Welcome to In the Bag

There are a lot of shopping blogs out there — but nothing like this.

Most of them focus on deals, shopping tips and latest trends. In The Bag will be more focused on the experience of shopping, whether that’s a pet peeve about customer service or finding the perfect gift for the dad who has everything. We may talk about the best deals we find — but the focus will be on more the finding and less on the deals.

In The Bag will feature stories by Nonstop writers and guest bloggers several times a week. Join the conversation!


Years ago I went to buy jeans at the Gap. I have a favorite pair that I always buy. So I grabbed one in my size and went up to the register to pay.

The cashier, sizing me up, asked if this was really the pair I had wanted. Uh, yes, I’m standing here with them and my credit card is out, I was thinking. But I smiled and nodded.

She smiled back — a bit more insincere than my smile at her — and asked if I had tried on this other style of jeans.

“You really should,” she said, that snarky tone in her voice. “They’re made for, you know, bigger hips.”

I continued to smile — thank God for that Cherry Blossom Festival training! — and said, as politely as humanly possible, thanks but I’m good. She rang me up and said, without making eye contact, “Have a great day” like you would to the dictator of North Korea.

There’s no reason for that kind of bitchiness, in a boutique or anywhere. I don’t care if you’ve spent the last 10 hours standing in your $15 shoes from Payless. You are getting paid to help customers with their purchases. Help. Not demean or ignore them. That kind of behavior, while thankfully rare, shouldn’t be tolerated.

People who have worked in retail are often the harshest critics of customer service.

And I’m no exception.

I notice when sales associates blatantly ignore customers or slack on racking merchandise.

And usually I can forgive retail workers. It’s tough work, on your feet all day, dealing with unreasonable customers, stocking shelves well after the mall closes. I mean, who wants to fold 50 pairs of jeans after an eight-hour shift? It’s not fun.

But there’s no excuse — at least in my book — for inexcusably bad customer service.

You hear it all the time: the customers are always right. Well, retail workers will tell you, that’s not always true. (Like when a woman came into the clothing store I used to work at and demanded to be allowed to return a dress that had clearly — clearly — been worn, wine stain and all.) But we are supposed to be as accommodating as possible, leaving the really difficult customers to our managers, who earn a salary doing the stuff we don’t want to do.

It’s hard when you have angry, malicious or even volatile customers. But there’s no excuse to be rude or mean to customers who aren’t even trying to be difficult.

In other words, there’s no excuse for sales people to be bitches.

Got a story to share? Post your experience with rude or bitch sales people here. Maybe we can find the best way to deal them — without getting slapped with a court order to attend anger management classes.

— Nonstop blogger and freelance writer Catherine E. Toth didn’t think she was much of a shopper — until she saw her credit card statement last month.


Also: To help you get through your shopping this holiday season, here are the extended hours of local malls.