Wednesday, June 11, 2008

10th June 2008 - The Joys of Shopping

I needed to return some lingerie I had purchased at Marks and Spencer’s on Sunday. Now, I normally purchase my lingerie from Bravissimo. Their bras and knickers (panties) are specially designed for women like me with hourglass figures. I went to their store in Nottingham not so long ago and had a fitting – a fitting which even I, phobic as I am about bra fittings, found less than embarrassing – and now I know my correct size I can order from them on-line. So this is what I tend to do. However, Marks and Spencer had some beautiful bras on display, and even though I had to really look to find any styles in sizes over a DD cup, I decided to take a chance. I selected two bras and three pairs of knickers and took them home to try on.

I don’t know why I bothered. I just cannot wear bras from Marks and Spencer anymore. Two pairs of the knickers fitted though and were gorgeous, so I decided to keep them. This left me with two bras and a pair of knickers to return. After my Pilates class, I duly walked over to Marks and Spencer to do so. I returned to the desk in the lingerie department where I had purchased the bras and knickers only to find out that if I wanted a refund – as opposed to an exchange – I would have to go to the refunds desk. So I headed off through the men’s department into Customer Services.

Now I have never actually returned anything to the Reading branch of Marks and Spencer’s yet so I did not realise how well set up they are. I was delighted to see a desk with five salespeople on it taking returns. I joined the queue and marvelled at how quickly customer services are steadily improving in England, something they really have needed to do for quite some time. I think it is because so many folks are travelling now and experiencing the customer service offered in North America – where the customer is king - and also in many other cultures where service is considered to be so important. Gone are the days when I used to stand in shoe stores needing assistance only to be ignored by the three members of staff who were chatting amongst themselves, and most hotels in London are now a great deal friendlier than they used to be a few years ago. It’s all good stuff.

As I was musing, I moved steadily up the queue and observed that three of the salespeople on the returns desk were women and two were men. It suddenly occurred to me exactly what I was returning and I began to pray that I would be served by a woman. Bearing in mind the bras I was returning were very lacy and delicate, and the knickers were the same, I was not terribly keen on pulling them out of the bag and handing them over to a chap. I watched as the queue snaked forward, and started to do mental calculations as to which member of staff would serve me. It was not looking good.

So I began to bargain with God. I figured if I had to be served by a chap, at least it could be by the nice middle aged chap who seemed pretty matter of fact, and who, in fact, had just handled a bra return for the lady two in front of me. “Okay, so if it can’t be a woman, then please let me be served by him.” Of course, God is very busy with much more important stuff than who serves me in the returns queue at M&S, and I felt cheeky even praying something so flippant, but my cheeks were already beginning to burn with embarrassment and it was much to late to leave the queue without it looking very odd indeed.

I was pulled out of my reverie by the chap two from the end of the service desk saying “May I help you madam?”. I always feel very old when I am called “madam” – except in France where it has a much nicer ring to it. And I was mortified to discover that I was being served by a very attractive, very young chap. I had carefully put the bras back on the little hangers they come on before I brought them back, but he still had to adjust each strap of each bra on the hangers, and hold the knickers up so he could fold them. The floor was not being very cooperative at all, staying solid beneath my feet instead of swallowing me up as I wished fervently that it would.

I barely even met his eyes during our exchange, and I could not get out of there fast enough. My face was still burning as I walked past the Foreign Exchange desk and back through the men’s department. I don’t think I’ll be trying any bras from M&S again any time soon – I just can’t handle the embarrassment!

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