Christmas Shopping Fails: Going Into “Upscale” Shops And Employees Making You Feel Like You Don’t Belong There

22 comments
December 17, 2012 ‐ By

"Woman shopping"

How fun is Christmas shopping!?

If you could see me right now, you would know that the sarcasm in my voice as I read this out loud is major. Christmas shopping is very difficult. If you’re not dealing with a big family to shop for but with less than baller funds, you’re buying gifts for people who never wear or use what you spent good money on. Successful Christmas shopping all depends on the reaction you get on the big day, and up until then, you can only sit back, wait, and wonder if what you bought will knock some socks off.

Seeing as how very underwhelming all that is, things can get ten times worse when you have an experience like I did early this morning. Feeling a bit inspired after a good night’s sleep to go out and shop on 5th Avenue, I got up, got dressed and tried to get in the holiday spirit. Being that it was still relatively early (I left the house at late 9 a.m.), I went out in clothes that I would later return home and go work out in. Some yoga tights with combat boots, a long tunic-like shirt, my long utility coat, (which covered my tight-adorned booty), and a long colorful scarf. Did I look like something out of the pages of Vogue? Uh, no, but I didn’t know you had to be all Style to Steal just to Christmas shop with thousands of other people. Indifferent, I headed to a very popular jewelry and accessories shop on 5th Avenue, jamming with my Beats by Dr. Dre headphones on. When I entered the store, it was gorgeous! A huge Christmas tree covered in gold tinsel, clutches and bracelets in candy colors–it was enchanting at first glance. I pulled my headphones down around my neck and proceeded to shop around, half browsing, but half keeping an eye out for the pieces I was interesting in picking up for my mother that I had seen online.

As I walked over to a tall section of bold bracelets, I stared hard, looked them over, touched them a little bit. To the right of me were two employees, chatting it up and laughing about whatever. When I looked their way to see if they were even going to greet me, they looked at me kind of weird, and then looked back at each other and kept talking. I didn’t let that that bother me, but as I moved around the store, I noticed many other employees treated me in a similar manner, and I wasn’t appreciating it…

As I went to another room, I looked at fly bracelets with bright Swarovski crystals. When I picked one of them up to make sure it would be long enough or big enough for my mom’s wrist, that’s finally when someone finally walked over and asked me if everything was all right: “Oh yeah, I was just wondering, if this is too short for a person’s wrist, can an extra link or two be added?” She quickly said no, but that I could return it. I smiled thinking that she, out of all these lazy employees, would finally offer me some steady help, starting by asking me the million dollar question: “So, what is it exactly that you’re looking for?” But she walked away quickly and proceeded to get on the phone behind the register for someone else.

Another employee, a young man, was working in that room, and I felt him watching me, but definitely not helping me. When I looked up to ask him a question, he walked away and talked with other customers. With my Beats headphones on, my locs and my colorful, dare I say, tackalicious outfit, I thought that maybe I looked like a broke a** teenager to the employees and felt a little embarrassed. While I didn’t try and adjust my ensemble, I put the headphones away and kept shopping. However, I couldn’t help but feel like the lack of help and attention (positive that is) I was receiving was a way for someone to let me know I didn’t really belong in the place. I became pretty uncomfortable with the whole scenario, so I decided to scoop up the gifts I knew my mom and my boyfriend’s little sister would like, and hurried to get the hell out of there. And guess who was more than ready to help me out at the register? The same guy who avoided me the whole time I was there, this time very giddy: “Were you ready to checkout!?”

As I stepped up to the register and pulled out my fancy wallet, the guy was finally looking at me, a smile on his face. When he asked me was I helped in picking up the bracelet and other items, I thought for a sec–did that girl REALLY help me?–and I confidently said “No.” He said nothing, and I wasn’t surprised. I could feel that the girl who answered my question earlier was staring at me from the other register, and I didn’t care. With all the energy she put into everyone else, I knew she really didn’t think she did a damn thing for me now did she?

I get it. I used to be a sales assistant trying to survive in different retail stores during the holidays. It can be terrible, and it can be VERY terrible when you put a lot of attention on a needy customer who walks out empty handed. However, it’s part of your job, so you should do it, not pick and choose who looks like they’re worth the time and energy. I didn’t have a million and one questions for these people, and in all honesty, as you read, I could move my way around and figure out most things on my own. Yet and still, it’s the principle of it all. Don’t go through hell and high water for the older white woman who later tells you they’re going to change their mind on a product, and ignore me, a paying customer, because I don’t look like a soccer mom or a city girl with a very big disposable income. You can’t judge what’s in my wallet based on what I look like or how eclectic my attire is, and you shouldn’t try to. While I’m sure the recipients of the gifts I bought at this boutique will definitely appreciate them, I didn’t appreciate my experience in the store, and I definitely won’t be back.

Have you dealt with a lack of customer service like this while shopping? Have people made you uncomfortable in their place of business?

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  • Machelle Kwan

    Good story. But I would have never bought anything out of there. I would have simply walked out. I don’t give my money to businesses that are disrespectful or racist.

