Despite being a fairly confident person in most social situations, I admit that I have one great weakness, one that causes me — beyond just feeling uncomfortable for a few minutes — to spend lots of money that I have no business spending. Yes, no matter how confident I may be when at a party or meeting new people at work, I cannot help but succumb to the emotionally manipulative tactics of the pushy salesgirl.
I know that, in most cases, her intentions are benign and she is not being pushy of her own volition. (I’ve been nearly-fired or actually-fired from every retail job I’ve ever had for refusing to Sell! Sell! Sell! In the way I was asked to.) But even forgetting the more malevolent salesgirls and their snobby, self-esteem-decimating tactics, the nice ones still manage to feel like bullies in their niceness. From the big chain girls with the opening lines handed down from corporate, to the bubbly girls who flit around hip boutiques encouraging you to try on an entire wardrobe’s worth of new maxi dresses, they all stress me the fuck out.
And more often than I’d like to admit, I end up walking out of the store with a bag of something I have no interest in, simply because I couldn’t say no to someone who was so eager, so pushy, and so perhaps-working-on-commission. But I’m getting better! Where my boyfriend used to make fun of me for my cowering, Whippet-like shakiness in the face of a salesgirl with an armful of items to try, I am now stronger, more confident, and capable of saying “no.” I’ve learned to get better to save my own sanity (and checking account). Here are my five biggest strategies:
1. When they ask if you need any help, be as clear and firm as possible if the answer is no.
One of my biggest issues used to be my inability to say “no, thank you” with any conviction. I would smile, look sheepish, and give a half-hearted “no thanks hehe,” which was their cue to start pulling everything off the rack in order to push me into buying it. Now I look at them and in a lower, clearer tone of voice, tell them “no, thank you,” and continue my shopping. Most of the time this is enough to get them to leave me alone for the rest of the shopping trip, because they know I mean business.
2. Ask for what you’re looking for if you need help, and emphasize that you are specifically looking for that, and nothing else.
It’s always much easier to stay on-track when you have a clear idea of what you want, but even if you don’t, it’s best to pretend like you do. If you say that you are looking for a cream-colored leather handbag, it gives you the opportunity to browse and perhaps find something you like on your own, rather than giving the salesgirl carte blanche to start putting things in a fitting room for you because you’re not sure what you’re looking for and “just browsing.” “Just browsing” is something you should never say. Trust me, as someone who worked in retail on commission for some time, that it is basically the equivalent of a cash register noise for many stores.
3. Never let them open a dressing room for you.
Unless you’ve got a ton of stuff in your hands and you know you absolutely want to try it on, do not get a dressing room started. If you’re just walking around with a shirt and maybe considering getting more stuff, there’s no need to open a dressing room (that a salesgirl can then start putting stuff in that she ~just knows you would love~. ) Make the move to a dressing room only when you know your’e ready to move to the next stage of the shopping experience, and not before.
4. Don’t be afraid of being disliked.
Of course, you should never be an asshole or disrespectful to the staff of the store you’re patronizing, but if they’re being pushy or making you uncomfortable, it is well within your rights to say “I’d prefer to shop alone if that’s okay.” I totally understand the fear of being hated by the person you’re having to gently tell off, but that’s just something you’re going to have to accept if you, like me, are otherwise susceptible to being henpecked into buying things. You know your budget, you know what you’re looking for. There is no reason you should have to let someone follow you around with a bunch of stuff you’re not interested just to not offend them. As long as you’re polite and considerate, stand your ground.
5. If you’re going to a store where you know the staff is pushy, only bring a certain amount of cash.
If all else fails, save yourself from your own fragility. If you’re going to that boutique you love with the particularly dangerous sales tactics, protect yourself. Don’t bring your cards, and then, no matter what happens, the worst you can do is put all that extra stuff on hold (and realize you don’t want it as soon as you’re out the door). Be smart, plan ahead, and don’t get dragged into anything you don’t need. Even if that means carrying cash like a child with an allowance, it’s better than the cold, cold sting of buyer’s remorse. Trust me.
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