Sunday, September 12, 2004

Hot sales assistants. I always love a spot of friendly banter with shop assistants. Like, when they ask how I am or what I've been up to, I tell them the truth, and I compliment them on their clothes and accessories and ask where they got them, or what the music is in the shop. And when I come out of changing rooms and they ask me how I went, I tell them the truth ("it was generally pretty flattering, but there wasn't enough room for my tits and they looked all squishy.") Generally, I try and be cheery and treat them like human beings.

It makes me so mad when they don't step up to the plate. Here are some prime examples:

Mel: "I can't decide between the chicken and bacon burger or the chicken and cheeseburger. Which do you think is better?"
Red Rooster cashier (blankly): "I don't eat bacon."

$2 Shop man: "That'll be two dollars, thanks."
Mel (jovially): "Gee, you must say that a lot."
$2 Shop man (blankly): "Not really."

Mel: (notices poster on wall for an orange and chocolate-flavoured iced coffee and cannot resist saying) "That drink in the poster, is that an (raises voice gleefully) orange moh-ca frappuccino?!?"
Gloria Jeans barista: (blankly) "No, it's called a Swiss orange mocha."

But it is a particular pleasure to do this kind of bantering with hot male sales assistants. A while ago I was musing that perhaps the trendy youth-oriented stores deliberately hire them to lure teenage girls in and flirt with them to make them buy stuff, because I've noticed their numbers are particularly large at stores like General Pants. And Supré in Swanston St employs a very cute guy whom I dub "Bargain Basement Will Smith".

But anyway. Today I was waiting for my photos to be developed. I was wearing a particularly ludicrous outfit: a yellow singlet, blue denim jacket, a black miniskirt that wasn't even a skirt, just a singlet worn around the waist and anchored with a belt, lime green Dunlop Volleys and black and white striped legwarmers. I decided to kill some time in Melbourne Central and was drawn into one of those generic streetwear stores by the song they were playing ("The Choice is Yours" by Black Sheep - the source of the Crooklyn Clan sample from "Be Faithful" that goes "Engine engine number nine, on the Noo Yawk transit line...")

The cute male shop assistant said "What are you up to today?"
I said, "Well, I had a photo shoot earlier and now I'm shopping while I wait for my photos to be developed."
He said, "That's the best thing anyone's said today. Usually you ask what they're up to and they say 'Nothing much' and you know they are up to something but they just don't want to tell you."
I said, "What's your policy on people dancing in the store?"
"That's fine, bring it on," he said.

Then I thought I would ask him about these sneakers that Lucy and I have been drooling over for the last few weeks. They are pink and grey old-school Nikes. Lucy has been doing some price-checking and they are a couple of hundred dollars. But I wanted to check for myself, so I thought I'd ask the cute sales guy. He goes up to the back wall and pulls down these sneakers. They were really cool! They were white with grey bits and a bright pink swoosh and pink laces. And they were reduced to $59!

I don't need sneakers at all (I have six pairs: three pairs of Converse Chuck Taylors, one pair of black suede Pro-Keds, some grey industrial looking ones with velcro that used to be my "rave shoes", and the blue runners that I use for "proper exercise"), but imagining the look on Lucy's face when I waltzed into work on Monday wearing these sneakers was so damn delicious that I bought them anyway. Oh, it was so good - I sent her a gloating text message and it turns out that by some coincidence, she was in Melbourne Central as well!

But anyway. While he was ringing up the sneakers, the cute sales guy said "So, what do you have planned for the weekend?" I said, "Well I'm going to discuss my website and then tomorrow we're recording vocals." And then I had to explain about my show, and of course I just happened to have a stack of flyers with me, some of which I left in the store. "I'll definitely come," he said, studying the flyer. He won't come, but it was nice of him to say so. I like hot sales assistants.

Oh, and on the issue of me buying Nikes which as we all know are evil exploitative sneakers... I checked and they are not made in Indonesia anymore - they're made in China. Not that this is a more ethical sweatshop, but I was writing something for work a while ago about Chinese consumerism, and it was actually quite interesting: one source was saying that while in the West, keeping production costs low is associated with widening profit margins for the company, in China this is used to keep retail prices low, so that a family in China can live a comfortable bourgeois lifestyle on much less income than its American equivalent.

There are obviously still some ethical issues with the farming out of manufacturing, because I'm not sure about the free trade status of China (as opposed to the "free trade zones" which enabled the gross exploitation of workers in places like the Philippines). Maybe there is some discussion of this in that new movie The Corporation - I've heard good reviews.

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