  • C’mon son

    I would NEVER have spent my money there. Utter disprespect. I would have taken those items up to the register and told them, “Actually, on second thought, I no longer want these. I will, however, speak to your manager.” Even if the manager hadn’t done anything, I think you would have felt better about yourself and the experience.

  • C’mon son

    I would NEVER have spent my money there. Utter disprespect. I would have taken those items up to the register and told them, “Actually, on second thought, I no longer want these. I will, however, speak to your manager.” Even if the manager hadn’t done anything, I think you would have felt better about yourself and the experience.

  • Gye Nyame

    I can’t believe you still spent your money there! If you can’t respect me you will not get my money. My mother said they used to take it a step further in her day, if they walked into a store and didn’t see a person of color working there, they would not shop there. My mom said the motto was “we don’t shop where we can’t work”, but she grew up during the civil rights era when black folk got ish done.

  • Ms_Mara

    You should have done like Julia Roberts in ‘Pretty Woman’. Shop elsewhere, and then return to the store where you were mistreated with all your bags full of goodies and say “BIG MISTAKE!” Lol If I feel like I’m being ignored, (or on the flip-side, being followed as if I’m a thief), I will leave the store and give someone else my business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cecelia.williams.54 Cecelia Williams

    I never shop where i am disrespected. I work too hard for my money to be treated badly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brandon.hallme Brandon Hall

    Why would you still buy in their establishment? That is horrible treatment. Your money is your voice and you wasted your voice. How many people have accepted that type of treatment and just purchased from the establishment? They didn’t have to treat you well, at all, to get that purchase, so how will they treat the next person who looks like you? Just some food for thought.

    • Sharon

      I don’t understand why blacks continue to got to these stores and businesses that treat you like dirt, say disrespectful things to you the minute you walk in the store and while you are trying to shop. I stopped going to those stores and shop at BLACK BUSINESSES WHO HONESTLY GIVE GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE as well having what you need. We need to give our money to black business who supports us and deliver customer support. I know I am wasting my time and space in writing this response trying to get people to support our business.

    • Kitsy

      Agreed! I have a firm policy of never patronizing any store where I felt mistreated (whether that be an upscale boutique, a Korean beauty supply store, or the hood-rat corner establishment). Some people will still purchase because they believe they are proving a point to the salespeople who were rude to them. But that’s misguided because it won’t make them treat you (or anyone like you) any better the next time. You just rewarded them for bad behavior, and I’m not about that!

  • Allie

    I remember my friends and I went into a Michael Kors store not too long ago, to try and locate this watch that my friend had spotted online..and the employee in the front just looked at us without saying a word, a minute later a mother daughter pair walks in, and she’s practically all over them even complimenting the mother’s necklace..mind you we’re all college aged which might have played a part in it…however I work part time in a higher end women’s clothing store, and my role is primarily to greet/welcome people, and i don’t care who walks in that store..they are being greeted, it’s part of our rules and guidelines and it’s about the experience we try to provide, showing preferential treatment to certain types of customers makes you look bad as an employee and speaks to your level of professionalism overall

  • Allie

    I remember my friends and I went into a Michael Kors store not too long ago, to try and locate this watch that my friend had spotted online..and the employee in the front just looked at us without saying a word, a minute later a mother daughter pair walks in, and she’s practically all over them even complimenting the mother’s necklace..mind you we’re all college aged which might have played a part in it…however I work part time in a higher end women’s clothing store, and my role is primarily to greet/welcome people, and i don’t care who walks in that store..they are being greeted, it’s part of our rules and guidelines and it’s about the experience we try to provide, showing preferential treatment to certain types of customers makes you look bad as an employee and speaks to your level of professionalism overall

  • curlyk

    every time I leave a comment, I remember something else lol. but my thing is, you’re working in a retail store. you’re not at corporate and you’re not a customer buying what your store is selling at retail more than likely. So who are you to judge a customer and assume what they can and cant afford? And im not putting down retail associates because I work in retail part time. But im just saying, some of these associates act high and mighty just because they work at a high end store. They need to keep in mind that if they really had it like that, they’d be buying instead of selling . Not saying these associates are struggling [which could easily be the case] because they obviously have income coming in. But just dont forget to treat everyone equally because the customer is the reason you’re still employed

    • Nikki

      They act like they get paid $40 an hour sometimes.

  • JuJuGee

    i too went to a certain upscale jewlery and accessories store on 5th avenue a few years ago.. while it wasn’t christmas season, it was the 2nd biggest retailing season – Valentine’s Day. we were passing time until our dinner reservations so went shopping.. window shopping mostly but that didn’t necessarily mean we wouldn’t have purchased anything. with me (afr-amer woman) + my hispanic husband (not visibly hispanic but definitely a man of color) were our friends- an interracial couple (She was black/him white). We entered the store and browsed through the lower levels – oohing and aaahing over the pretty shiny jewels. we went up the several levels of the store. My friend was actually ring shopping for her wedding but i was admiring their charm bracelets they are known for. We looked at the displays for a while but no sales assistance…suffice it to say, by the time we got to the upper levels- and exited the elevator – we were the only people of color there. We were not greeted by any sales persons- on that level. They were busy attending to the other non-people of color who got off the elevator with us. But that didn’t disuade my friend. She proceeded to the counter and looked at the jewels. still-no sales person came over. no one said they would be right with us. None acknowledged our presence. FInally, frustrated, she said a little loudly- I guess I’m not the right color to get service. and we left the store. If they couldn’t answer my basic questions or help me, they don’t deserve the commission or my money.

