Mary Portas returned with a new ‘secret shopper’ program on Channel 4 last night and within minutes, social networks were alight with debate about the message she was trying to preach. Her issue is that the staff in British retail outfits are miserable, don’t smile and serve the customers poorly. What she failed to understand is just what it’s like to be a sales assistant in your average high-street store.
Want to know why they don’t smile Mary? Because they have to stand for hours on end, performing mind-numbingly monotonous and dull tasks. They must deal with nightmarish and stuck-up ‘problem’ customers, watch the same shoplifters return to the store time and time again without ever being stopped and handle dirty change all day long. And all this for a tiny wage. No wonder they don’t smile! Very few people who work in retail are in the job for life, it is a stopping-off job, a means to an end, a quick fix of money before they hopefully move onto the job they really want. Maybe if Mary went back and spent a few weeks in a high-street store she’d start to understand all the crap sales assistants have to put up with in their thankless task of serving the public.
In this Telegraph article she talks about her frustration at being asked at a shop till-point if she wants any of the sweets/chocolates on offer at the moment. Shop assistants are forced to ask this question, if they don’t they get in trouble with their managers. They are only doing what they are told to do as part of their jobs. And trust me, they hate having to ask the question just as much as you hate hearing it.
In the Guardian she talks about foreign shop workers not understanding her. So what would she rather have? These people actually working in shops and contributing to the economy, trying to make a living the same as the rest of us, or on the dole at home or out on the streets? We all have to earn money, we all have to start somewhere.
Mary talks about how much she despises the entire shopping experience, exclaiming 'I hate this, I hate you all, I hate the fact that I have to be here.' Sounds like the woman has a serious problem with negativity here! Why on Earth would you ever take such an awful attitude when conducting such a simple act as shopping! Getting worked up, frustrated and depressed like this is utterly pointless and she is only letting it happen to herself. She is allowing herself to hate the shopping experience when if she actually took the time to put herself in the place of the shop assistants she despises so much, maybe she’d start to understand.
Her blasting of the profession is purely unconstructive, it can’t be making her feel better and it sure as hell can’t be nice for the shop assistants having to hear it either. Why can’t there just be a bit more room for tolerance, understanding and nice-ness in the world? Mary seems to hate the shop assistants because they won’t smile at her? Well maybe when people like her start being nice to the shop workers, they’ll start being nice too. It goes both ways.