What’s Happened to Getting Service in Shops these Days?



Greenbelt shopping centre

Well I’m here in Manila, Philippines, and have been looked after very well so far.  Last night as I was being driven from the airport to the hotel I asked the driver what the population of Manila is, he said 19 000 000 which is only a few million short of the entire population of  Australia.  


 I’m staying at the New World Hotel in Makati, right opposite the Greenbelt shopping centre, which is huge.  At every door there is a security guard, here is a pic of the one outside the Prada store.


 Not only are there the big luxury brands here, but you can shop for all the brands from the US, from Tory Burch to Banana Republic, from Spain Promod and Mango, from the UK Marks and Spencer, Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins and of course local stores too.

There are people to help you everywhere.  They really know how to give good service, this is something that has recently become very lacking in Australian department stores (Myer and David Jones) where often you’d be lucky to find someone on a counter to take your money.  One store I walked into in The Landmark centre had more staff dusting the shelves and products than would probably be even employed for every shift if they all turned up at once in Myer. 

It made me wonder why we have become so lacking in service in our department stores (this is not usually a problem in the specialty stores).   Is it about cost? More staff, more cost – yes, but also, I would be interested in knowing how much income is lost because there aren’t any staff to serve you, so customers leave without buying.  I’m  sure that the extra salespeople cost could easily be covered by the extra sales and loyalty that would come from having good service.  What do you think?

I’m off to enjoy some great Philippine service!


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  • I noticed the same thing after our recent trip to the US. Even where tips are not relevant (like in Sears or Dillards) they behave as though they actually care about the customers in their store.

    What I observed was a generosity in the small things (like service, a bottomless cup of fizzy drink in a restaurant, water on your table) that Aussies lack, in general.

  • That's my biggest complaint with our local suburban Myer — and sometimes I have given up and walked out. The shoe section is particularly bad

  • The things Tracy mentioned drive me crazy about living in Australia. I hate the stores- piles of stuff everywhere, such a mess, no thought for presentation! From the retail perspective, an employer can not even a little bit afford to pay people to keep the store nice. Customer loyalty and making a few more sales won't change that.

    When I was 16, I worked at the Gap. I started out sorting the jeans wall, got paid $5.50 (min wage). I'm pretty sure wages like that are illegal here. And in places like the US (probably Manila), it's pretty easy to lose your job if you work in a shop. Not like here where you basically have to set the place on fire to get sacked.

    I learned to lump all the annoying lack of niceties under "Australian Egalitarianism" and when I look at it that way it doesn't irritate me so much. (waiter! Where's my compliementary bread and olive oil?! Where's my waiter?)

  • $5.50/hour… Sorry… Sorting the jeans wall means you separate them by color, size, and cut and spend all day long re-folding and keeping them decent.

  • The whole retail shopping experience here in Aus just makes my skin crawl ….. when you recently wrote about doing a Westfield Shopping thing, my thoughts were …"I couldn't think of anything worse!". That's why I mainly shop online, and sew my own clothes (mostly) and even purchase fabric online – Spotlight and Service???? Most shop assistants make you feel like you're disturbing their time by taking your money.

  • In North America major retailers use a software program to schedule staff- a productivity measure. This means in times of low traffic, fewer staff.
    Add to that poor hiring practices, low pay, little career opportunity and you get abysmal service. Not all stores are like that, though.

  • The Philippines is still a third world country, no matter how fancy the shops in Manila are. People work for a pittance and are desperate to keep their jobs – thus the better service. While I dislike the attitude of salespeople in our big department stores (Myer especially), I'm not sure I want to think I'm getting good service through exploitation.

  • I live in the US, and have noticed a huge difference in service between cities. When I lived in Boston the service was mostly garbage because they had a lot of college kids working for spare cash and they weren't really invested in doing a good job or building clientele. I moved to Philadelphia which is a less prosperous city and the people holding retail jobs are adults for whom this is a career. Many of the take pride in their reputation as salespeople and actually offer you quality service. Because of that I felt like a regular almost immediately in some of my favorite shops and kept going back until I was a regular.

  • This is typical in much of Asia and Oceania. Service is an art and something to be stressed and sought after. It seems to be something so unheard of to us, and it is disarming and very charming when experienced!

  • I think it's a combination of things (I'm in the US) –
    1. stores want to keep the cost down, so they have the fewest possible people working
    2. location – it seems the bigger the city and the farther toward each coast, the worse the service.
    3. Age of the employees somewhat. The young people that have entered the workforce in the last 10 years or so most likely only know the self-service model of retail sales.

    Here in the midwest, big-box chain stores are the worst for being messy, but for assistance by a person the worst is the clothing stores in malls, staffed by high school & college girls.

  • I was in Autograph the other day, looking at pants. The staffer there busied herself with everything but being interested in helping me buy anything (and no, she wasn’t run off her feet, my mum and I were the only ones in the store!!). Forgetting the fact the lighting in this store was horrendous (it was so dark it was like only half the lights had been turned on to save power!), I looked around and left. I might have spend some money in there that day, I was after all looking for a pair of pants, but I didn’t. She did say something to my mum, but my mum isn’t plus sized!!!!

    Conversely, next door at Katies the staffer bent over backwards looking at stuff for me I almost spent nearly $100, I changed my mind when I got to the checkout and bought a pair of jeans for $50, but did get a $5 voucher, so I might very well go back to my local store and buy the pants I almost bought that day.

    To be honest, the comparisons between local and US service are not valid. They get paid low wages and commission/tips, if they’re lucky, and still live below the poverty line, we have decent wages, conditions, and if you save hard enough, one day you might own your own home. I am still amazed at how incredibly expensive stuff from the US is when I window shop online, lower wages, lower standards of living, greater economies of scale and you want $150US for what is a chain store 100% polyester suit? “Imported” no less, LOL at that, made in wherever the US equivalent of “Made in China” is.

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