the five archetypes of your humble (or not so) retail assistant

*originally posted on my tumblr – off the page, but thought i would reblog on here.

Every person has that part time job during high school or university; it is completely unrelated to anything you would really want to associate yourself with in your “grown up” life. These are the jobs where you happily agree to work for minimum wage, check your body into work, but rarely your mind. You drift along, waiting for your eight hours to pass so that next week you have an extra hundred bucks. For me, this was to work in the world of retail. I’ll admit that it is a step up from the McDonald’s drive-thru, but not by much. While retail has its high and low ends, I still feel it lacks the glamour that comes from late nights and rich men throwing around money and power in the hospitality industry. Instead, your main customers are harried housewives complaining about faulty garments or crooked bathroom hooks. I spent three years and worked in four different stores during my time in retail and as an avid shopper, I came to notice the distinct personalities and archetypes that exist amongst your array of retail workers. The bored, part-timers aside there are the other sales assistants for whom this is not an eight hour Saturday, but instead a forty hour working week. Based on this, five distinct archetypes exist and depending on which one you are dealing with, may severely impact your personal shopping experience. Sales assistants have the power to invoke guilt, shame, mistrust, inferiority, superiority, pleasure, satisfaction or in extremely rare cases “warm-fuzzies”. I have categorised the archetypes from the low end chain store to the designer boutique and include their distinguishing features as a guide for how to spot who you are being dealt with on your next spending spree.

The Ditz

Follow the pulse of Justin Bieber’s whining and the scent of Impulse masquerading as cheap perfume to find yourself in the fluorescently lit dwelling of the ditz. Surroundings will be as colourful as the trill of their voice. Sensory overload occurs quickly based on mass produced clothing jammed onto racks at every corner and the makeup worn on the ditz’ face. They are very friendly and always approach quickly. They rely on their jobs and a jumble of “huns, babes, loves and sweeties” will assault you through your back peddling exit and inevitable stumble into the on-trend yet tackily replicated faux fur vests. Encounters should be kept brief.

Stores: Supre, Valley Girl, Lippy

Hair: bleached platinum blonde with clip in extensions that don’t match

Signature pieces: bodycon dresses

Song: Firework by Katy Perry

The Vultures

These girls mean business and they mean it bad. The vultures flock together and usually can be found in stores that will have a 5:1 ratio of sales assistants to customers. You will know you’re in the vultures’ domain when you haven’t made it past the on-sale cardigans before hearing “Hi there” at least six times. Every move in store feels watched, these shop assistants are ready to pounce. The second you’ve slightly lifted a coat hanger, one will swoop down and snatch it out of your hands, eagerly offering to hang it up for you. The vultures have all been through vigorous sales technique training which teaches them customers absolutely love being picked over like a piece of meat. The sad thing is, most of the time, they won’t even be getting commission.

Stores: Glassons, Forever New, Meccano

Hair: quiff

Signature pieces: leggings and layers

Song: Grenade by Bruno Mars

The Rare Gem

Still located within a mall complex, but once you’ve unhooked the vultures’ claws and hopefully got Justin Bieber out of your head, you may fortunately stumble into a store that hires rare gems. Generally they are within high end chain stores and perhaps it’s the combination of the brand’s great reputation brought down by the modesty of being situated within Westfield that leads to balanced, approachable retail assistants. The rare gem knows how to greet you in a way that makes you feel comfortable and noticed, but then returns to previous activities leaving you free to browse. In the changing room they are helpful, offering realistic opinions and never applying pressure to purchase. Often these are the retail assistants with whom you would actually feel comfortable sharing a story and having a chuckle. Once you’ve made your purchase and you wish them a good day, you actually mean it.

Stores: Country Road, Mi Piaci, Cue

Hair: low ponytail

Signature pieces: high-waisted skirts and ballet flats

Song: Compliments by Band of Horses

The Model

These are a very rare breed and difficult to spot as they could easily be confused with the snob. They will be seen standing still for excessively long periods in strategic places around the store. Long limbed and beautiful, customers do not even enter their consciousness. I’m fairly sure they have been outsourced from an agency and their only role is to be a walking advertisement under the guise of a person designed to help. Watching them long enough reveals they literally do nothing resembling work. In essence, their presence will only remind you of that zit on your chin and how much you hate your stumpy legs. You feel nothing will ever look as good on you, so why bother?

Stores: Area 51, Superette

Hair: short/edgy or long, luxe perfection

Signature pieces: men’s white work shirt with knee hi socks

Song: Young Blood by The Naked and Famous

The Snob

A raised eyebrow to acknowledge your existence is generally given upon arrival in the snob’s domain. They rule the store they work in and exude a predatory nature. Instantly your inability to afford the offerings in store will be judged and the snob wants you to know that they know. It is uncanny how the blink of eye contact exchanges this information. From this point your time in store will last approximately forty-five seconds. You fumble the nearest garment, pretend to not notice the price before ducking your head in shame and slinking out of the store. The snob is watching the entire scene, brimming with gleeful pleasure. They can’t afford the clothes either, but they don’t want you to know, so they condescend instead.

Stores: Workshop, Zambesi, Fabric

Hair: long and straight

Signature pieces: high waisted trousers with wedge booties

Song: Photograph by Air


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