I had a day off yesterday, so took the opportunity to go to the opening of the new ‘Grand Central’ centre, complete with the new John Lewis store in Birmingham. I’ve watched it take shape over the last few years, and thought it might be a chance to get started on my Christmas shopping (yes, I know it’s September, but I’m using this particular ‘C’ word already…) ahead of the mania that sweeps the city every year.
The problem is, I hate shopping. Okay, to be fair I like buying presents for other people, but I hate actually going out to do so. I hate the crowds, in particular the people who seem oblivious to those around them, and over the years I’ve had lots of bad experiences that have involved rude staff, having my feet run over with pushchairs, long queues of people monotonously complaining about having to stand in line, and one particularly angry woman screaming at me to ‘get out of the way’ in her desperation to secure a box of biscuits from the shelf in Selfridges. Nice. They must have been fabulous biscuits.
Of course, the easiest and most effective way of purchasing items is to buy them from the Internet. However, many people I know are still wary of sharing their bank details online, and there are plenty of horror stories of people who have been scammed, had to wait for weeks for items to arrive or have experienced difficulties when trying to return or replace damaged goods. I use the Internet for specific items, but I often prefer to see a product, or in the case of clothes, try them on before I buy.
Over the years, I’ve developed a way in which I shop, which I thought may be useful over the coming months:
1. Where possible, shop by yourself. I love socialising and getting involved in fun activities with people, but shopping isn’t one of them. I couldn’t tell you the amount of hours I have spent over the years with family members and friends watching them try to decide on what they want to buy, only for them to change their mind at the last minute and leave with nothing. One particularly horrific trip involved a six hour walk around three H&M stores in Birmingham with my mother, where she looked at the same items in each one and then decided that she didn’t want any of them.
2. Know what you want in advance and where the best prices are offered. Yesterday, I made a shopping list of presents that I wanted and had done a little bit of research about the cost of these items and where they were being sold for less, so I already knew which stores I had to go to.
3. Get there as early as possible. When I know I have to go into the city, particularly at a weekend, I’ll arrive for when the stores open. Depending on the popularity of a particular place, there may still be a queue, but it will be tiny compared to the ones that will form at lunchtime and in the afternoon.
4. Buy the larger items last, or take a rucksack to carry them. This avoids having to drag a heavy weight round with your hands and arms for the rest of your trip.
5. Look your best. This is one of my biggest annoyances, but it’s a fact that you will be treated better and served quicker by staff in many instances if you look like you can afford what you are buying. I spend most of my working life in a suit, so therefore my free time is accompanied by pj’s, hooded sweaters and jogging pants. However, when I have been shopping whilst wearing my old clothes, particularly hoodies and trainers, I have been followed by security guards or ignored by staff. The worst culprits for these are the more expensive department stores that have make-up counters – one incident that always makes me smile involved a woman in the Dior section, who was handing out glasses of champagne to people having make overs and purchasing items, while giving me daggers with her eyes for even daring to be in her presence in my scruffy sweats, and ignoring me three times when I tried to get her attention by saying ‘excuse me.’ To be fair, Dior is not something I can often afford or will buy for myself, but my mother loves it and I had saved up for quite a while to buy her a whole new set of things for her birthday. In the end I left, bought the items from another store and haven’t returned since. However, I digress…
6. Try not to allow other people to frustrate you. It’s unfortunate that regardless of the situation or place, there will always be rude, inconsiderate human beings who have no concept of the fact that they are not the only person on the planet. That’s their fault, not yours, and allowing their behaviour to darken your mood will only make the process much more difficult. Tip: insulting them in your head as you walk past helps.
7. When trying on an item of clothing, I try get the size above and below my usual size to take into the changing room with me in stores that I am not as familiar with. It saves time in getting dressed again and having to repeat the process again with a smaller or larger size later on. Granted, some places have assistants that are employed for help with this sort of thing, but I wouldn’t count on them being available to do it.
8. If I see something extra while I’m shopping that I like, but can’t work out whether to buy it or not, I walk away. I like to follow my gut instinct on something, and if it isn’t screaming at me to get it there and then, I don’t waste my time.
9. Get it all done in one go. Is it a friend’s birthday next month? Do you have a wedding to attend? If your finances will allow it, work out what you need to buy in the coming months and get it all on the same trip – it will save time on having to visit again in the future.
10. Get an uplifting playlist to listen to while you’re shopping. There’s nothing better than having a fabulous set of songs to boost your mood, and nothing can bring me down when I’m listening to my favourite tracks. I find Stevie Wonder is perfect for this sort of thing…
What about you guys? Do you have any tips for avoiding the stress of shopping?
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks
I’m running the Birmingham Half-Marathon in October in aid of Dementia UK and Bolton Breast Unit – if you would like to contribute to the already generous donations I have received please visit my Just Giving page here: