The four biggest clothes shopping peeves

Nikki ParkinsonFashion 51 Comments

We spent the weekend in Brisbane while my daughter did a two-day graphic design course (part of my evil plan to get her doing an unpaid internship for me *insert evil laugh here*).  We caught up with family and I also had a shopping and styling session with a gorgeous new client.

She lives and work in the inner city so, twist my arm, the inner city was our shopping precinct of choice.  Her corporate work wardrobe didn’t require any tweaking but she was keen to freshen up her weekend and after-hours look.

"Do you remember me? I was in here yesterday.  You wouldn't wait on me. You work on commission, right?  Big mistake. Big. Huge."  Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman

"Do you remember me? I was in here yesterday. You wouldn't wait on me. You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Big. Huge." Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (1990)

Now, while we didn’t experience any Pretty Woman moments involving sales assistants not wanting to serve us, we did experience a couple of things that got me thinking:

1.  In the designer section of one major department store, the teenage shop assistants talked to each other about their weekend while ringing up my client’s purchases – only actually talking to us to comment on how gorgeous the top was that my client was buying.  No sooner had the bag been passed to us, said assistant was found grabbing one of those tops off the rack for herself.

2.  In one boutique, I seriously struggled to actually see what they were trying to sell.  It was so dark, with only minimal spotlighting on the racks of mainly black clothes, that I just couldn’t be bothered going through them.  What got bought?  The jeans and the shoes that were displayed so they could actually be seen. Umm. No brainer really.

This was all mulling over in my brain on the way home so I decided to put it out to the Facebook and Twitterverse and ask you, Stylers, what are your pet clothes shopping peeves?  And boy, oh boy, did the comments flow in.

I’ve narrowed them down to four common themes:


@purple_cath: aisles too narrow with a pram

Sally: change rooms without mirrors! I was in one yesteday and guess what? Didn’t buy anything.

@kerr_alexandra No mirrors in the dressing room! I hate that!

Danielle: No price tags

Monique: mirrors OUTSIDE the change rooms … some of us are a bit more modest!

Natalie: Cluttered and overstocked racks. Gives me claustrophobia just trying to find something!

Dianne: my peeve is poorly merchandised stores … makes it so hard to envisage an outfit because of all the chaos … My other peeve is stores that jam as much as they can in the shop … it’s like they have an identity crisis, trying to sell everything and have no focus … again chaotic.

Catherine: All of the above! But also dislike over crowded racks!!! I hate it when the racks are so incredibly overstuffed that you simply cannot see the clothes on them short of taking them off the rack. The problem is though that you can never get the hanger back on the rack afterwards too.

Gillian: I hate it when the racks are so darn high I can’t reach items up the top!


@princess_chic: over zealous salespeople

Marney: Shop assistants who have only worked there 2 weeks or else tell you “we have never sold that here!”

@adventureskids: not being able to find attendant to ask questions

Maree: Assistants that think they’re above you and ignore you! Goodbye sale!

@misskelt: Pushy sales assistants. I’m likely to walk out if hassled too much…

Renee: shop assistants talking on the phone instead of helping!

Fiona: I waited at the counter for 10 minutes while they had a chat so I walked out without any purchase or desire to return!

@bigwordsblog: when the shop assistants repeatedly ask if I need help with anything. No, I am very capable of shopping and trying on clothes

Sarah: shop assistants who won’t bugger off and want to tell you their life story as you are browsing

@wotisunique: when staff aren’t interested in helping you

Meegan: Rude shop assistants and even worse – rude customers!

Liz: Over zealous sales assistants – particularly the ones who tell you “you look great” and you know you don’t. And the ones who tell you “we had one of those in your size yesterday”. And the ones who can’t get you the size you want from another store because it’s “not policy”. And the ones who, if they can get you the size you want from another store and who tell you they’ll ring when it gets there, don’t. And the ones who dress in all the clothes from the store and themselves look like crap.

Rachel: When sales assistants chat between themselves (about personal stuff) while serving us. Like we are invisible . Even worse when it’s in another language!

Jeanie: lack of help or them saying you look great when you obviously don’t. I’d buy more if you help me find what actually looks good on me!

Naomi: Assistants who loudly ask through the change room curtain/door “HOW ARE YOU GOING FOR SIZE IN THERE?” especially if it’s accompanied by a term like doll. I am not now, nor will I ever be anyone’s doll.

