Monday, February 05, 2007

There and Back Again - Part 6

One of the many activities that we participate in on any visit to India is shopping. Sure we visit with family and take in some of the sites but there is fun in shopping in India as well. These days Indian fashion is becoming quite popular across the globe and as such, it's always good to get the latest fashions straight from India rather than anywhere else. Now I'm not much for clothes shopping. To see me shop is to see someone enter the store, see about five different types of shirts and then pick the one that I like. Total time of the operation? Probably no more than fifteen minutes. Some would say that that is still way too much time for a simple shirt. So that being the case, why would I enjoy going shopping for clothes in India and not here? Simple really; India still has the art of the sale down like no other place I've seen.

Most of the stores in India that sell clothes are usually done up in a way to highlight some of the wonderful colors and new styles that are up for sale inside. The windows are meant to entice people but the true sale, I feel, comes from the salesmen inside the store. When you enter the store you are usually greeted by a group who inquire as to what exactly you may be looking for. It is best to go in with at least a vague notion of what you'd like to buy otherwise it can be a difficult proposition for both sides of the table. In my mom's case, it is usually a new sari. And seeing as how I have been along on several such sari trips, I can relate those experiences to you.

So once you've let the salesman know what you're interested (and it almost always is a man doing the sale, even for saris) they sit you down at a table near the wares. First they usually start off by showing you some of the generic saris in the styles that are currently popular. If you don't like a particular type, they will put it to the side and leave it. They will continue to pull out saris and display them to you until you find something you like. They will pull out dozens upon dozens of different types of saris. And believe me, a sari is compact enough that you can fit a tremendous number in a store of modest size. They continue to pull out the the saris until you have a couple in front of you that you like. Once the style is chosen they begin going in on the color combinations. You've not seen a true myriad of colors until you've been inside an Indian sari shop.

By this time, the salesman has a good estimation of how serious a customer is in terms of buying and how much their budget appears to be. Usually when we go shopping, we try not to make it blatantly obvious that we are not Indian citizens otherwise sometimes the pressure mounts to buy something more expensive that even we may want. But by this time, they know whether or not this is going to be a big sale or not, so the make sure that you are not pressured and that you feel relaxed and at home. To that effect they will offer you tea, coffee, cold drinks or water. Whatever your fancy. It's a wonderful experience because on the one hand you feel (at least I do) a bit guilty that these salesmen take out sari after sari after sari even though you don't intend on buying even half of them. But what makes the experience nice is that the salesmen don't insist on you buying anything, nor do they lay a guilt trip on you for having made them take out so many saris. On the contrary, many of them will take pleasure in the simple fact that they are able to show you the types of saris they have and the quality of work that they have done. If nothing else, they know that word of mouth will send more customers their way.

It is nice to go shopping and be pampered a bit. Having grown up here and done the majority of my shopping in this country, it is easy to get into that complacent mode where shopping is more of a solitary experience with little or no help from salespeople who have little or no interest in making the sales. Perhaps it's simply because I don't go to the 'right' stores here in the US that would do that. Or perhaps it is because the owners of the stores in India take pride in what they sell and want to make sure that they send you away happy and satisfied rather than simply with a lighter wallet.



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