudest and most insistently. But in a genuine store? Terrible idea, that drives customers away. Independence is the name of the game.


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