Julie: being pounced on as soon as you walk thru the door, you dont even have chance to see what they have for sale, ie if its something you like or not, then when they disagree with your size, like when you say your a 16 they say, nooo you would only be a 14, they give you a 14 and guess what it doesnt fit and you have to ask for a bigger size!! not the best way to sell something is it 🙂

Annette: I go in and they assume I can’t afford their precious stuff (so I don’t go in dripping in jewellery) but I do want to buy something but they serve the person dripping in fake jewellery when I wanted to spend about $500 on my daughters 18th. All I can say is BIG mistake !!! HUGE (ok stole that line from Pretty Woman) but I bought an item from the store across the aisle and boy did they look ill where I was first lol 🙂 don’t judge a book by its cover or lack of jewellery some days I just can’t be bothered.

The music

@leoniandvonk extremely loud music!

Gillian: music so loud you can’t think

@madamebfatale super loud music!!! I’ll walk out immediately!

Clairey: Really really load music. I am just so old.

@rosaliquidink Loud music & can’t hear! You cant think properly or communicate with salesperson!

Katy: Working in retail, my pet peeve is loud music. I hate how loud my workplace policy sets the music. I wish I could hear my customers properly!

Eileen: Dreadful ear-splitting rap music often with obscene language. I usually walk straight out so they have lost a possible sale.


@parental_parody: The lack of standardised sizing. A size 10 at one retalier is a 14 at another. Clearly, I prefer the first one 😉

Dorothy: Nothing above size 10

Sarah: Mostly the sizing. Manufacturers assume that if you’re a 16, you are also as tall as an Amazon and have a torso 6 miles long.

Pheww … now that we have all that off our collective shopping chests (and hopefully it’s been read by a few of the powers that be in the retail sector), I’d like to turn this post around to a positive note.

I’d love to hear from you about specific shops – chain stores, departments stores and boutiques where all the boxes above (great merchandising, great sales staff, subtle music and a good sizing range) have been ticked and you’ve walked out of the store in an even better mood than that with which you walked in.

A bit like Vivian in this iconic shopping scene in Pretty Woman:

Comments 51

  1. I’ll chime in here from the side of former retailer and sales assistant. I’ve worked retail and owned various shops for a good part of 35 years, and some of the peeves are my personal peeves as well, but many have real reasons behind them.

    Unfortunately shoplifting is a sad reality of retail, and some peeves mentioned are meant to be anti-shoplifting measures. No mirror in the dressing rooms (I’ve only seen this in small boutiques), asking if you need help while in the dressing room, and greeting customers right away are to discourage this. The point of asking if they need help in the dressing room and greeting right away is to acknowledge each customer so it makes it more difficult for them to become “invisible” and easily shoplift. However, the point is lost when SA’s forget to actually look at and acknowledge a customer! It’s also an unfortunate fact that thieves come in all shapes, sizes, and visages, so please don’t think poorly of retailers, they’re simply trying to provide a service and protect their investments.

    When told that “all stock is out” it’s generally the truth. The stockroom is used to mark new arrivals before they are placed on the selling floor. This is especially true when it comes to small boutiques that don’t have the space or cash to keep large amounts of inventory, nor could they afford to allow stock to languish like that as they rely on high turnover to keep the shop fresh. (This is another reason why you’ll rarely find huge sales at small boutiques; they don’t buy large quantities and once stock is sold they can’t afford to place reorders that may not sell.)

    I hate loud music when shopping as well, but market research showed that loud music made customers excited, resulting in larger purchases. Complain! I can’t think when I’m assaulted with loud music (that isn’t of my choosing heehee!) The more you complain to management, the better the point gets across. If you don’t have the fortitude to do it in person (seriously, I’ve gotten instant migraines!) write a letter — yes snail mail, it gets the point across stronger — and make sure they know you were ready to spend money but didn’t because you couldn’t think over that noise!

    I do have a tip for those who have been met with rudeness in high end boutiques. I’ll fully admit I’m not the “typical” — whatever that is! — looking high end customer, yet I’m always treated graciously and with respect. My only guess is that I believe I belong where I please so I’m comfortable anywhere, whatever my sartorial choices for the day may be. I think sometimes — and please, I don’t mean this as an insult to anyone! — we tend to try and put on airs that we don’t possess in an effort to try and become what we believe is their target customer. The truth is that while some designer boutiques try to create a luxury caché, their target customer is whomever walks through the door and makes a purchase. Everyone’s money is the same colour! The sales staff are not psychic and they don’t know what your bank balance is, nor do they know what your purchase intentions are. I know from my retail experience that you can never judge how big someones wallet is, nor how much they’ll spend by looking at the way they’re dressed. I also know from experience that when you’re treated poorly, get names, memorise faces, and make complaints — they’re never taken lightly no matter what type of shop it is! (Okay, if you’re dealing with a rude shop owner, you need to take a different approach, by spreading the word — eventually they’ll see the error of their ways or wind up out of business!) Try to relax and be your usual lovely self, you may find yourself having a completely different experience!

