British Summer Shopping: A Review

I’ve just returned from a somewhat delightful shopping trip, where I was nicely toasted by the sheer heat that we’ve recently been experiencing in London, and other parts of the UK as well, assumingly. I say it was delightful, because I managed to locate and purchase nice things, but that was about it. The experience of shopping in a retail market not used to such heat was certainly off-putting; yet, I stuck at it until I’d found what I wanted to buy.

I visited TK-MAXX (TJ-MAXX to those of an American disposition) on my shopping journey. I love TK-MAXX, and its racks upon racks of bargains, and make a habit of shopping there first whenever I’m in need of new shoes, or similar. It was hot, it was very cramped, it was clammy, and yet, it was packed.

A major qualm is that there was no air conditioning. Despite the sweltering 27° heat, the lack of air conditioning in a first floor shop with constant strip lighting and no windows to the outside world, coupled with the sheer number of customers bustling around, generating heat, meant that we were all cooking. More than that, we were all perspiring, and we all had to endure the funk of stale body odours. This manifested itself no stronger than in the fitting rooms, causing me to ‘try on’ the various garments I was holding, by which I actually mean pulling on the garment in question, pondering over it for a couple of seconds, and then removing it. In the end, I decided between the three t-shirts I was holding based on feel alone. Simply put, my trip to the fitting room was wasted. To me, that’s not really a big thing, but (don’t kill me: generalisation alert) women could quite possibly see things differently, as suggested by some (in this book), who claim that people who spend longer in fitting rooms generally buy more things. I also have no idea if women, on average, are smellier than men (my female friends will most definitely tell me this is a falsehood), and I’m not going to make any claims to this effect, but whether or not female fitting rooms are nicer smelling/smellier than their male-oriented counterparts, the sheer heat that accompanies you into each changing cubicle is nigh-on unbearable, and I believe would make people ‘change’ and try on clothes differently.

However, this again may be a moot point. There was a queue for both male and female fitting rooms. In the male fitting rooms, men were actually willing to stand amidst the funk, and the pong, and wait for a cubicle to become free. I was lucky, as I snuck in during a lull in the flow of changing men, but when I hurriedly exited my cubicle, I could see that other, queueing men were far more bothered about using the changing facilities than I.

My point? Well, I think for one, creating a nicer, more pleasant shopping space is conducive to better sales. This is obvious. If TK-MAXX started using an air conditioner, who knows what would happen. Heck, I probably would have spent more time in the shop if I didn’t constantly feel as if I was about to collapse from exhaustion. Maybe I even would have purchased more things, but now we’ll never know. My point, however, is that despite the horrid shopping conditions, many, many shoppers either consciously or subconsciously put up with the heat, and the smell. It seems that a bargain is worth the personal discomfort, which doesn’t necessarily make the discomfort justifiable, but raises worrying questions about this human race. Are we really willing to put ourselves in such situations for some discounted goods? Well, clearly, at least in this case, we are. Why not revolt, then? Shopping shouldn’t have to be a chore, and definitely shouldn’t be physically discomforting. Next time you visit a shop which is uncomfortable, say, or do something about it. I was half tempted to borrow a bag of cheap ice-cubes from Poundland, and decorate the place with them. People are generally (quite rightly) concerned with their rights as humans. Why should retail environments pay these basic rights no heed?

I think I’ve said all I can on the subject. If you work in retail, please make sure your establishment is physically bearable, especially in the heat. If you don’t, don’t forget that you’re still a human being when you shop.

Enjoy the sun, everyone.

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