A Daily Dose of Zen Sarcasm!

Bully Market

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.

This entry was published on October 25, 2007 at 11:33 am and is filed under Soapboxing. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

11 thoughts on “Bully Market

  1. This is mostly unrelated, but in the bathroom at my work, there is this wicker basket on the countertop (I don’t know where it came from … it’s been there since I started working there).
    And people put “community” items in it. Hairspray, a bottle of perfume they don’t want (?), lotion, etc.
    And one day, somebody left a 3/4 full bottle of Aveda Rosemary & Mint lotion in there. My FAVORITE lotion that I don’t buy because it’s $20 for the littlest one.
    I use it every day after I wash my hands and it has been a true test of my will power not to pick it up and bring it back to my desk with me.
    I guess I just wanted to share.

  2. sad part of all this.. the bully..was prob. the manager..and prob showing the competent girl “how to do it”….
    welcome to customer service…the rowdy edition..

  3. I have experienced that particular type of salesperson myself, and more than once. I have developed my own style and procedure to deal with them. It works in the isle as well as at the register, at swanky shops and at Wal*Mart.
    If they do not grasp after the first couple of moments that I will buy whatever I want and who cares what they think, I look them directly in the eye (eye contact is very important when facing down a bully) and firmly state the following:
    “I don’t care what your opinion is, now [insert action here] so I can get away from you.”
    Really. It works. I can usually get the process finished with nary another word.

  4. It’s rare for me to complain about a worker to their manager but in this case I should have. It’s one thing to try and inform customers about the products and another thing to try and force a sale. Putting in a complaint would also let you know if her approach followed company policy so you can decide if you want to continue to go to a store with such a policy – outstanding products aside.
    That’s my five cents worth. šŸ™‚

  5. ~”just ring me up, you rancid whore,”~
    Laughing histerically here…
    Some people just don’t get that you “catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”…
    Most bullies I’ve known were realy just insecure people, and used bullying to hide it…

  6. In this case, having worked at an Aveda store years ago, I blame the training. Well the training program and a little bit of obnoxious bitch thrown in. FWIW, one should never use the rosemary and mint on color treated hair – it’s too drying and will often strip out the color (not that I know if either of you color your hair, just my friendly tip of the day).

  7. I commend you for your amazing restraint in not slapping that bitch across the face!
    Jane, Pinks & Blues

  8. I commend you for your amazing restraint in not slapping that bitch across the face!
    Jane, Pinks & Blues

  9. Christina on said:

    I actually feel bad for the other salesgirl. Who knows what she goes through on a regular basis. I remember working in an environment that was probably similar to that, and I went home everyday with a headache and a bundle of stress pushing down on my shoulders.
    If anything, you could’ve told her at least the first thing you mentionned, that her oil theory was off – I mean, I’ve been in your situation before and I’ve NOT SAID IT before… And walked out and thought, “Argh, could’ve said that.”
    One day, we’re going to have to hear stories about the people that to stand up to these arsholes. Is there a website for this somewhere? šŸ™‚

  10. having been a retail manager myself, i agree with the previous commenters who opined that the bully salesperson was probably the manager. and she was probably using you and your friend as a training example. AND the bully was demonstrating how to add on to a sale (yeah, those little trinkets at the register are there for a reason, peeps). but taking over someone else’s sell is not the way to training people. she should’ve been watching from a distance and offering feedback after the fact. even her training method is rather bully-like.

  11. Sounds like she was French… Bully tactics are omnipresent in French stores. I (almost) hate shopping here because an idiot sales person can make anyone feel like a complete and total fool.

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