Service of Don’t Tell Me What To Do

October 19th, 2023

Categories: Customers, Don't Tell Me What to Do, Merchandising, Retail

Bloomingdale’s 2023 Christmas shop is open already.

A crackerjack retailer friend said the other day, “People don’t like to be told what to do. They resent it.”

She remembered the talking-to a customer gave her when she asked the woman to please not remove the reeds from a diffuser because the splashed liquid stained the floor and walls of the shop as well as nearby merchandise.

I’m sure you’ve noticed how difficult to impossible it is to perfectly put things back in their packaging. For this reason she keeps samples at hand so customers don’t need to open anything. Nevertheless, she’s been snapped at when requesting that they check out the ones already unboxed.

It takes a special hand and eye and an expert merchandiser to make attractive product vignettes. She’s known for this. As customers reach for an item on display—even in the window—she knows the ones that are precarious or the items that are most difficult to present and she offers to get a fresh item from inventory the better to inspect. Dirty looks and grumbles are often the result. [She does not work at Bloomingdale’s where I photographed complicated displays above and below.]

Anger ensued when she asked one of two parents to leave a stroller on the porch of a tiny shop already crowded with people.

Do you ask before removing items from a retail display? Do you become angry if someone asks you to stop what you’re doing in a store? Should the customer always be right?

Another complicated display in the 2023 Bloomingdale’s Christmas shop.

4 Responses to “Service of Don’t Tell Me What To Do”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    One assumes the title of “guest” when entering a store. As such, one behaves appropriately. Is it right to rearrange the furniture or furnishings when visiting a friend? Not if one expects to be made welcome a second time. Case closed!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    One time a friend did just that and she started to rearrange whatever I had on my mantle. She was never invited back. She said “I couldn’t sit here and look at that arrangement another minute.” She never did again!

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    I try to be considerate and thoughtful when shopping. I do not consider a store’s merchandise my own unless I have completed a purchase. I find the idea of manhandling, unwrapping, disrupting displays and packaging ill-manned, inconsiderate, rude and gauche. I am not very tolerant of such self-centered and arrogant behavior. It is simply obnoxious and could verge on unsafe to not respect a request to not force your stroller into a small space that is after all not yours! When did we become so insufferable and so self-centered as a people?

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Entitlement is what many people feel which accounts for some behavior. There are clients in other fields who think that they can disrespect vendors because they are paying for a service. I’ve heard ugly stories galore. I’m not a psychologist but anger might account for some of the behavior or arrogance or feeling powerless and therefore seeking ways to feel powerful.

    I also think it’s cultural. When I lived in Turkey one of the words I knew was lütfen– “please.” My Turkish friend told me not to keep saying it to clerks in stores.

    I can’t explain why there seems to be more of it now than before.

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