Sunday, August 23, 2009


In the past, I have discussed salesmen and their salestalk, that I dislike. But then there are two sides to each coin. If there are salesmen, then it follows that there must be shoppers as well. One may keep salesmen at bay, but what can one do with a shopper ? Unlike the salesman who is a stranger, the shopper is no stranger to you . She is your own spouse ! And try keeping her away from shopping !

Most ladies are not given to reading newspapers, but they open the local newspaper and find out the ads of "Sale" in the newspaper and decide that they need to go there.

I have mentioned while discussing salesmen that salesmen are trained to regard their customers as naive and fools. They may have valid reasons for their belief, I am sure. Most women, for some reason love to shop. And no, a lady does not like to shop alone. She needs to take at least one more female shopper with her. In case of my wife, it is our 11 year old daughter most of the time. So the two go and do shopping to their hearts' content.Salesmen certainly know how to attract shoppers to their shops. Write "Sale" on a board and display it outside the shop and women will invade the shop in droves. Women like to feel that they get items at lesser prices in shops displaying "Sale" board.

I like to tell her that one should purchase things when one needs them, not when there are shops with "Sale" board on them. I also tell her that doing shopping just for the heck of it is like being a slave to the shop keeper. The money that is with you now, ends up in the hands of the shopkeeper, and you end up with a item you do not need. Such logic falls on deaf ears obviously. My logical remarks are countered by sentimental rhetoric like-"Why is one earning money if not for buying things that one likes. Look at Jains (Indian equivalent of Jones with whom one must keep up) and see how they live in style.What would they think about us." There is no point telling her that the Jains suffer from health and psychological problems and they must surely look at us with envy on these fronts. Moreover, why should one bother what others think about us. But to her, it certainly matters.

Once ladies reach a shop,they love to haggle over price. The shopkeepers know about that, so they suitably inflate the price of the item. After some haggling, the shopkeeper "reluctantly" agrees to sell at a lower price, telling the lady how he is selling the item at a loss just because she is a valuable customer to him. And the lady feels very happy that she got an item at a "good" price.

Ladies also love to go to handicrafts exhibitions.The price available there are already low because there one is purchasing directly from the manufacturer, and moreover the sales in these exhibitions are tax exempted too. But ladies do not realise all this and they haggle over price even in these exhiitions.

The shopkeepers think of new ways to outsmart the ladies. One new trend these days is the offer of "buy one get one free". This in fact has become "old fashioned". Now it is "buy one get four free". The ridiculousness of this offer is lost on all the shoppers. Why would a shopkeeper give you five items for the price of one ? The fact that the price quoted for that one item is in reality the price of all five items is not something that the shoppers are prepared to exercise their brains over. And since they are made to belive that they are getting five for the price of one, their tend not to haggle over price at these shops.

And what are the products that these shoppers tend to buy? It is not books, it is not artifacts, it is not gadgets- it is garments,garments and garments 90% of the time- and remaining 10% of the time it is footwears.

The reason why women buy garments and not books is similar to the reason why they watch TV serials instead of reading books, the former is enjoyable and requires no exertion, and the later is sheer drudgery for them.

And what exactly is the modus operandi of shopping for garments ? The lady goes to a garment shop, and asks for garments to be shown. They are not very articulate in expressing what they want, and as a result end up with thirty-forty of even more pieces of items. And how exactly do they scrutinise and choose what they want ? They take the item in their hands, look at it from one side, then from the other side, and ask "intelligent" questions like, "rang udega to nahin" (the colour will not fade, I hope), "dhone se fatega to nahin" (I hope it will not get torn while washing it"). I have yet to come across a salesman who has replied to these questions in the affirmative, so why waste your breath asking these questions ?

Finally, after spending some couple of hours in a shop, the lady may decide that none of the items suited her requirement. But what exactly was her requirement ? She is not able to explain.

And even when she finally likes a piece, she is not able to explain why she liked it.

What is the role of the spouse of the shopper all this while? Most spouses could well be like the shoppers and they too may enjoy shopping. So they are beside their better half, enthusiastically participating and enjoying their shopping experience.

But what about someone like me ? I agree to take her to the shopping place, that is all. I make it clear that I am not going shopping with her.I mostly wait outside. But sometimes, I am forced to accompany her against my wishes. Most of the time, when she asks me whether I need some new clothes too, I say no. But sometimes, she decides that I need them, and so I am forced to go inside the shop.

The arduous process of choosing the garments commences. I half heartedly participate in choosing them. I do not make any intelligent enquires about the clothes. Then comes the part that I dread the most. Try out these ones, I am told. Taking a few chosen clothes, I am asked to go to the change room and try them out. After putting on each of them, I would come out and demonstrate it to my wife that the garment in question is alright, tight, or lose or whatever. After that ordeal is over, and I am back in my original clothes, I finally try to have a say- this pant is tight, it will not do. The salesman states that it would get loose after a wash. That one in loose, so that will hopefully shrink after a wash, I add sarcastically.

Later, the wife admonishes me not to make such remarks as the salesmen are only doing their job. Yes, they are doing a good job because no one applies one's mind when these salesmen glibly talk about these clothes shrinking or spreading after a wash.

It is because of these dreaded experiences that I prefer waiting outside the shop if I can help it. And this wait could turn out to be quite long. Evening may turn to night, and vehicles of other shoppers, who arrived later, also leave, but there is no indication of my two inhouse shoppers coming back anytime soon. And it is not just a question of walking down a shop and finding where they are. In all this while, they may have visited many shops, and may have gone to some shop in the small bylanes, looking for bargains. Good that we have mobiles these days, I think. I take out my mobile and ring her. What do I hear ? " This mobile is switched off" is the message. The feeling is one of anger, as well as concern. Why keep your mobile switched off, when you have one . It is night time and they have gone somewhere to the interior of the market, which is not advisable. This and other worrying thoughts come to one's mind.

Just as I am despairing and deciding that things are not looking good, what with all others shoppers gone, there they are. They are carrying a few purchased items alright, but she states that she could not get what she wanted . Why should it take her so long only to discover that what she wanted was not available. But I wisely keep my opinion to myself. I only tell her that she should have kept her mobile on . My mobile, where is it ? She searches for it, but as usual she is unable to find it. She asks me to call her number, and I tell her that the phone was switched off, so there was no use calling that number.

By now, I have realised that shopping is her way of unwinding. More than buying a thing, it is going to a shop and spending time making enquiries etc is what matters to ladies. Just going there, buying an item and coming out of the shop in a few minutes is not for them. If I have to buy something ( it would mostly be a book, not a garment), I would just go to a shop, locate the book, buy it and come out of the shop, and the whole exercise will not take more than a few minutes. I will not ask for ten copies of the same or similar books and I will not make enquiries like "will the pages of the book get dog eared", "the cover is not looking right, show the cover in some other colour". In fact, if I go to a shop and end up spending some time inside the shop, I feel obliged to buy something. But that is not the case with ladies. They have no compunction wasting their own time as well as that of the shopkeepers. Of course, neither of the parties regard it as wastage of time.

So we come back home, and it turns out that her mobile was left behind in the home. She switches it on, and rings her sister/ cousin/ acquaintance and gabs for half an hour talking about her shopping experience. Yes, ladies can spend as much time talking on phone as they do in shopping. While shopping, they are filling up the coffers of the garment sellers. While talking on phone (they too have the equivalent of "Sale" tag- they call it cheaper talk time), they are filling up the coffers of the telephone companies. Now I realise why the garment and telephone industry in India is flourishing.
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