    Lastly (sorry I wrote a volume on the subject!) when you get great service make sure to pass the word around! Again the letter writing comes in, and is always appreciated! Let managers know about the stellar service you’ve gotten and how much you appreciated the SA going the extra mile for you! We also have the power of the Internet to fuel our passions — when you have a great experience, blog, tweet, post on FB as well! I’ve done this with my fav SA’s who work on commission and have sent customers to them who came away equally as happy and the SA was grateful for the boost in their commission!

    Bottom line is that whether the service was good or bad, make your voice heard! It’s the only way things will change for the better!

  2. when you ask the sales people for another size or colour and they look at you bored-like and say” There is only what’s there on the rack, without even thinking that there might be stock elsewhere or thinking that they can help by ringing another store….that would require being interested in your job!

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  3. Pet peeve…no mirror in the changeroom!! If’s there’s no mirror I just walk out the door rather than having to emerge in the outfit to hear “That looks sooo great on you” before I’ve even had a chance to check it out (and find that it is completely unsuitable). Second pet peeve…only one hook on the wall of the change room. I mean seriously, where am I meant to hang my clothes whilst I try on the new outfit – on the floor? I don’t think so!! Apart from that, I like the service to be there when I need it, but not pestering me thirty seconds after I enter changeroom. Third peeve…very loud music that spoils the ambience, but if the clothes/accessories are interesting, I’ll just try to block it out. That’s about it for me!

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  4. The woman with the frizzy black hair at Veronika Maine at Kotara told me I should consider a breast reduction.

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  5. Hi Ladies,

    I totally agree with what you are all saying and have experienced most of them in my shopping time too. I got so sick of all this bad serviced that I decided I go do a better job myself. So that is what I did. I quit my job as a lawyer and set up my own accessories boutique called Sterling & Hyde. We even go the extra mile to offer totally customisation for our customers. Because we design our leather handbags inhouse if you want a bag we have in black, but want one in red we will make it for you. If you want a necklace we have on the shelf which is long, but instead want it shorter we might just be able to alter it instore for you too.

    Focusing on making women feel good when they come into our store has made us a success..and no we don’t have any super loud music playing, or talk to each other at the counter as if the customer isn’t there!!

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  6. Hi Nikki – just had to comment on this topic after my experience last week. I had convinced 14yo daughter her “uniform” of denim cutoffs were not suitable for a funeral so we were shopping together. After several hours systematically going through the “young” shops at Chermside we had not been approached by a single SA. I was over it as none of my suggestions were worth considering and teenager was just looking for the newest ‘hot” look. then we went into Ally.Telling the SA what we needed was like a challenge she couldn’t refuse and 15 minutes later we had the perfect outfit (and surprise, surprise, it was very similar to what I had seen in the first 15 minutes of our “joyous” mother/daughter outing). My eternal thanks to the amazing young sales girl for turning a nightmare into somethng approaching fun.

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      So lovely to see you here, Sharon! And that SA needs a medal. Would you believe that Alex told me she was lucky to have me take her shopping (for work experience clothes) last weekend? She didn’t argue with me once. Think she wasn’t game!

  7. And I can report from the other side of the country that CR / Trenery at Claremont is the same! Girls there are great.

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  8. Pet peeves. Shop assistants or retailers who don’t even look at me because I look out of place in their store. (Hello, I might be buying for my daughter or a niece?). And the old rip open the door and ask how you’re doing when you’re down to your knickers.
    I was really pleasantly surprised in Sydney recently, that practically every shop I went into had nice, friendly staff; who were chatty without being pushy, and who treated me like I was as young and cool as they were.
    It really made a difference.

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      Certainly does make a difference, doesn’t it? You immediately feel good about yourself, and then if trying on you’re coming from this mindset as opposed to one where you feel very small (and not as in size 0!)

  9. I dislike Myer. I find a lot of the time their service is just so poor. I can never seem to find someone to help me. Nor wanting to help me. But I will shop there for those reasons too, cause I know that I can just grab what I want and go off on my own.

    Portmans in Blacktown are lovely. The manager there was a gem. Made me buy the trench coat without being overly pushly.

    Forever New in Broadway, while they were a little too personal at times, they were nice girls. Compared to the ones at Penrith, lets just say I mentioned a pull in the fabric – subtly asked for a discount and was refused; it was a SALE item!

    Jeanswest at Mt Druitt have lovely and HELPFUL ladies! And they know their jeans! Which is what you want. Pity I just couldn’t find a “me” pair.

