How one customer service experience changed my views on retail

I loathe the Boxing Day sales. Fighting crowds of people for products I don’t really need is not my idea

I loathe the Boxing Day sales. Fighting crowds of people for products I don’t really need is not my idea of fun. This year was different though, as my son is getting married shortly and has been in dire need of a new suit. Unfortunately I don’t know the first thing about suits, so when a smiley sales assistant in her 60s approached asking if we needed help, it was a welcome and unexpected occurrence.

My son and I were at a popular department store, and the menswear section was brimming with people looking for a bargain. We must have looked forlorn as we considered the twenty-odd different brands of suits available. When the kindly sales assistant, let’s call her Margaret, approached wearing a measuring tape around her neck, I knew we’d be in safe hands.

Margaret quickly sized my son Henry up, understanding his exact proportions with a flash of her measuring tape. She congratulated him on the upcoming nuptials, and asked whether there was a specific colour theme for the wedding. When Henry said he just needed a classic black suit, Margaret assured him she had just the thing! The first suit jacket was comfortable and fitted well, but the collar was too narrow. The second jacket moved with ease, but the fabric wasn’t quite right. The third suit jacket that Margaret recommended though, was sheer perfection. Better yet, it was half price!

Next came the pants. Margaret recommended a pair which exactly matched my son’s new jacket. She even ventured into the changing room with us to ensure the fit was correct. Margaret instructed Henry to sit down in his new formal pants, just to confirm there would be enough room for eating and dancing on the wedding day itself.

We weren’t done yet though! Margaret helpfully reminded us of the store’s hire section, which could be useful for Henry’s two groomsmen. When Henry asked to look at suits available for hire, she graciously recommended a number of options that would match Henry’s look. We ended up depositing for the hire of two other suits, just because our customer service experience felt so positive. We were sure Margaret had made good choices for both groomsmen!

Happy with our purchases, Margaret accompanied us to the sales counter. She told us what days she worked, in case we needed any other help with wedding attire. Margaret also spoke highly of her older co-workers, who had decades of experience shared between them. In fact, Margaret revealed that she was actually retired now, but chose to work in the department store to earn extra pocket money and meet new customers.

I could tell that Margaret had real passion for her job – she revealed that she had worked in fashion since the age of nineteen. Her experience showed, but more importantly Margaret delivered the type of old-fashioned customer service that I haven’t encountered in years. My son and I were anticipating hours of deliberation, comparison and probable bickering. Instead, Henry and I walked away with a perfect suit for him, and great ideas for his groomsmen too.

The customer service experience that Margaret offered left a smile on all our faces. She had achieved the impossible, and made the Boxing Day sales an enjoyable event! Margaret has restored my faith in retailers, but there is one obvious shortcoming: Being aged over 60 and semi-retired, the excellent customer service that Margaret and her contemporaries have offered throughout their careers may begin to fade. I think it’s important that young people working in fashion and retail today, begin to understand the importance of genuine interpersonal connection and take a real interest in their customer’s needs.

Thank you for restoring my faith in retail, Margaret! I only hope that younger generations can learn from your excellent example.

Do you believe that good old-fashioned customer service is dwindling? Have you encountered particularly good (or awfully bad) customer service? Share your experiences below!






  1. Great to hear staff acknowledged for their service,BUT having been in retail for 30 odd yrs I could write a book on rude,demeaning customers!

    • Yes Janice have been in retail ever since leaving school, back it the earlier days I am in my 70s now,it was great fun I reckon until about 1987 when I went back into it then I noticed a difference you still got the ones it was a pleasure to serve then you got the others who treated you like shit I always said everybody should do twelve months in retail before entering the job they want I reckon my two worst places were Armadale and Rockingham they treated you as if you owed them something, but on the whole as I said there was a lot of fun.

