Friday, 15 January 2010

Shopping With Staff

I hate shopping. Anyone who knows my love of clothes, has seen the amount of "junk" (clothes, books, music, pictures) in my house or the amount of bags I return from a shopping trip with will be astonished by this. But I really do truly hate the experiance.

Fighting through crowds of other girls on the high street looking for an item of clothing is my idea of hell. Hate it. I either know there's something there I want (spying it in the window on the way past or knowing about it from a magazine or friend) and can dash in at great speed and grab one in my size or it's not going to happen. It inspires a stress headache within minutes and you only have to mention the word "Primark" to me and I get an overwhelming feeling of nausea at the idea of the chaos in that kind of a building.

This is why I tend to return from a shopping trip with zillions of bags. I have spent weeks building up plans of what I need and where they are and can cover all of the high street shops in Leeds in about an hour to grab my entire wish list.

Now to supermarkets. I have an actual phobia of them. Apparently this is very common and was the original meaning of agoraphobia (Greek for "fear of the market place"). I have lately been learning to tackle this and can now browse occasionally when the place is quiet. I now emerge the majority of the time without running at a breakneck speed out of the doors with tears stinging my eyes and my heart pounding at ninety miles an hour. If you take me there when it's busy and I actually get through the doors it's likely I'll abandon the trolly and run for the exit part way through. Most days I nauseously build myself up towards the idea of going, put on a brave face, and hope to emerge with ingredients that can actually be constructed into a meal or two. Tesco Online is a total Godsend for actually stocking my cupboards with sensible items once in a while.

A member of staff bothering me in a shop will be greeted with a look of panic. Someone at the checkout suggesting I go back to the kitkats and buy two smaller packs because it's cheaper that way is enough to cause me to feel faint. It's lovely that they're trying to help but my aim is to get out of the building as quickly as possible. Just what I don't need is someone demanding I walk past the queue of people waiting behind me to swap things round and then looking at me crazy and getting cross when I say I'm fine with my more expensive larger packet.

"Shopping with staff" is however a whole different board game.

What I like is going to a nice quiet boutique with enough space around me that I can breathe, and staff on hand to assist me in finding what I desire. That I love. I could sit in Vivienne Westwood for hours on the comfortable furniture while staff run around finding me shoes in an array of colours. I sigh with pleasure as they suggest alternative items and teach me how to fasten a belt in a way that means I will forever discard the normal way of fastening a belt because it's not as beautiful as the way that "Vivienne likes it".

Liverpool's Hervia Westwood Store

This is a pleasure that my father taught me on rare trips to city department stores in the search for a new party dress. It could be his fault why I have wardrobes full of evening wear but lack any knowledge of how to do "casual". I was about seven before I even tried on a pair of jeans and I remember learning to climb walls in a white smocked dress and black patent shoes.

This "shopping with staff" pleasure is one that must be enjoyed with a friend otherwise it looses the full joy. Having dragged dearest Charley off on a few of these trips, I fear that we are now fully fledged addicts. Our last trip to Leeds involved us being accosted in Lush by envious staff wanting to know what we had in our multiple giant pink Westwood bags, then having trouble fitting everything into the boot of my teeny tiny little Ford Fiesta.

Goodies found in Leeds by Charley and myself

Talking of Lush, this is another shopping pleasure. Again as much because of the products as the staff. Yes I love cosmetics, yes I trained as a beautician and hairdresser so I understand them, and yes I do find Lush products to be one of my great indulgences. But the experiance of going into somewhere with such happy, enthusiastic, quirky and knowledgable staff is an absoloute pleasure. If I want a specific type of product but don't know what to get I just ask their advice and they always come up with the perfect item. If I'm in a rush I can tell them what I need and they'll help me grab everything. If I'm not in a rush I tend to ask if there's anything new in stock and they'll do more than just tell me, they'll try the products out in front of me as they explain about them. Thus I emerge excitedly with new Lush goodies to use, cradled in hands that have just been pampered using half the products now stored in my goodie bag. I've also never had a moment in any Lush shop where the member of staff couldn't answer my questions about the products. Right down to where the ingredients are sourced and why they are in the product in the first place.

Another place I love for it's exquisitely fabulous staff is Harrods Urban retreat. I was lucky enough to win a day of pampering there and I emerged well and truly pampered. I would recommend to anyone the utter bliss of a visit to the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie there for a fragrance consultaion. It was one of the most decadent, sense inspiring experiances of my life, and I'm a the kind of person who hunts down decadence and sensual pleasures with an unending passion for more.

Roja Dove

Just imagine lounging against embroidered silk and velvet pillows, surrounded by exotic perfumes incased in exquisite cut glass and gold bottles, being lulled by gentle music and having your mind and senses led poetically through a beautiful path of perfumes until you reach your own perfect scent.

How I ever emerged from there alive and didn't just die of absoloute bliss I have no idea. Anyway, I was originally a devoted Jicky by Guerlain girl and have now realised that my soul should be bathed in Amazone by Hermes.


If all shopping were like that, I'd truly be it's biggest fan.

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