A few over-enthusiastic staff create awkward situations for customers and end up spoiling the shopping experience, writes Neeraja Murthy

You are planning to attend a party in the evening and realise that your perfume bottle is lying empty on the dressing table. You manage to start a little early from office to drop in at a mall/store and pick up your favourite fragrance. You walk in hurriedly and before you can lay your hands on the perfume, a sales person makes a smiling appearance and offers to help you.

You tell him you want a perfume and instead of simply asking which brand you prefer and getting that for you, he steps in with some brand of his choice and insists, “Now smell this.” Worse, he gives you gyan about why his choice of perfume is better than yours. You are not interested but he/she is unrelenting and the conversation is quite a bother.

Sounds familiar? Well, anyone who has indulged in some retail therapy will experience a sense of deja vu at this scenario. As Hyderabad zooms ahead on the splurge spree, the courteous but over zealous staff gets more and more visible.

Right from the women security guard who checks you at the entrance of a mall (and who never forgets to address you with niceties) to the guy at the billing counter in some malls, who is ready with a namaskaram even before he punches the keys on his computer.

The polite and smiling staff presents a pleasant picture, but in the guise of being courteous, a few hyper-active staff can create awkward and difficult situations.

Nivedita Rao recalls her experience at a jewellery story in Punjagutta – she had gone there with her husband to buy a nose pin and ended up walking out quite irritated.

“The guy at the entrance welcomed us with a nice namaste and led us to the first floor. There I saw a few pieces on display but I didn't like the collection. I wanted to leave the place without wasting time, but the salespersons there would not let us! They kept asking us so many questions - why I didn't like the range, what I was specifically looking for, etc . In the end I had to ask them quite curtly, ‘will you let us go out or not'. In the name of being helpful, they were actually bugging us,” she says.

It is interesting to note that most of the ‘pleasant' staff is generally found at cosmetic and beauty sections.

Salesmen coaxing you to use a particular product to make your skin fair like that of an actress may be an age-old tactic, but is still the most-used line.

“I went to a cosmetic retail store to pick something but one of the sales girls hounded me with the foundation of a particular brand. She tried to peddle it by pointing out to Deepika Padukone's photograph saying I will get a complexion like hers. Only after repeatedly telling her I wasn't interested did she let me go,” says Shobha, who works in the media.

Rajendra Kumar, chairman and managing director of Kalanikethan Wedding Mall says the staff is expected to guide the customers and never force their opinion on them or intrude on their privacy.

“The staff is present just to usher in the customer and the salesman helps with a choice but never bothers the customer,” he defends.

As malls and stores across Hyderabad explore new ways of staying ahead of cut-throat competition, they ought to realise that their staff can win over customers by being helpful in an unobtrusive way and make the shopping experience a pleasurable one for the customers.

Keywords: shoppingsalesperson