Please, Let Me Give You Money!

OK, dear Husband, I got your attention, didn’t I?

Another frustrating shopping experience in England!  I arrived at the department store make-up counter at 10:15; the store had opened at 9:30.  After asking several clerks (standing around doing absolutely nothing) if anyone might be able to help me at the Estee Lauder counter, I get frustrated with waiting five or so minutes.  Unfortunately, I want to try a few things and I’m not exactly certain what I want.  The others explain that while they may be able to find a product, they don’t know anything about it and can’t help me try anything and it’s best to wait for the designated clerk to show up.  I ask when that will be.  They tell me they don’t have any idea; maybe she is late or maybe she is sick today.  So after a few more minutes I decide to leave.  Yeah, I know…impatient American.  But it goes deeper than that.

I had a similar experience at a shoe store last weekend.  The “adult” shoe clerk could not help size my child’s foot while the “child’s” shoe clerk spent 10-15 minutes on one kid alone; so the first clerk proceeded to clean the shelves while we waited.  My mother, visiting from the U.S. observed that back home the clerk would not only be helping that first kid try on his shoes, but would be sizing my daughter, and welcoming a third or fourth to the store, apologizing for the wait and offering to call another staff member to help momentarily.  Has no one in England heard of cross training the staff?  Does this bother the English or are they content with it?

My husband, only half jokingly, mentioned he’d make a standing consulting offer to many English shops with staff in the service industry to let him run it for a few weeks and he could make a good living splitting the increased net profit.

I know, I know, the answer I get from people when I talk about these things goes something like “the concept of ‘customer service’ is just not part of the culture here as it is in the U.S.”  (Understatement.  Understatement.)  Baloney.  Ask anyone from Marketing 101 and they will explain to you the causal link between positive customer service and increased sales.  I’m sure the English like to make money just like the rest of us.

My husband’s approach when receiving particularly bad customer service is to walk away, stating “you’ve just lost a sale” or “thanks, we’ll take our business elsewhere.”  But most of the time this really doesn’t bother those in the service industry I have come across.  And it’s honestly very difficult to find that “elsewhere.”  Please, I’d love to hear back from anyone who knows of customer friendly shops in London.  You’ll have some new customers straight away.

Now off to buy that make up if I can get anyone to please take my money!

*UPDATE*

My faith in English shops was restored after a very positive boot shopping experience a few days later, and decent clothes shopping journey just today.  I was approached by a sales clerk in good time after entering both shops, and received help the entire time.  I still believe this is more the exception than the rule, but you never know…maybe those good old American customer service ideals have begun to swim across the pond.  😉

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About expatmama

Karla Oselka Walsworth is a freelance writer/blogger, born and raised in the great state of Michigan. She has lived abroad twice, most recently in London, and keeps a blog on Expat living and traveling with children, www.expatmama.wordpress.com. Living in the last five years in four different cities, her writings tend to focus on challenges of moving/living with children while exposing them to all this planet has to offer. Karla, who has her MBA from the University of Illinois, and is also a certified 200 hour yoga instructor, has settled (for this moment) in the Midwest. As a recovering accountant and budding writer, she is actively raising two children with her husband Eric, hoping to give them as global a perspective as one can, at ages 7 and 4.
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2 Responses to Please, Let Me Give You Money!

  1. Kathleen Zmuda says:

    Hi, Karla,
    It’s refreshing to hear that American ways are courteous and thoughtful.

  2. Kathie says:

    It sounds like the ultimate problem is that there aren’t many alternatives of where to get things, even in a major world center like London. If we get mad here at Lowe’s for instance, we can go next door to Menard’s or down the road to Kabelin’s or even to Walmart or Meijer possibly. Or for the real desperate, down the road to Home Depot a few miles away. Now my recent experience with AT&T, where we have no other option for high speed internet and not many viable options for cell phones, was a major run around and so far 2 1/2 hours invested in phone time, most of which was waiting for another department to pick up the phone. They were pleasant, but very unconcerned about wait time. So these little frustrations of life occur everywhere. Your blog was humorous to read though!

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