    I have been shopping online lately though.. It’s easier and I limit my spending a little better…

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      Carly, that is such an extensive list – thank-you. What’s really important is when you find a good store/sales assistant is that you let them know you like their service/store and that you tell others – and go back yourself. Thank-you!

  10. I’m run sales training workshops for sales people (and others) and I’m loving this market research!! I’ll be referring to this page on my training course in future workshops.
    Nearly all those things that have been listed above are about training, about knowing what is acceptable, good, profitable behaviour. But the toughest industry to get into to provide that training is retail. They don’t want to train their staff “in case they leave”… to me the greater risk is that the incompetent staff actually choose to stay!
    By coincidence I posted a snippet of my sales training on my site today . I have assumed a certain level of courtesy already exists, but the workshops cover basic communication, courtesy and care. So you should all return to these shops you’ve mentioned and suggest they book me for a workshop? Please?? lol (Thanks Nikki for letting me post a plug!)

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      Really, really great to see that there are people like you out there helping businesses and retailers create staff who are skilled in the art of selling through customer service.

    2. In your training you might like include that its really not polite for retailers to call customers twice your age “love”, “darl” or “sweetie”. Maybe its just me…..

  11. I’ve always had good service at French Connection and ok, so this isn’t fashion store but, beauty is counted too – benefit cosmetics. I don’t feel invisible nor do I feel like they are overbearing. Just the right amount of service and space. Another place where I had a good experience at was at Jeanswest. The sales assistant knew what she was talking about when asked for an opinion and she was attentive to not just me but the other customers as well – great multitasking without leaving anyone out. What I hate about some places – NOT checking how I was going with size. NOT bothering to acknowledge that I’m even there and need help because they are busy replenishing stock. Seriously lost some sales that way, I walked out even though I WAS interested in the stuff I saw.

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      Hi Norlin, great mentions there. I’m a big fan of the service/staff at Benefit too. And that multi-tasking thing is the key, isn’t it? That’s a real skill and when sales people have it, then they can scatter attention as required.

      1. I had a great multi tasking sales assistant at Williams North Lakes the other week end. There were lots of customers and she was serving them all very efficiently, giving them all time and had great knowledge. She never had the size I needed & looked up my size and pointed me to another shop in the complex that had my size & told me they would price match their sale price. She was a gem. Had a great day at North Lakes, will go there again. So many of the SA stopped and chatted and made helpful suggestions.

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  12. All those things annoy me!

    My favourite store would be Tree of Life at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre. I know it’s a niche market but the girls there are lovely. Helpful without being pushy. I love it do much I’m going to apply for a job there!

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  13. I am always happy with the service that the girls at Country Road (particularly at Sunshine Plaza) give……they always go out of there way to find what I am wanting even if they don’t have it in store. But (and I know this is not the kind of retail you mean) the best and consistent customer service is from the convenience store at Aroona on the Sunshine Coast, all teenagers, all super nice and genuinely interested in my day……I tell the owners regularly!

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      Oh, so agree about the Sunshine Plaza Country Road store – Hayley-Brea is the manager and every one of those staff members are billiant. And I love your story about your convenience store – a good example for us all to remember!

      1. And I can report from the other side of the country that CR / Trenery at Claremont is the same! Girls the are great.

  14. I agree with the comments about greeting as soon as you walk in the shop and about calling over the changing room door “how are you going for sizes?”. I work in a womens fashion shop one day a week on the weekends and we HAVE to greet people within 30 seconds of walking into the shop. We are pulled up if we don’t. We are also encouraged to use the term “how are you going for sizes?” to our customers in the fitting rooms. I however choose to call “how are you going in here?” When I am in a fitting room myself I prefer to be left alone and if I want some help I will come out of the fitting room and expect to see an assistant there waiting to help. Not necissarily calling out to everyone. Just remember that we are being watched by our managers. Customers who are rude can really ruin your day!!

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      Hi Sarah, you have such a valid point here – and that’s why I flagged at the bottom of my post that I hope the retail powers that be read this post. I so know that these greetings and statements are part of a training instruction – because you hear them in so many shops. As a customer, I actually choose to greet the sales staff first – which flags that I’m friendly and I also let them know that I’ll sing out if I need some help. I’m also upfront saying what I’m looking for (personally or if I’m with a client), this cuts down on time and gets staff working with you in a way that is beneficial for everyone.
      Being rude doesn’t get you anywhere!

      1. Exactly Nikki – it’s so nice when the customers actually acknowledge you and say hello – some of them seem to have tunnel vision and don’t even look at you when you directly say hello to them – it does not hurt to be polite. I hate it when I am in a shop though and the shop assistant yells hello to you from across the shop or says hello to your back! That deserves to be ignored haha!

