There’s nothing like a mini-rant to get my blood flowing after 24 hours in transit in cramped quarters on a jumbo jet. I will admit that I am cranky-er when jetlagged and have low blood sugar, and worse, that I have had nothing but bad vibes whenever I enter the large Duty Free Building near the NAIA airport. So one wonders why, oh why, despite having stayed away from that store for nearly 3 years since I wrote my last mini-rant on the place, here, I felt compelled to return. It was driven by the need to locate some toilet paper and large roll cling wrap which they sometimes have in their grocery. But before you can get to the grocery, you must be herded like moronic sheep through a path of all manner of imported goods. In the first section, liquor and wines, I veered perilously close to the wines, glancing at bottles of champagne and prosecco, wondering if I could pick up several bottles for a toast at a restaurant opening in Cebu.
I was quickly approached by a salesperson who said “White wine, red wine, French Wine, Italian Wine, Champagnes…” to which I bit my lip, glared at her and continued to browse quietly. She rattled on, more aggressively, in a louder voice, as if I had a hearing impairment “American wine, Asti, white wine, red wine, etc.” to which I calmly said “Miss, if I need help, I will ask you, okay?” to which she came closer and still aggressively and annoyingly repeated, “Sir, what about white wine, champagne, red wine, Asti, etc.?” at which point I blew my top. I looked at her and said in a raised voice (approximately the same decibel level as she had been using) “is this a market? Palengke na ba ang Duty Free? Do you need to keep repeating the same thing? I know you are probably not stupid, nor am I stupid, I do know how to read, so please do you have to be so annoying? Do you think you will make a sale this way?” Which finally put an end to her spiel. Funny how it’s okay for a salesperson to be offensively aggressive, but once a client retorts at the same or elevated level of aggression, they seem to understand that it isn’t right… Needless to say, I didn’t buy any wine, champagne, liquor, etc.
So onto chocolates and cookies we go. Understanding that I was already in a foul mood, I took a deep breath and let salesperson after salesperson literally scream out at me various products but for the most part, they stayed out of my way, touting from the sides. I said nothing, and simply didn’t look at any products manned by aggressive sales personnel. I managed to get several boxes of cookies, and some chocolates from stalls where I could look at the offerings in peace and quiet. But a few seconds later, I was literally accosted by two salespeople from Hershey’s, who rushed at me, breaking my personal space perimeter for strangers (say a foot or so away) one standing directly in front of me, blocking my path, another brandishing a large bag of Hershey’s products and in raised aggressive voices trying to get me to buy their goods. Honestly, they couldn’t have picked a more pre-irritated subject. I screeched back at them in the same tone and decibel level as theirs that this wasn’t a market, they weren’t hawking fish, I did not appreciate my path being blocked, did they think aggressive selling was going to yield them more sales, to get the hell out of my way, and they did finally step aside. Nary an apology, nothing to say, suddenly tails between their legs. Suddenly silent, looking blankly in the other direction. Not wishing to waste any saliva on them, I asked another person where the floor supervisor was and headed to a rather hidden section where Ms. Supervisor was sitting, chatting away animatedly with another employee.
I told Ms. Supervisor that I did not appreciate the aggressive selling tactics, and that in fact, it was such a turn off for clients that I suspected they sold LESS rather than more with this strategy. She at first said the staff were just trying to sell goods but when I pressed her if she considered it appropriate behavior that they block my path while walking the down the aisle, forcing me to stop, and having to side step and continue on, she quickly changed her story to say that these were all concessionaires, and not her or Duty Free’s employees, though under her purview. I asked her to walk back with me to the Hershey’s section and lo and behold, not a SINGLE ONE of the 30 sales reps on the floor were engaged in any touting, screaming, “aloking”, naming products, etc. Several other customers chimed in to say that they agreed wholeheartedly, it was as if they were being assaulted by salespeople “nakakainis” or “sobra” and like good pinoys, couldn’t bring themselves to say something until someone with a bigger mouth got started… I asked the supervisor if she was uncomfortable that I was aggressively complaining to her, following her, asking her to explain, raising my voice at her and of course she agreed it was annoying and uncomfortable. Duh, if it annoys her, why wouldn’t it annoy customers???
I asked for the supervisor’s name, asked how long she had worked there, and in one of those “moments,” she gave the year in the mid 1980’s that my father actually took over as the head of the Philippine Tourism Authority, ironically including as one of his tasks under the (first) Aquino administration, the management of the Duty Free Philippines Shops. Trust me, at that time, there were no market like selling tactics at that store. As for Hershey’s, I can tell you I have a weakness for Hershey’s Kisses, a childhood thing, and even wrote a special post on them on their 100th anniversary, something folks at Hershey’s Philippines read at the time and they sent me an email to offer me boxes of chocolates as a “thank you” that I predictably declined graciously. But after this afternoon’s experience, I can tell you Hershey’s is on my personal S@%TLIST right now and I did not buy a single Hershey product nor will I do so for at least the next year. I should mention that these kinds of market like tactics and retail behavior are not limited to Duty Free… have you ever tried to buy shoes at Shoemart lately? You are accosted by a salesperson PER BRAND. But you want a good tip on how to keep them quiet? Ask some really pointed if completely clueless questions. Things like “Do you know what the tensile strength of the rubber on the sole of a shoe? How do you translate Filipino sizes into Eastern European sizes? Is that teal or chartreuse? For chocolate, I should have asked at what temperature I should stop stirring to get the perfect gloss, what kind of emulsifiers and additives they use, is the milk from real cows, are there any trace amounts of rat hairs or human skin allowed in the chocolates they sell??? Yes and yes to the last two questions I believe, according to US FDA guidelines on non-food matter in commercially prepared food products. I know, I know, I can be a pain in the ass — BUT almost always only if I am first provoked.