pet peeve: salespeople in china

the single most annoying thing about shopping in china is the hovering salespeople. they don’t leave you alone, not for one second. as soon as you step into a store, they shadow you closely through every aisle, talking in chinese, asking questions, making recommendations, commenting on things you pick up. they also stand incredibly close while chattering nonstop about every item within reach. and this happens everywhere — fashion boutiques, beauty stores, liquor stores, even supermarkets.  the only exceptions (that i’ve noticed so far) are major international chains like Uniqlo and Zara.

most times, i just leave. because how is anyone supposed to shop while being followed around that closely? and what are they trying to achieve, anyway? are they trying to be helpful or are they watching to make sure i don’t steal anything? it gives me great anxiety, and i can assure you that dozens and dozens of stores in china have missed out on my business because of overzealous salespeople that scared me out of their stores.

something similar happens at restaurants, too. as soon as you get seated, the waiter hands you a menu (they rarely give you more than 1 or 2 menus, no matter how many people are dining with you) and then just stands there, waiting for you to put in your order on the spot.

you have to wonder if this kind of sales behavior is cultural. maybe chinese shoppers respond better to recommendations and salespeople pushing things on them? maybe they’re more decisive about what they want at restaurants and get impatient when the waiter isn’t at the table to take orders immediately? or is it that china businesses in general don’t yet know enough about consumer behavior to know that *most* shoppers need to be left alone to interact with the items they want to buy and evaluate them in peace?

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