The other day, a friend of mine and I were at the Aveda store. She’d never used one of my favorite products of theirs, the rosemary and mint shampoo, and since she has an oilier scalp I recommended it to her.
I admit, the real reason we’d even gone in was to pilfer a sample of tea. Oooh…. divine Aveda tea.
The sales girl who helped us out –and vindicated my tea pilfering from Aveda by persuading me to actually buy a box of tea– was pretty nice and inobtrusive. She wasn’t trying to sell us things we didn’t need and that’s always a nice bonus. As she was about to ring us up, however, a coworker stepped in to help out with the overwhelming load of two whole people in line in an empty store.
I should have probably placed that "help" up there in quotation marks.
"The shampoo is designed to work with the conditioner."
At first I wasn’t sure the helpful saleslady was talking to me. Soon however, I realized that she was by the way she was holding the small trial bottle of shampoo hostage by refusing to ring it up.
"Um, that’s okay, thank you. We just want to give this bottle a try."
"Thanks but I have conditioner at home," added my friend, who was rung up expediently by the other girl. I nodded in agreement.
"But that won’t work," she snapped. " This shampoo is DESIGNED to strip ALL the oils from your scalp. The conditioner is SPECIALLY formulated to deposit the EXACT amount of moisture that your hair needs. The shampoo is DESIGNED TO GO WITH THE CONDITIONER."
At this point, sale almost completed, there are several things going through my mind:
1. Excuse me?
2. How is that oil stripping/oil depositing process possible, exactly, O Mistress of Organic Chemistry?
3. If this shampoo is that damaging, I’m not sure I want it– it sounds like a bottle of turpentine.
The other salesgirl finished ringing up my friend with shoulders hunched and gaze steadily held down. She nodded a goodbye but didn’t say anything else. Meanwhile, Helper Girl was waiting for my reply.
"No thank you. I just want this."
"Well, it’s not going to work well. It’s DESIGNED to go with the conditioner."
I try to sound breezy: "Oh well! We’ll see!"
I’m surprised that I can still smile at this point.
She reluctantly finishes the ring-up process.I grab my bag and wave goodbye at the other girl.
Why did this salesgirl have to be so berating, when she was actually doing something she thought was actually helpful –according to Aveda experts, perhaps– and something that whether we consumers like it or not is a part of the retail experience?
In other words, what makes some people delightfully persuasive and convincing, and others, bullies?
I find the whole concept of the bully interesting, because being cruel to people and threatening them just because you can is such an immature way of reacting. As a matter of fact I am pretty sure that most of you out there in Inty-net land have been a bully to someone in the past– I know I’m not the only one who’s made a friend feel bad at a sleepover or has overcorrected a friend without giving her a chance to find out if she was right.
Because there is a certain seduction in lording power over people and in making them think that they are not just wrong, but that you are right and that if they try to correct you they are being foolish/oversensitive/stupid/annoying/[insert berating and condescending insult here].
When that salesgirl acted out on us and her coworker instantly hung her head and let her take the lead, I found myself at first being angry at the one who yielded and not so much at the one who was forcibly yelling into my ear so I’d buy five dollars more worth of product . And yet, she is the one who rattled my nerves and made me doubt myself. But the other one was the one who lay down and let her attack us, her customers. She was the one who helped us and was nice and sold me, cheapskate that I am, expensive tea! How could she?!
And I guess that is the true by-product of bully-dom: it causes people to simper and cower in fear while hating the bully and/or wishing them ill deep inside. It causes people who would normally be confident to shut down and to hold in their thoughts. It breaks down civil conversation. It ends free expression. And it causes people who were doing well to not even want to try to smile as her customers go out the door.
Bullying is a form of abuse, and one that no one should have to withstand –from the playground to the Aveda shop, it’s not a good feeling.
I know it’s not easy, but my small public service announcement for today is this: don’t make someone feel like crap just because it’s within your power to do so. And if you see a bully, today is the day to stand up, overcome and tell her to her face, "Excuse me, Aveda lady, but there is no possible way that a shampoo can somehow KILL YOUR SEBACEOUS GLANDS SO THAT THERE IS NO OIL IN YOUR HAIR OTHER THAN THE ONE THAT THE CONDITIONER DEPOSITS, SO STOP TRYING TO SELL ME CONDITIONER!"
Either that or "just ring me up, you rancid whore," you know?
Or whatever your bully deserves.
Nyah nyah nyah.