      • thommo  

        janice,been in electrical retailing 30 years plus,now work weekends to put extra away beside the pension,on the whole customers are good,where i am se suburbs melb,a lot don’t speak english ,but know what a dollar is,retailers have made kpi’s so high commission is impossible,and yes i can spot the evil customer mile away,might give it away this year,money just doesn’t justify the loss of pension,for both of us,and we all rech that burn out feeling!Enjoyed most of it though,experience will be lacking in the younger one’s

    • And I could write a book about rude, demeaning staff!
      Positivity goes both ways….makes everyone happy 😊

    • Always two sides to the coin!! I was tough to smile and treat all customers with respect,after all we want them to come back to store!! Best store training I had was with( the then ) GJ Coles . That’s going back to mid 1950’s I am now 74.

    • Drank lots of calming cuppas during decades of dealing with the public in a customer service capacity.Whew

    • It’s your job, you are PAID for it. Customers whether rude or nice are there to SPEND their money and keep you in a job. If one is unhappy dealing with people, the best thing is to get a job more suitable to your personality.
      There are rude, nasty and demeaning people on both sides of the counter. But you only need a lovely person to either serve you or buy from you and that makes it all worthwhile.

    • Marie That my dear is why I enjoyed the beautiful people,and wore a mask for the unhappy people.A smile or thank you costs costs nothing.Let me ask you,if you saw Dr.& nurses or police being assaulted how would you feel? This is not just retail.😊😊😊

  2. They are out there!! Great service! Shout about it when you get it!😄

  3. Sadly people of Margarets ilk are a dying breed in all areas today. Margaret no doubt honed her skill over many, many years. Today people tend to spend on average about 4 years in any one job. The job is just that a job and the dedication to it isn’t great. Therefore service and product knowledge suffers as does the poor customers.

    • Jan Edwards  

      There’s nothing as appreciated as good service with someone who obviously enjoys their job. Although some of the young ones can be very good too. “Cotton on” in Rockhampton was excellent yesterday. You could see they were enjoying their work same with Keppel Bay Plaza, one girl is an absolute delight and makes you feel happy to be a customer. Keep it up Girls, I’ll be back.

    • Problem is stores are getting rid of experienced staff & replacing with young people who aren’t on a full wage… You’re out once they have to pay an adult wage, it’s all about profit & short term gain.

  4. shops don’t really allow staff to develop customer skills hiring so many casuals who don’t last too long

  5. I had a similar experience looking for a mother of the bride outfit. I ventured into BEME a large ladies dress shop with total dread. A lady, lets call her Carolyn probably around 50, took one look at me, asked what I was after and I said anything really just so long as it fits and doesn’t show my extra rolls. Everything single thing she brought into the fitting room fitted. I bought 2 tops suitable for the wedding and 2 tops to wear on my volunteering days at Meals on Wheels and two pair of what we used to call pedal pushers. I’ll be going back there from now on and asking for Carolyn.

  6. It’s so nice when you strile a pleasnat and helpful staff member, whether an experiece like this or a lovely lady or helpful young man at the supermarket checkout: it can make your day. AND I agree with Janice, your approach and attitiude can make all the difference.

  7. I had great service from a young woman today in Target at Unley, I must say I am surprised when there is bad service, most businesses go out of their way to help. Bad service is often a sign of under staffing.

  8. Shops do not take on many full time staff any more cheaper to have casuals no sick leave no holiday pay its all about profit not service anymore

  9. I am meeting very nice people in Danish shops – it’s so nice when a young girl treats an elderly lady (me) with understanding and respect – latest such experience I had when buying myself a Christmas present… in a jewelry shop… I wanted something cheap and pretty (and good quality) – I had received some gift money from my parents in law and I wanted something to remember them by (they are quite old)… This young girl went out of her way to find something for me and she adviced me on what would fit best with my style – we ended up in a personal conversation about some interesting topics..
    I got exactly what I wanted for the right price… I thanked her for good service and a nice conversation…

  10. I remember after i had my first baby,47 years ago, i lost weight and i needed a good fitting bra. My mum carted me off to David Jones and the service was fantastic. I was 19 and wasn’t used to be told to take my clothes off to get measured. The lady who served me was so lovely and she sold me a bra that when i wore it i didn’t know i had it on.It fit perfectly. I find bras these days are very hard to find a good fit unlike all those years ago. The service these days is sometimes like “why ask me” kind of attitude. Sometimes the new isn’t always as good as the old.

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