  • curlyk

    now that I think of it, I’ve also been discriminated against because of my age. Or so thats how I perceived my treatment. its gotten a little better in the past couple of years. I am 21 now, but my first two years of college when I would go eat with friends, our servers on multiple occasions and at several different restaurants, would give us poor service. Rarely, if ever, visited our table to check on us and had a poor attitude to go with it. Maybe I read too much into the situations but I really believe that some servers feel that young people will not tip them well because they’re broke and/or dont know any better. And maybe thats true, maybe its not. But everyone was not raised the same so you cant assume that a college student won’t tip well. I always give 20% and have been since high school. Often more than that if im at a cheap place like waffle house because my meal is usually no more than $6. I just dont feel right leaving a dollar and some change, although that is 20%. But people will always judge I guess. I just have to remember that and keep it moving

    • Nikki

      I remember when I was 16 and my brother was 13 and my parents went out of town. We went to iHop for breakfast, the guy was giving us horrible service. I said to him, “The reason why young people give poor tips is because you treat us like crap. How do you expect me to leave you more than a $1 for the way you treated us? You don’t deserve it.” The manager was eavesdropping and gave us 50% off…

      • curlyk

        Yeah it would really tick me off. My thing is, you never know what someone can and cannot afford so you can’t judge their physical appearance. If I was a server, I would give 110% to every table. My job isn’t to figure out which table will leave the biggest tip, but to make sure that all my customers leave feeling satisfied and return with new patrons.

  • ANTMilf

    I was going to nursing school downtown like 8 years ago and after school, I got paid from my other job working at Starbucks and I went to go find a Xmas gift for my mother (RIP) at Marshall Fields (now a Macy’s) on Michigan Ave. and go find a Ralph Lauren sweater for her, those were her fave back then, Then this sista kept looking at me strange because at the time I was wearing my school nursing scrub and next thing I know I was about to pay for this sweater and she have the nerve to tell me that I probably couldn’t afford the $89 sweater and I stormed out of that store! The next day, my mom went to the same store and brought the sweater and I went with her. The same ignorant lady was about to rang my mom up and my mom said “No, I want the white woman behind you to ring me up, the same s#!t you did to my daughter yesterday!”. Then my mom wanted to see the manager there and so far, IDK what happened to that snobby woman.

  • curlyk

    there are definitely some retailers that discriminate people by their appearance. I’ve definitely had experiences where I’ve looked extra cute and feminine and associates are willing to approach me and be helpful. But then there are times where I may be dressed down, or even if I have on some fly air Max’s, skinny jeans and a tshirt. And people will not even greet me. The other night i actually experienced this at banana republic and the gap. These aren’t even high end stores but the area that i was in was high brow so i guess it reflected in the associates. My thing is that you never know what someone is capable of purchasing. The flashiest male or female could be broke and flexing in the David yurman store while the woman in gym clothes got her workout on after leaving her successful law firm. When this happens to me, I either spend money in the store just to prove to the associates that I have it [which I realize now is foolish] or I just leave and know that I have money to spend but that store will not be getting it from me.

    • Guest

      So true. A few years ago my dad was looking around jewelry stores in manhattan to buy me a diamond bracelet. A jewelry store he entered there was chinese man who told him to leave because they have nothing there for him. He said it because my dad was a black man. My dad ended up finding a jewelry store where the owner was so nice my dad purchased a $10,000 diamond bracelet for me. To this day when I pass by the store the white man and his son always buy me lunch. They treat me like V.I.P.

  • pickneychile

    Uh uh! I probably wouldn’t have patronized them after that. Once me and a friend (a white girl btw) went to Ulta to browse for a product she wanted. This he/she sales associate was watching us like a hawk and even got the manager in on it. He was pointing over at us and basically stalking us from a distance as we walked around the store. I actually didn’t notice at first but my friend got so upset after she realized what was going on that she asked if we could leave. Both of us are grown, but look young so I’m assuming they thought we were trying to shoplift. We both vowed never to shop there again…not that I ever wanted to anyway. I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Ulta and treating black people like Crap. Smh

  • MLS2698

    Seriously, I’ve heard that high fashion boutiques act as if you are invisible unless you ask them a question. If I owned my own spot, as soon as someone walked in I would try to find out what they need. If they let me know they are just browsing, I will leave them alone to do that. If they start walking toward the door, I would ask them if they saw our ” such and such ” which is on sale, and would make a nice gift for SOMEONE ELSE; if they can’t find something for themselves, they can shop for a friend. SALE!

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