        1. Also, that is one of my favourite scenes in Pretty Woman!! Also love the one in the morning when he opens the curtains and says “Wake up, time to shop”. Oh only if my husband would ever say that to me!!

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  15. The only store I have consistently had good service in (at several different outlets) is Bed Bath & Table. Although the stores are crammed with merchandise I always manage to find something I just have to have. The shop assistants are consistently helpful and never snub their nose at you when you linger over the sale table/section. As a rule, they come take what I’m carrying around so I can continue to shop. And by the time I get to the counter everything is practically in the bag.

    A good online shopping experience was your recent referral to the Westfield’s on line shop. It was amazing. I could shop through a mall worth of stores, then all my purchases were grouped together and shipped to me within a week. The email alerts were punctual and all went very smoothly. Perhaps because there was no shop assistant, narrow aisles, or crappy music!

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      Crowded merchandising can work if the store is “crammed” with intent. In fact, two of my favourite stores here in the Sunshine Coast are lifestyle stores: Chemise at Mooloolaba and Willow & Bird at Cotton Tree. I could spend hours browsing, entranced by all the lovely things.

      And I’m so glad your online shopping experience was good. That’s the whole new frontier – and one that I embrace myself for convenience.

  16. Just to be controversial – from the other side of the fence. Please don’t assume all shop ‘assistants’ are just that. Some of us have been in the fashion industry and have quite a lot of experience. We are not all tarred with the same brush, some of us love what we do and are here to not only help you with your shape and size (NO MATTER what that is) but we acutally want to leave you feeling good about your self!

    And also, sometimes when we say ‘I’m sorry we have all sold out in that size – we really have!’, or if we suggest you go down a size, you really should because we know the fit of the label we are working for.

    Now! saying all that! I give GREAT service at my store BECAUSE I know what kind of not-so-great service is out there so don’t get me wrong, you all hav legitimate stories but the moral of this one is don’t treat us ALL poorly because some people out there are giving retail staff a bad now. It’s really demoralising.

    And now on the actual THEME of Nikki’s quiestion – A MASSIVE shout out to Steph at the Levi’s store in Indooroopilly!!! Levi’s now do 3 differnt bum sized jeans! they are awesome! Steph was so helpful, had great product knowledge, was genuine and helpful without being pushy and made me want to by those jeans (from a girl who does NOT wear jeans!)

    So please remember there are people that give great service out there – next time you get good service, make sure you TELL THEM!! (they will really appreciate it and be inspired to give excellent service over and over!)

    (sorry about the novel Nikki! a topic I am very passionate about!)

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      Caitlin, I was hoping you’d be stopping by today! You’re not being controversial. I’m incredibly blessed to know great stores, boutiques and sales people who make my personal and work life much easier.

      (As an aside, Stylers, this is how good Caitlin is. I rang her at work at the Paddington Sacha Drake boutique in March and said I needed two cocktail frocks for two different occasions. She knows my shape, size and *ahhem* age and got it spot on. She sent them to me and they were perfect. Too easy.)

      And yes, we need to treat all sales staff with respect – it’s amazing if you are nice to people the help that you can get back!

  17. I went to Gorman at Chadstone recently and the shop assistant was amazing. I walked out with a $350 jacket with huge orange pom poms on it. I love it! It was my special purchase of the year and it was a move away from the boring “safe” black clothes I usually buy. She was a brilliant sales person. The whole experience made me smile.

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      Oh, too funny, Nathalie … sorry, it wouldn’t have been at the time. Heads up … we’re all funny shapes. But there are clothes out there for all of us. We’d kind of like the shops to help us find them!

  18. Me “Can you check if you have another size in your stock? ”
    Sales assistant “No all our stock is out already”
    Then what the hell is that stock room full of at the back, they just can’t be bothered.

      1. I agree Sarah. I work in a pharmacy (so not clothes, but still retail), and sometimes when you have worked the last few days in a row and done all the cleaning and pull downs you know what stock is out in the back room. therefore, there is no point going to look when you know for a fact there is nothing out the back.

  19. Hey, I love your blog! Great topic of discussion!

    I went Friday late night shopping in Brisbane City last week in DJs. There where five 20 something year old sales girls chatting about their weekends at the watch register and ignoring me for about 5 min. I returned an hour later (they where the only store carrying the watch I wanted) and tried the $400 watch on, loved it so much I went home and bought it on Amazon for $170, just to spite them.

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      1. I had a hard time getting served at the lolly counter there! But the lady in the baby/nursery area was very nice.

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