Monday, August 12, 2013

Who's That Girl?

I had read a few weeks back about stores implementing facial recognition technology so when a celebrity pops in, they could take note.  I had mixed feelings since, while I agree that to a certain extent celebrities are accepting a certain lack of privacy, I never thought that included their ability to buy lipstick in peace.  But, in light of recent Oprah sized events, I could see why stores might wish to do this.  Of course, ideally stores would simply treat all their customers with respect, celebrity or no.  NPR's Code Switch team made use of #myoprahmoment and the stories people shared were heartbreaking. 
I have been in high end stores as a teen where they assumed I had no money to buy their things (and, okay, they were right, I was usually with my sister who had high end tastes before she had such a budget) but the things is, I didn't buy anything that day, but I also didn't buy anything later when I had that money.  Now maybe I wouldn't have anyway, but the overwhelming theme of many of the #myoprahmoment stories was that they not only didn't get what they had hoped to purchase that day, they didn't shop at that store later, either ever or for decades.  And, in a perfect example of how many times people will relate a bad customer experience, they were naming names. 
I don't wish to suggest that these are only old stories, and bad retail isn't always about perceived race or socioeconomic status.  The Code Switch story about the Oprah incident has some of the tweets mentioned.  And we can pretend this only happened because it was Switzerland, but I think it's more likely that Swiss folk were just less likely to think it was Oprah, just some other well dressed black woman. 
Retail is often a thankless job. And I don't know how many people may have asked that salesperson to take down that bag only to gape at the price.  But in the end, that was still her job, to show customers the merchandise they wished to see.