January 30, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 67  

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Appearances can be deceiving

da island coconut
Niru Somayajula

Gazette Staff

There have been days in my life when the stark reality of the world we live in slapped me in the face. A few weeks ago, I received quite a lashing.

I am a firm believer that working in retail is essential to every human being. Serving others not only makes one humble, but also more respectful. Every so often, however, the opposite happens and the result is something sticky and over-salted that lingers in the back of your mouth.

Walking into a well-respected music store early on Saturday morning, I anticipated an environment of encouragement and appreciation of all things musical. I was with three highly accomplished musicians who were looking to see what this fine store had to offer.

In this day and age, when chain stores like Chapters and HMV promote testing out their merchandise before buying, it’s hard to believe that such a store would give such grief to this trio of lads. Granted, it was a Saturday morning and sellers and buyers alike had been blessed with a hangover, and the customers didn’t look too wealthy; but since when has it become store policy to be rude to customers that quite possibly could be spending money?

I can appreciate disrespect to merchandise playing a factor in deciding whether a customer is worthy, but watching these boys was like watching Willy Wonka in his beloved Chocolate Factory — they meant no harm, they just wanted to play. If they had taken a minute to stop scowling at us, they would have realized they had a masters of performance music and a couple of PhD candidates on hand, not a couple of thugs looking to take their instrument out for an imitation of a Kiss concert.

At what point does common sense get clouded by image perception? I’ve been told by my business-minded parents time and again that presentation of oneself is the most important thing. Are we afraid the salespeople won’t give us the time of day?
Our society has become preoccupied by what other people think of us and we’ve forgotten what it means to do something based on principle. This music store felt the need to treat us like a group of high school students — which, in retrospect, we may have had the appearance of.

Not all stores are like this. I can name a handful of local stores that take the time to chat, let you browse, educate you and let you educate them. That same afternoon, we ended up in a high-end audio/video store and we watched TV and tested their sound systems with our own CD, all in the comfort of our sweat pants and hoodies. Not once did a salesperson bat an eye — that is professionalism.

At the end of the day, the loss of one customer doesn’t affect a business. But it’s personal gratification to walk into a Chanel store wearing runners and a fleece just to see the scowls. After all, when you’ve got an oversized fleece on, they can’t see you giving them the finger.



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