Saturday, August 10, 2013


Nobody is really exempted from this.

Each and every one of us has at least one horror story about salesladies in department stores, boutiques, supermarkets --- or even your neighborhood convenience store.  There must be something demonizing about standing behind the counter --- or simply standing for most of the day earning your living assisting people or peddling goods.

Yes, there are bad customers. But there are also terrible salespeople who are not only bad for the business ... but bad. Period.

It is just that somewhere in Zurich there is this Italian-speaking lady who has never heard of Oprah Winfrey.  

How somebody from the Planet Pluto managed to land behind a counter of a high-end store selling upscale Tom Ford bags is something I cannot imagine to this very split second. This totally disconnected lady's refusal to even show one of the world's richest women a bag approximately worth US$38,000.00 because she presumed that the potential buyer "could not afford it" was not merely racist but downright stupid.

Had she known that US$38,000.00 can just be grocery money for somebody who supposedly earned $77M dollars last year, maybe Miss Retail Switzerland would have treated the Big Boss of Harpo Productions just a tad bit better.  

Well, it cannot be helped. Or maybe it can.  Stupidity and/or sheer lack of manners or even training in civilized behavior are really bad for the business ... or, in this case, the Swiss tourist industry.  

You don't mess around with the Queen of Talk because when Ms. Winfrey talks, the world will listen.  No, it goes far beyond that. Oprah's charm is her ability to get people to empathize with her --- to find a much larger lesson than what seems to be at hand.  After all, she will be given the highest honor that any civilian can be awarded by no less than the President of the U.S., right?  She must have done something right ... or good. 

But then again ...

There is really nothing earth shaking about Oprah's experience except for the fact that it happened to her of all people. Well, that and the fact that it is 2013 and you still find such feeble-minded thinking in --- wait a minute: Zurich?! To be prejudged for your buying power because of the color of your skin is the ultimate put-down, a ridiculous if not hideous kind of prejudice that connotes the worst form of racial discrimination or even xenophobia.

Yet for any one who is not born with white skin and has traveled to parts of this planet where blonde and blue eyes are brought about by genes and not L'Oreal or contact lenses, such experiences are common.  Sad, yes ... but common.  And, as Oprah herself said in her interview where she cited this celebrated incident in Switzerland, prejudice and discrimination can assume numerous forms --- whether racist or sexist in nature.

Despite our belief that the world has become so small and that various races have assimilated into one melting pot, there is still and perhaps will always be discrimination.  Despite all efforts to be civil or even at least remain civilized, there will always be distinctions brought about by the way people look. Or the way they speak, the accents that they carry.   There will always be pre-judgment based on the color of skin, our choice of clothes or even sheer demeanor.

People will always be judged based on perception or pre-conceived notions ... even social-conditioning and not for who they are and what they are really worth in the larger scale of humanity.  

There are those who believe that despite the number of years any Asian or African or even Latino spends in an adopted country --- especially in one predominantly populated by whites --- they shall always remain as second class citizens.  The undertow of the demeaning whisper, the condescending attitude flaunted by those who believe that skin color is the ultimate measure of racial superiority --- will always exist.

It is only a matter of living with it --- by accepting it or fighting against any such opportunities where prejudice becomes suggested or apparent that one learns to live day by day.

But then you need not cross shores to be treated badly.

What is sad is that even within your own country, you get all forms of discrimination and this does not only come from your fellow countrymen of allegedly better education or breeding or social station.  The experience Ms. Winfrey encountered is often found here --- and not because the buyer is African-American but due to the lack of training, etiquette or even dedication for work of the Filipino salesperson.

How many of us have encountered salesladies who refuse to show us merchandise while throwing a really deadpan bitchy line like, "Mahal yan!" (That's expensive!) which is tantamount to saying, "Kapal mo, ha? Di mo afford yan!" (Are you crazy? You can't afford that.) The demented logic here is not because said salesperson wants to spare you the embarrassment of salivating for something way beyond your wallet's reach. She just does not want to waste time showing you something that she thinks is beyond your means.  She feels it is a waste of time dealing with you because you can't afford to buy what you want anyway.

Or what about salesladies who couldn't care less about what they are selling?

Not only do they show absolute lack of interest (perhaps just token courtesy) to their customers --- but also completely devoid of knowledge of what they are selling, what are the available stock or any other piece of information that a potential buyer might find important.  That sometimes includes the price of the item --- especially if the tags have peeled off or some act of God has removed the cost of acquisition.

One time in one of the more popular local clothing chains, I had the infuriating encounter with a cashier who actually snarled at me because I was following-up a loyalty card that the store was supposed to provide me. OK, maybe it was that time of the month and she had menstrual cramps tantamount of labor pains --- or maybe her planets were not in their proper places somewhere up there in the skies --- but, frankly, I do not give a flying f--k.  The point is that I was asking politely and she snarled at me ... and the reply she got will be remembered not only by her (for the next three reincarnations) but also anyone else within the periphery of the store at that time.

A message in Twitter took approximately thirty minutes before a representative of the establishment connected with me, bearing apologies. 

When I tell this story to friends, they say,"Hey, didn't she know who you are?" and I feel more infuriated.  Man, it is not a question of who I am ... because I may be something fresh out of the boondocks and still this salesperson has no right to snarl at me even if she is having her bad hair day! It should not be done to anybody ... everybody ...

Yes, we all know that some salespeople are made to stand up the whole day with only fifteen minutes to half-an-hour respites to ease their tired feet.  We are also aware that some establishments do not provide permanent employment to their sales personnel, either obtaining them from outsourced manpower agencies --- or, in certain cases, given three to six months contracts.  

That means these front line sellers do not have the protection nor the incentive to give more than what is necessary to comply with their job requirements.  But still ... Yes, but still.

If one feels shortchanged by the job, then look for another option. If there are no other options, then accept the situation and be good at it. Passing on one's misery to other people by being unnecessary bitches or practicing idiots do not make much of a future prospect.

More so, being in the service industry and foisting prejudices or simply being judgmental is reason enough to scream, "Off with her head!"

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