Shopping in Brazil

can either be a nightmare or a a customer’s delight. Depending on what you are looking for…

If you are up for some ‘browsing’, i.e. strolling through the shops just to look around, shopping – if you want to call it that way – can be rather tedious a less than enjoyable experience. If you actually need something & would like to try a bunch of different products, you have come however to the right place.

What the difference makes: the shop assistants in their sheer number. Let me explain.

Where any given shoe shop in Europe would have 2 employees – one in the shop, one at the cash register, the Brazilian pendant will have up to 10 employees. 7 of these will be getting any shoe the customer would want to try from the inventory, 2 will be at the cash register and the last one the supervisor. Of course, all these people need to be kept busy which greatly alters the whole shopping experience.

Back in Europe, you’d pick a shoe you like & search among the boxes to see if you’re lucky enough to find your size, try it & put it back, and repeat this process until you find something fitting your feet, taste & budget. In the case that this endeavor is not accomplished successfully, you give a polite nod to the chap behind the register, leave the shop and are done.

In Brazil, you’ll only get to look at the shoes which are exposed safely behind glass & point at anything you can fancy trying. The shop assistant, after briefly inquiring after your shoe size, will fetch all of them & bring them to the chair on which you’ve settled in the meantime.

If after some back & forth (of the shop assistant, of course), you’ve actually founds something you like & want to purchase; the first thing you get is a piece of paper. With that you pay at the register – a separate process that may take as much time as the preceding selection one – and only then obtain the box with your product of choice from the assistant that has been taken care of you.

More often than not, the assistant will give you her/his card and it’s only decent to come back to the same person if the service was good. Many of the assistants are paid partly by the turnover they make. This process happens in similar forms in most household appliance shops, cutlery, household linen, and even some for clothes.

So far the short description of completing a transaction successfully. If – IF – however, you have not found anything particularly appealing or fitting, you face the slightly awkward feeling of having wasted someones time.  At least, that happens frequently to me in those moments. Also, simply ‘browsing’ becomes a tad tiresome to me as I’m constantly offered help while I’d much rather be left alone.

Obviously, I’m complaining on a very high level here. But I also wonder if it is just me that feels a bit uncomfortable. Or could it be that, in Europe, we are not used to a somewhat pampering customer service any longer and that I should enjoy it while I’m here?

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