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BC’S BARBADOS: Serve you right


B.C. Pires

BC’S BARBADOS: Serve you right

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When I first moved to Barbados three years ago, retail store assistants would scramble to wait on me in stores.
“You have your ticket?” they’d ask sweetly while offering to gift-wrap my purchase for free. “Because this is duty-free. Oh, you don’t have it? Look, just tell me your flight number and I’ll fill out the form! You’ll save US$30!”
After a few weeks, though, when they worked out I lived here, they could barely contain their contempt. When I entered a store, they looked the other way, became totally absorbed in a bolt of gaberdine, a fire extinguisher on a pillar, their own fingernails.
Eventually, when forced to admit defeat, grudgingly accept that I would not leave the store without bothering them, they would steupse, half turn in my general direction and make fleeting eye contact just long enough to convey, with a sneer, that if they got off that chair, I better be buying something damn expensive!
I had to learn that in Barbados, you wait on wait staff, not the other way around. Forget about an impulse purchase: you have to really, really, really want the necessities to brave combat with the average “sales” person.
An eager retail-store attendant in Barbados stands out like an Englishman on the Arsenal team.
In fact, you get a little sentimental every time you remember that one time, around Easter 2010, in a particular shop, when the salesperson actually asked a question that showed an interest in what you wanted, rather than demonstrated plainly how much she wanted to get rid of you so she could get back to her find-the-word puzzle.
You go into a store and look at an item longingly. “This is what I want!” you tell the salesman, enthusiastically, “except I need it in blue!”
(or in a smaller or bigger size; or singly, not in a pack of 20; or a cordless version; or anything requiring the smallest amount of mental or physical effort. It doesn’t matter – she wasn’t going to help you, anyway.) “It does only come in orange,” the salesgirl says. And walks away.
And then you walk away, because to complain about service in a retail store in Barbados is to knock the beehive with a stick.
And you search the item on Amazon.com on your phone as you walk and find it in every colour of the spectrum for one-third the price, with free shipping and a free tote bag. And you wonder why you left your home, where you could have pointed-and-clicked and had your purchase, with no hassle/disrespect, delivered to your neighbourhood post office in three days.
And you wonder why you try to support your local businesses; and you wonder why retail stores treat citizens like dirt when, say, groceries or gas stations or automotive industry outlets usually work so hard for them?
And then, one day, you have an experience that lets you understand the real reason Bajan retail store staff are so useless: Bajan retail store owners! To which we will turn, reluctantly, in the not too distant future.

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