I must be every shop assistant's idea of a shop lifter. This was borne in upon me yet again last weekend when I went on a browse. No sooner than I had stopped at the first beauty counter than an assistant appeared out of thin air and honed in on me.
'Can I help you?' she purred. I told her I was "just looking". She ignored this feeble statement and with a practised eye noted that I had been looking at face creams. She picked up a tube of serum guaranteed to iron out even wrinkles you didn't know you had and have you looking younger than you did at 15. The price tag would have done justice to buying shares in the Waldorf Astoria. 'This is on special offer only this weekend,' she said, holding it out to me enticingly 'Try it.' I muttered something and moved away but she kept hovering at my side and as soon as I looked at anything on the counter she was there to tell me what great stuff it was. It was as if she thought I'd pocket something if she didn't keep a sharp lookout. In the end I slunk off without buying anything. I was even too discouraged to try a sample squirt of one of the new perfumes.
Of course I should have had more back-bone and kept on browsing, but with a shop assistant keeping a sharp eye on me - or so it seemed to me - I just didn't feel comfortable. And yet what are all those glass counters for, if not to browse what's on display and maybe buy something that catches your fancy and doesn't bankrupt you? Half of the fun is window-shopping and in these days of cold austerity it takes longer than usual to decide what you want to buy and what you can afford. Oh for someone who says "if you need any help let me know" and then goes off and leaves you to it. Nine times out of ten that's when I make a purchase. On the rare occasions when I really need advice the assistant is usually out of eye-reach attending some glamorous, well heeled customer. Ah well, that's Murphy's Law, I suppose.
To be fair, I guess many of these sales ladies are bored. They've learned all about the products and are dying to impart this information to prospective customers. The only trouble is that prospective customers like myself prefer to browse in peace and quiet. Otherwise we take ourselves off to the unmanned counters where we can look all we like.