Remember the scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts is shopping for something nice to wear in a fancy little boutique somewhere on Rodeo Drive and the shop girls follow her around the store, making rude comments and passing judgement, despite the fact that she has money to burn? Shopping in a Colombian mall will make you feel like Julia Roberts, but minus the rude comments and judgement passing.
It has been something all of us gringos discuss from time to time: how annoying it is to visit a store, whether to browse or to buy. We try to be strategic and make up our own set of rules. Never enter a store void of other costumers. Check the ratio of shoppers to customers from the entryway before entering (Sub-clause: leave if ratio decreases to levels not in your favor.) Only go shopping with a friend and then, once past the threshold, divide and conquer; they can only follow one of you at a time, right?
Now, if you're a fan of having your own personal shopper, then this is the country for you! Touch an item just briefly and the sales person has it off the shelf/hook/hanger and is presenting it to you in all it's glory. Need a specific size and it will materialize faster than you can say "dressing room." However, if you like a nice leisurely trip to the mall, you're out of luck, amigo.
Today I stopped into my local Adidas store to check out some of their running apparel. I realized this was going to be "one of those" visits when, no more than two steps into the store I was greeted, asked what I was looking for, and told that this gentleman was "at my service." After exchanging pleasantries and informing him that I was "just looking" he, not surprisingly, proceeded to trail me as I weaved in and out of the store's aisles, making conversation and pointing out various things along the way. "This one is nice. These and new. Do you like this?" And so on.
Again, this is typical of a store clerk and the shopping experience in general. However, this gentleman did something different: he asked me how the retail service was in the U.S. (I'm sure a giddy smile appeared on my face.) Well, if you really want to know... I told him it was very good and that people are friendly and greet customers, but that they don't "follow them around the store."
And...release; it was like going to therapy.
Of course, he just nodded thoughtfully, continued to stay near me for the next few minutes as I browsed my way to the exit, and explained that "in Colombia it is good service to always be helpful and attend to a person before they have to do it them self." Thank you, sir, I'm aware. At least I told someone.