I left the department store in total disbelief. My morning of ‘fun’ shopping came to an abrupt end and I couldn’t wait to get back on the tram and go home. Feeling completely flat, with a glum look on my face I boarded and sat staring out the window. As I unlocked the door tears welled up in my eyes which soon turned into an uncontrollable sob - then I sent Mr Fritz a text. “Another fucking epic fail!” I announced. “Well, I can’t believe you went back to bloody Myer,” he replied. “How else am I going to try on four different pairs of shoes?” I wrote. I was annoyed at myself because I knew he was right. I’d complained about this department store many times before. But this time I sensed something else was going on. I simply don’t cry just because I’ve had an unsuccessful shop. So I wanted to delve a little deeper to figure why I got so emotional.
I felt positive and even enthusiastic about buying a new pair of shoes (nothing glitzy, just some casual slip-ons). I did a bit of online research, jotted down some brand names and off I went. After a surprisingly nice coffee and an extra jolt of energy I started to browse the shoes.
I found the first pair within moments, slipped it on my foot and thought, ‘bingo! I’ll come back for these for sure!’ I tracked down the next two which weren’t great and then finally a fourth pair. This time I asked a staff member to get me the shoes in a different colour. Fifteen minutes later she still hadn’t reappeared. When she finally did materialise I noticed she came out empty handed. “Oh, you didn’t find the shoes?” I enquired. Her vague and slightly embarrassed look revealed that she had completely forgotten. “Oh, sorry," she mumbled sheepishly, “I’ll go have a look now.” Of course, she didn’t have the shoes I wanted so I walked away and kept looking around.
I decided to return to the first pair that fitted me perfectly, the plan was to try, buy and go. But the shoe had vanished. After I triple checked I decided to grab a similar style and ask a staff member for some help - someone different this time. I explained that I’m looking for the missing shoe. Of course she knew nothing about it. “Could you have a look in the system?” I asked. “I’ll have a look in minute,” she said and then much to my surprise the silly twit proceeded to help another customer. I waited. When she returned she swiftly attended to yet another customer. At this point my blood started to boil. By now forty-five minutes had passed and I hadn’t gotten anywhere. Our eyes locked once more and she mouthed a pathetic ‘I’m sorry.’ She then quickly ran over to me at which point I said, “You know what, I’ll just order one online!” And I walked away.
What I really wanted to say was, “How dare you you little shit! Don’t you know anything about customer service. Finish helping one customer first before you help someone else. That’s just common sense!” But it was too late, I was already on my way out and I was furious.
How did I end up being served by the two biggest duds within the same hour? I was perfectly friendly, extremely patient and even managed to pretend I was relaxed and having a good time. Of course this wasn’t the first time I’d experienced bad service, or the first time I came home empty handed - but it was the first time I was reduced to tears.
I started wishing I’d never have to shop again - ever! I fantasised about days gone by when life was simpler and somehow more straight forward. When having two pairs of shoes was enough. A time when choices were more limited - something that’s hard to even imagine in today’s world of mega shopping malls, 24/7 online shopping and Uber Eats.
Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be satisfied with the amount of stuff I have? I’m spoilt for choice, and as grateful as I am for this over abundance, at times I feel it burdens me and it’s in these moments a secret shame washes over me because I know there are so many who go without.
But I live in a world where I have to go to the shops or to the market if I want to buy supplies. And if I’m looking to purchase shoes or clothes my options are to go to a bricks and mortar store or shop online. I don’t enjoy either - and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to return online shopping. But if I go in person I often can’t even find the item, or my size has sold out - and as for finding a sales assistant, that’s more like mission impossible.
So what happened to me that day? After some much-needed reflection I came to the conclusion that I felt humiliated. But why? I felt overlooked and ignored and that made me feel stupid. These negative emotions deepened when I noticed I was angry at myself for not saying anything. ‘You should have fucking said something,’ I kept thinking over and over. That silly inexperienced chick had no idea what she was doing and rather than stand up for myself I chose to spare her her feelings and walk away.
I now know that the tears I shed that day had nothing to do with coming home empty handed or experiencing bad service. But rather it was underpinned by years of regret. Regret for not having the balls to stand up to the arseholes that have crossed my path, for not having the balls to speak up and express my beliefs and quite frankly for not having the balls to stay true to myself.