Friday, 11 January 2013

Sydney v Melbourne

We went to Melbourne a few days ago. It was a very pleasant experience. I love, love, love that city.

One thing that was so obvious was how nice the people in Melbourne were. No, this is not only limited to the hotel workers who are by default would almost always be nice to you. I am referring to the people on the street, friendly strangers who would strike a conversation with you just because they like your shoes.

Given the friendliness of the locals, it is almost a natural extension that shopkeepers in Melbourne are nice, afterall, they come from the same pool of nice people. Within 5 seconds of walking into a Melbourne store, be it Zara, or General Pants, or Hermes and Chanel, I received the "Hi, how are you? Can I help you with anything today?" with a wide smile to boot.

Call me crazy, but I can't quite recall when I received a similar greeting when I am shopping in Sydney. And I shop quite often - it is my addiction, one that I am not interested in letting go. Ha!

The Melbourne shopkeepers really know what customer service is all about, and they deliver every single time. When they asked "how is everything" after you try on jeans/shoes/whatever, and you give the standard response of "it's too small/big", they will immediately offer to find you a suitable size. And when you tried it on, and you ended up not liking it, they would ask you what it was that you were looking for and actually showed you what they currently had in the stores.

The best bit: they never pushed to make a sale. At least not to me, anyway. They offerred to check other stores just to see if they had the item I wanted to purchase, and gave me alternatives to purchase, including checking their online stores (some items are more readily available online, they said).

So. Some of you may say that this treatment happened because of how I looked. Or specifically what I wore. You know, when shopkeepers treat you nicely because you are carrying a designer handbag. I honestly don't think so. I was wearing a pair of rubber thongs. This is because my shoes gave up on me, okay, and I had to frantically find a new pair of shoes, and meanwhile had to make do with the rubber thongs.

I am not alone in being alienated in the Sydney retail scene. I have lost count as to how many people told me about their terrible experience in the physical stores and I have lost count as to how many articles I have read about how and why online shopping is easier and so much better - and it is not just about the cost.

That brings me to my next point - cost. I admit that if you know where to look, you could almost always score a better deal online. And logic tells me that online stores have lower overheads so they could get away with charging lower prices compared to the physical stores, but I honestly don't think most people are that price sensitive. I mean, really, seriously? Given that most people in this planet generally don't pay that much attention to their money, is it a given that they are that cost-conscious?

I am of a firm believe that the reason people resort to online stores is first and foremost because of the ease of doing so. These days, I am too tired to battle other shoppers and to dig the bargain bin (something that I used to find tremendous enjoyment out of). I prefer going running and then logging into my pc and start browsing. With online shopping, I can sort with a few clicks of a button, purchase with a few more clicks and then in the next few days, I receive a pleasant surprise from the postman. It is too easy, too pleasant, and I don't have to deal with rude shopkeepers.

I don't want to say that Sydney shopkeepers are generally rude, but I'd like to say that they can learn from their Melbourne counterparts. I mean, just to give them the benefit of the doubt, it may very well be that they do not know what is expected of them. Maybe, just maybe, they were not trained properly? Or no one actually holds them to a higher standard?

Of course, there is really no excuse for terrible customer service. These days, I derive very little enjoyment from shopping in a physical shopping, with the exception of shopping in Melbourne.

Another thing that contributes to the ease of online shopping is the elimination of waiting. In life, I am somewhat rather impatient when it comes to waiting in the line for ... anything, especially waiting to pay for something I want to buy. It is like, really, I have made the decision to purchase, so come and get my money already! Don't make me wait for much longer because I might end up changing my mind and there goes your revenue. And yes, in case you are wondering, this happened many times, so many times that I give up going to a store when I want to purchase something. I much rather do it online: no waiting, no carrying bags, everything delivered to my home. Awesome!

Does this mean physical stores will become extinct? I don't know. I sure hope not. Because I kind of like the stores in Melbourne and I really can't imagine Melbourne without the shopping experience. In a way, I associate Melbourne with shopping, physical shopping that is.

The stores in Melbourne are pretty much similar to the stores that are in Sydney: Zara, Cue, Review, Saxony and the like. Yet for some reason, the Melbourne stores have a lot more options, more stock, better display and of course, courteous and friendly shopkeepers. It is easier to shop in Melbourne than in Sydney.

In Sydney, I walk into a store and the first thing the shopkeepers do is to check my handbag - what brand is it, what season, bla bla bla. If I happen to carry a relatively new designer handbag, then I may get a hello. If not, forget it. I have to quite literally be ready with my wallet open before they would even entertain my requests. I get that we are all judgmental like that, especially if you are in retail, but do you really have to make it that obvious?

This is not to say that I don't love Sydney. I do. I love Sydney too, for different reasons than I love Melbourne. This is largely because Sydney is my home, at least for the time being. And people in Sydney, some of us are nice, some of us are not so nice, it just depends on how hot the weather is. Kidding. Most of us are nice, especially when we want your money and we know you've got the moolah.

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