If it’s one thing that gets up my goat, it’s shop assistants who think they’re God’s gift to humanity. And before the National Shop Assistants Guild gets all upset with me and sends me a long indignant letter – like this lady who got really riled with my recent story about vegetarians – let me quickly clarify that I’m talking about a select group of shop assistants.
I am not, for instance, talking about the nice folks at Isetan and Giordano. Or the lovely uncle down in my corner supermarket who always asks what I’ve been up to whenever he sees me. And to Saffy, he asks who she’s been up to, a question that never fails to send her into peals of hysterical laughter.
“He’s so cute!” she said once, to which Amanda said that ‘cute’ was not a word she would use to describe a 72-year old man whose habitual form of dress was a pair of dirty shorts and a Pagoda-brand singlet.
No, the shop assistants that I have an issue with are invariably dressed in head to toe black outfits from the designer shop that they work at. No names, of course, will be mentioned, but they know who they are.
“And they don’t even look good in those clothes!” Saffy huffed once, after being given the Look by one particularly rude assistant.
Do you know the Look? It’s that pitying glance that they give you when you walk into the shop. It’s a look that says, “I know you can’t afford anything in this shop, so I don’t think I want to serve you. Please don’t make eye-contact with me. I’m busy arranging the key-chains in this drawer.”
And while you walked in with every intention of buying something, you’re so disgusted with the Look that you decide to just torment them.
This pimply guy once followed me around the Gucci store, watching me with a beady eye as if I was a potential shop-lifter. Every time I touched something, he swooped in after me to rearrange and tidy up.
I fingered a shirt. “That’s made from cotton,” he told me in the kind of tone that, if this was a foreign language film, would also have said in subtitles, “Are you sure you’re in the right shop?”
I turned to him and focused on the pimple on his right cheek. “Yes, I know. But what sort of cotton is it?”
He hesitated, and you could tell that he knew he’d picked the wrong person to be rude to. “It’s 100% cotton!” he said finally.
“Yes, but is it Egyptian?”
By this time, even his pimple was turning red from embarrassment.
Then there was this one time I was getting a shirt made at this fancy shirt shop that my family has been going to for years. I’d grown sick of my wardrobe and decided to start the coming new year with new clothes. So there I was discussing fabric and collar styles with this auntie shop assistant when someone walked into the shop. She looked up, brightened and said to me, “Ah, excuse me, hor. I get my colleague to look after you. One of my important customer just come in!”
And with that, she scuttled off towards a fat American man, her Singlish accent suddenly turning into a Deep South drawl as she approached him. (And before the Fat American Men Association writes me an irate letter, let me just say that I’m not being derogatory. He was a man, he was American, and he was fat.)
Recently, Amanda was shopping for a bag at Bottega Venetta. She looked around for help. Six shop assistants milled around chatting about their lunch plans while Amanda tried to get someone’s attention. Finally, one reluctantly walked towards her.
“No more stock,” she said to Amanda’s question.
“Do you have the model X, then?” Amanda asked.
The assistant looked at her blankly.
“It’s from the new Autumn/Winter collection. It was just shown in Milan.”
As Amanda later said, it was clear as daylight that she knew more about the stock in the shop than the assistant did.
“I’m not sure,” the woman replied, looking really bored, and before Amanda could ask a follow up question, the assistant literally yelled across the floor, “Hey, you! Come serve customer! I have to go makan!"
Amanda walked out the store, her wallet still heavy with the $2000 that she had been itching to spend all afternoon. She called up her remisier and bought OUB shares instead.
This must be what they mean when they say it’s ‘Your Singapore’.