No thanks, just looking

Ninety-nine percent of the time, that’s the answer I give — and hear others give — when a salesperson approaches and says, “Can I help you?”

I know it’s part of their job to ask, but I find the whole interaction so painful I go out of my way to avoid being approached. Even in stores that have switched to simply greeting customers — “Hi, how are you today?” — I find myself almost blurting out a curt, “Thanks, I’m just looking (i.e., Leave me alone!)” out of habit.

I think one of the reasons is that I (like most women) consider myself a professional shopper. With more than 30 years of shopping under my belt, I certainly don’t need help browsing through clothing racks or strolling through the furniture store or picking out a kitchen gadget.

And really, I doubt you are prepared to point me toward the perfect size 4 jeans (even though I wear a size 6 or 8), on sale, that don’t make my butt look big and aren’t 5 inches too long.

That said, I do like seeing the (usually older) greeter at Walmart and saying “hi.” (Maybe because I increasingly think that could be me someday.) But I’ve been taken aback by the new designated greeter who’s appeared at Lowe’s over the last few months.

By my calculation, I’ve been at Lowe’s or Home Depot an average of once a week for the last 10 years. Seriously — over 500 visits. The rare week I don’t visit is more than made up by the weeks I’m there multiple times. It’s been a real shock to my system to go charging in the store, fully “on task,” only to be met by a cheerful, blue-vested soul asking, “Hi, what can I help you find today?”

Huh? What? Don’t bother me, I’m on a mission. (And I probably know where most things are in this store as well as you.)

It’s a silly thing, but one I’ve noticed. Standing in line yesterday at the Returns desk, I had a bird’s-eye view of the greeter du jour. Nearly everyone she greeted had the same reaction I have — taken aback, not knowing what to say, rushing by with a wave of the hand and “I know where I’m going” reply.

Even funnier are the times when you escape being greeted upon entry, and then walk past the greeter 20 minutes later and he/she asks, “Hi, how can I help you today?” I’m often tempted to say, “Uh, could you open up another checkout line since I’m ready to buy this cart full of stuff?”

I know Lowe’s is trying to be friendly and help customers who really do feel overwhelmed in their big stores. I get that. Maybe it’s just that after 500 or so visits, I think they should know me already. That some special “Lowe’s Pro” sign should light up when I enter and the greeter should just smile at me with a knowing wink… Now that’s something that would make me feel special. (After all, I can rattle off the last 4 digits of my Lowe’s credit card to the cashier as easily as I punch in my debit card PIN.)

In the meantime, I’ll be the one you see feigning blindness and scurrying away from any and all “associates” who are desperately trying to help me.

I love to go shopping. I love to freak out salespeople.
They ask me if they can help me, and I say, “Have you got anything I’d like?”
Then they ask me what size I need, and I say, “Extra medium.”
~ Steven Wright

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5 Comments

  1. mel said,

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 9:21 am

    and WHY, oh WHY, for that 1% of the time when you really need assistance… WHY are those people never in sight? or cluelesss?!?

  2. robbie said,

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Customer service in retail is tricky. Stores want to be helpful without being annoying, yet they seem to annoy both the person looking for help and can’t find it and the person not looking for help who is accosted at the door. Now that I”m older, I simply smile and say “no thankyou” when asked if I need help and simply snarl when I can’t find a clerk. It works and I don’t get all stressed out.

    And do any of those nice greeters/clerks/associates ever ask “May I help you?” Maybe one in a hundred.

  3. WritingbyEar said,

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    This was just one of those day-to-day trivialities that struck me lately, especially with the recent addition of the Lowe’s greeter. I’ve never worked retail and would probably be lousy at it — as you say, hard to strike the right balance between providing good service and not being intrusive.

  4. chappy said,

    Friday, December 18, 2009 at 11:11 am

    that lowe’s sign should light up and say ‘grinch alert’!

  5. WritingbyEar said,

    Friday, December 18, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Grinch? I am quite full of holiday spirit, Chappy. Love the decorating, the baking, AND the shopping — just prefer to do them in peace.


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