{07/01/2013}   Etiquette while shopping

I was in a small shop a few weeks ago and while it was just me and the shop owner, all was quiet after we’d said our hellos.  Then a group of three women came in, carrying on a conversation from outside.  The one speaking did not lower her voice and continued talking very loudly (incidentally about a friend’s personal problems).  As the shop was small, it felt really intrusive and I felt really uncomfortable so left.  It made me wonder about shopping etiquette because to me, you either pause your conversation or you lower your voice, particularly in a shop where it’s blatantly obvious everyone will be able to hear every word you say.

I have also had similar thoughts regarding mobile phones in shops.  If I am on a phone in a shop, and I’d only answer the phone in a supermarket or big shop, I will always end the conversation before I get to the till as I think it’s incredibly rude to be talking on your mobile when trying to interact with a sales assistant.  I think there is a degree of etiquette about shopping and how you should behave in a shop but I feel increasingly that people don’t think of things like that and behave very poorly while shopping.

I think shop workers get more unacceptable behaviour inflicted upon them now than in years gone by.  Many years ago, I worked in a mens clothing store (remember Fosters’ Menswear?!) and I also worked in Marks & Spencer over a Christmas period.  I never had any particularly horrid customers in the clothing shop but Christmas at M&S was a little scary as people were fighting over the last turkeys, etc, on Christmas Eve and some people were moaning in a horribly accusatory way at me for how long they had had to queue etc.  It’s hard when you can understand why people are annoyed but you know that they should know that you are unable to do anything about it.  It seems like a lot of frustrations are taken out on shop workers.  I saw a customer screaming at a shop assistant in a supermarket because something she wanted had sold out.  People can be truly nasty and make someone else’s day miserable.

I know it sounds distressingly middle class and wrong to say this but every now and then I treat myself to a Waitrose shop because the customers are generally nicer people and the staff are less ragged and have reason to take pride in their work, it being a co-operative.  There is also less chance of picking up a cake that hasn’t been poked by a child left to run riot.  And, yes, I have experienced the latter on more than one occasion.

I have also been shopping with a friend before who has left me cringing as she’s moaned about their prices and said she’d get something better and cheaper on Amazon instead.  Said while standing right by the owner.  I was mortified.  I think that is so rude.  People take pride in small businesses and I know I would be really upset if someone said something disparaging about my shop while I was standing, seemingly invisible, right next to that person.  Maybe say it outside, but not like that.

Yes, some sales assistants are rude and unhelpful, but as a customer, I think there are some basic rules of etiquette that are easy to adhere to while out shopping and can make everyone’s day less stressful.


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