Saturday, 8 August 2015

A Week in the Life of a Personal Shopper

As you may or may not know, I recently began offering my personal styling services to the public, under the auspices of a well-known department store... So just how jammy is being paid to shop for a living? (Answer: not as much as you might think, funnily enough.)
61498-thickboxMonday, 10am
Arrive at work, following my tortuous 15 minute commute - on foot - for my 4 hour shift (OK, maybe I'm underselling the benefits of the job slightly). A couple of sales assistants haven't turned up, so I'm tasked with manning the fitting rooms - re-hanging clothes, handing out and collecting tags, and even doing up the odd zip - oh, the glamour!
On my release from "Fits" duty, I collect the  key to my open plan office-come-changing-room "suite" and survey my territory. So far, I've been kept busy reading (multiple) tomes of "Best Practice" and covering sales assistant duties in lieu of actually doing any personal shopping, but I still live in hope that somebody, someday, will place a slightly greater demand on my skills than that exacted by ensuring all new stock is "finger-spaced". So, cloth and cleaning fluid in hand, I spend the next two hours cleaning my suite from top-to-toe - polishing my mirrors and removing all traces of various unidentifiable sticky substances from my furniture - whilst the same six tracks play on a loop over the in-store PA system, and I reflect that I am actually being paid less than the average London cleaner for doing the same job.
But my efforts are not in vain - on my way back from returning my now-unappetisingly-soiled cloth to the cleaning cupboard, I am almost knocked off my feet by a freak indoor tornado frantic middle-aged lady who ambushes me in "despair" (her words) of ever being able to find the right accessories to complement her wedding guest outfit. "No problem, madam - let me show you into my suite and book you an appointment" - score! The words "Personal Shopper" are as a magic balm to her frayed nerves. Coolly, calmly and reassuringly (and metaphorically jumping for joy), I note down her sizes and preferences, ready to make some sneaky shopfloor selects ahead of her Wednesday afternoon appointment.

An earlier start today, and a train to catch to Head Office for an exclusive personal shopper preview of the AW15 campaign going live later on in the month, and the collections set to touch down over the next few weeks (all advance blabbing about of which is, for the time being, officially embargoed and punishable by firing squad - or at least firing, I presume). Super-stylist Mark Heyes (him off Lorraine) acts as Master of Ceremonies, maintaining the speed and energy with which he presents a 3-minute ITV slot for over 5 hours - truly a feat to behold!

Wednesday, 11am
The day of my first appointment has arrived! My little human tornado isn't due in until 2.30pm, but I decide to get an early start on her selects, wheeling my little basket around the shop floor for a good hour and a half whilst scavenging shoe and bag options with which to complete her shift dress/fascinator combo.
Today I'm officially allowed to eat, since I'm working for more than 5 hours - whoop! So the M&S mozzarella and tomato sandwich I manage to scoff during my 30 minute break before hurrying back to make a couple of last minute additions to my rail is suitably savoured.
She's early! And she's only got an hour left on her parking ticket! Can I do it? Of course I can!
50 minutes later, leaving a trail of devastation in her wake (well, OK, just a couple of carefully re-hung jackets), my little tornado has left the building - £84.50 lighter, but a beaded clutch and pair of satin peep-toes heavier. Time to tidy up.
Contemplate doing a "floor walk" to update my mental stock database, but the exhilaration of my first appointment (and 50 minutes spent caught in the eye of a tornado) has drained, leaving me feeling too depleted to face it. Brainwave: I decide to do a virtual floor walk instead (i.e. browse the store's website until home time).

Thursday, 11am
I don't even make it into my suite today. Instead, I'm asked to spend an entire 4 hour shift on the tills - internet refunds, exchanges - it's all happening. But time does pass a little faster here than it does whilst stain-removing.

Friday, 11am
Arrive to find a Personal Shopper appointment already in progress - errmm... but I'm the Personal Shopper? Due to "technical issues", I'm still not able to access my online appointments diary, and no other record of the booking (made before I even started the job!) had been made, so the client turning up - 30 minutes before I was due in - was a complete and utter surprise to all concerned, including the senior sales assistant who ended up covering the appointment. Meanwhile, I'm left with no more productive option than to help out with "recovery" - and, believe me, 3.5 hours of "cubing" (i.e. ensuring the right size marker is on each hanger) is enough to make me want to lie down on the floor and cry. But then...
... I get... (pause for effect) ... a "walk-in". It's another desperate soon-to-be wedding guest (there's a definite theme emerging here) and she needs an entire outfit - fascinator and all - for tomorrow. I'm due to leave in half an hour - it's all a bit Challenge Anneka, but bring it on!
Despite my client's insistence on trying almost every dress in the store for size, she's decided to go with my initial pick - a beautiful vintage-style lace midi-shift. But she's still in dire need of accessorising. With 8 minutes of my shift remaining, I race out to grab a multi-strand pearl choker from the floor below, only to be waylaid by an unassuming young woman - "Excuse me - are you the Personal Shopper?". "Yes, I am, but..." (Seriously, you wait 3.5 hours for a client and then two turn up at once?!). "I know you're with someone at the moment, but I have an appointment booked for half-past two". Ohhhhhh.... dear.

Lessons Learned:
  1. Mark Heyes is (in all likelihood) a machine.
  2. Personal shopping clients are like buses, or, indeed, pretty much anything longed for and/or meticulously planned around.
  3. Although you will wake up in the middle of the night with them playing in your head - in the same order - the same 6 tracks can be listened to on repeat over a period of up to 5 hours a day whilst (relative) sanity is retained.
  4. Whether the same can be said for the effects of "cubing" over a prolonged period of time is as yet uncertain - further data required.

P.S. If you live in the Greater London area and would like to avail yourself of my services on a non-store specific basis (with my personal guarantee of NO double bookings!), take a looksie at my new website, or just drop me a line.

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