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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The customer is always.....invisible..?

I'm going round the world this autumn. (Sorry if you're the last one to know....) And that involves a lot of planning, budgeting....and buying stuff for the trip. I've got one small-ish bag to carry all my clobber in, so I'm breaking the habit of a lifetime and travelling reasonably light.

That means buying clothes that suit all weathers, can be washed and dried fast, and can move seamlessly from a mountain hike to dinner..... some time later.... in a swanky restaurant (now and again). Sheesh. Anyway, I knew that finding something that wouldn't let in the wind or rain but could do me a turn in sunny San Francisco would be tough. And pricey. And when you're spending a fair bit of dosh, and need advice, you really hope you're going to find someone helpful.

Take my Lowa walking boots. I bought them a few months back at Cotswold Outdoor in Tunbridge Wells. Strolled in. Told them exactly where I was going, how much walking I'd be doing, on what kind of terrain, and how much I had in my back pocket. Sorted. The guys there knew what they were talking about, walked a lot themselves, were happy to help, and within about half an hour, they had a sale. Look. Me and my boots at Loch Lomond. Happy as anything.

Today: Hereford. Mission: to buy a light, but very waterproof jacket, that was also breathable. Possibly a couple of pairs of those glamorous trousers that morph into shorts. And, if things went well, a fleecy top. 

Three different outdoor type shops. Here's how I got on:

Shop 1: Two assistants. One admittedly busy on the till. Some good sale items on display. Tried to make eye contact and smile at Assistant Two. He looked away, said "Excuse me..." and squeezed past. To nowhere in particular. I meandered around for seven minutes or so....felt the merchandise, looked his way. Nothing. Left the shop.

Shop 2: Three assistants. All chatting. About childbirth and whether freckles were genetic, mainly. Some potential jackets in the sale. Tried one on. Looked their way. They chatted on. Put jacket back. Pulled out another one. Looked their way. Looked for Mary Portas. But the band played on. Nothing. Left the shop.

Shop 3: Four assistants. First caught my eye within moments. Came over, and asked if she could help. She was brilliant. Left me trying on jackets. Narrowed it down to a couple of options but couldn't find quite what I wanted. A second assistant took over, and confirmed that the one that might work for me was available online, at the same price, and could be delivered to my door. They (hello, Mountain Warehouse, Hereford...!) could not have been more helpful, informed, or charming. I knew there were a couple more shops to try and said I'd be back if I didn't have any luck. But I did. In one of those huge, apparently assistant-less, discount clothing stores. The service wasn't there, but the Regatta jacket was similar, and cheaper, so I bought it. A bit guiltily, to be honest, because the ladies in Shop 3 had been so good.

As for the rest of the gear I needed? I couldn't face going through all that that's still on the list.

So. To shops that ignore their customers, please sharpen up your act. You're in a big battle with online sales and out of town outlets as it is. I have a budget, but it's limited, and while I don't want to be pounced on, I do want you to register that you've seen me.

Is that too much to ask? Is it just me? Or do you sometimes feel invisible, too?

(Oh...and the round the world bit. We leave on September 12th. Drop in on . We'll smile, say hello, and everything.....!)

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