“Can I hinder you madam?”
February 16th, 2006 by teragram

In India, every shop is over-staffed. On the positive side, it does mean that if you want to ask a question – such as “do you have any bathrobes?” – you don’t have to find an attendant first. There will be one nearby. Hovering. Unfortunately, he (or she) will continue to hover. When you focus on the bathrobes, not showing any indication that you are about to ask for more help, trying to ignore the feeling of being watched, he will say “can I help you madam?” It may not sound annoying, if you haven’t experienced it, but it is. Once, when I was shopping for moisturiser, I had a very strong urge to run out screaming “leave me alone!” at the six women offering their ‘help’ in the moisturiser section.

It’s the incompetence that does it. The bathrobe example is a case in point. He searched for five minutes for an XL bathrobe that was not pink. “No colours madam, only pink”. “No other colours? Not even white?”. “No colours madam”. I thanked him and walked away. As I browsed through the asymmetrical saucers and other arty home furnishings a suspicion crept upon me. I had lost my friend at this point, and I decided to go back and check for myself. I found two white XL bathrobes within a minute. Between finding the first and the second, another ‘assistant’ asked what I was looking for. I explained, and continued searching. That always makes them uncomfortable, when you search for yourself. I found the second and legged it.

In a way, it makes me feel like a bit of a bitch, being so irritated by this. But I just want them to leave me alone and let me get on with what I’m doing. I’m uncomfortable with the fact that it’s someone’s job to press the buttons in a lift. But I’m glad he has a job. I don’t want my driver to wheel my wheely bag. It’s very light, and it has wheels!

I suppose it says something about our bubble of privilege that the most annoying thing here is getting too much help.

On a less moany note, here’s a map of countries I’ve visited:

create your own visited countries map


4 Responses  
  • zoomdian writes:
    February 17th, 200611:37 amat

    You took the bite out of my comment which was going to be along the lines of “Just can’t get good help these days!”

    When you do come back to the real world, I will wheel your bag around lady.

  • Babette writes:
    February 20th, 20061:37 pmat

    Excellent post ! It really makes you miss a good old Irish indifference to clients when you can’t just have a nice browse and soil.
    In Spain I had many similiar experiences, but in Spanish. Basically I would end up smiling and nodding at attendants while they gave me long and detailed descriptions of their various wares, which I didn’t understand, and usually had nothing to do with what I was looking for, but made it very clear that browsing at your leisure was forbidden. After about ten minutes I would cut in with my stock phase of “mmh. very nice. I just have to consult with my husband, who is outside. I will be back in two minutes”, and then running out of the shop and up the road, never to return.

  • Mike writes:
    February 23rd, 20065:29 pmat

    Hey Meaigs (can I use your real name here or will that make the internet explode?), how’s tricks? I hear your building a library. I hear you guys have a manservant. I hear that husband of yours has been made listen to (Smog) by a former bandmate. So I’ve just been listening to the ‘tone and reminiscing, then I went searching and found your web log. Nice.

    Well, hi and bye

  • O.G writes:
    February 24th, 20065:59 pmat

    I created my own ‘visited countried map’ but i’d visited so few places that i had to make some up to put more red on. I finally I gave up, but not until I had visited every country in the world and made the whole thing red. I felt very pleased with myself.

    It’s a slow Friday afternoon.

    O.G wishes there was a ‘visited Irish Counties map’

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