My Irrational Fear of Salespeople

I wouldn’t say I’m shy, I just don’t like talking to people. Well, I mean, I actually love talking to people… just not when I’m shopping.

The poor decision-making skills that negatively affect my packing abilities also influence my sanity amongst aisles of products. Add to that a restless toddler, and I’m pretty much a wreck. The last thing I need is a helpful salesperson standing watch… lurking… ready and waiting to assist me.

But in Guatemala, customer service is awesome. I mean, for crying out loud, someone opens the door for you at McDonald’s. And stores are filled with eager clerks, badgering me with questions like, “Can I help you find anything?”

My response, regardless of how many times this has happened to me, goes as follows:

  • Avoid eye-contact at all costs
  • Pretend to be looking intently at something
  • Try to remember how to say “I’m just browsing” in Spanish
  • Admit that I never learned the verb “to browse” 
  • Mumble something indiscernible, but generally to the effect of “I looking” 
  • Begin sweating a bit
  • Find myself unable to focus on what I wanted to look at to begin with
  • Scurry out of the store, hoping they didn’t see me.  

Chances are… they did.

I’d love to say this has to do with the fact that I don’t speak Spanish, but I respond similarly in English stores… albeit with a little less panicking about verb conjugation. The thing is that in the States, no one ever seems to be jumping to help me. In fact, I usually have to beg someone to ring up my purchases. Then they sigh dramatically and barely acknowledge my presence while scanning items.

While I imagine there is a happy medium that is most preferable, I will admit that I like a little space when I’m shopping.

It’s for this reason that when I recently told my husband in the Guatemala City Wal-Mart, “I’ll meet you in make-up,” he later found me, breathless and flustered, in the aisle next to makeup.

“What’s going on?” he asked me suspiciously.

“Nothing,” I assured him, shooing him out of the aisle.

“Why don’t you have any makeup?” Isn’t that a dangerous question for a husband to ask? I supposed I could have at least skewed it into something offensive and confused him with questions like “If I had to have both of my eyeballs removed, would you still love me?” But I didn’t.

“I couldn’t do it. There were women there… trying to help me.” And I wasn’t joking. There were two paid employees loitering in a makeup aisle as long as a dining room table, clamoring to help me. I hadn’t seen them until I had already rounded the corner and crossed the invisible line to "officially" enter the aisle.

I saw them see me. I bee lined for some mascara, which wasn’t even what I was looking for. One walked towards me, speaking in Spanish. I never broke my gaze with the eye makeup… my vision blurring ever so slightly. I mumbled something incoherent. I looked around… confused… like I wasn’t on the right aisle. Wait… this isn’t where they keep the insoles! And I left as quickly as I came.

“Oh my gosh,” Billy said to me. “Do you want me to talk to them in Spanish?” Guatemalans… always so helpful.

“No, no, no. I do not want help. No. I just like to have my privacy. I just like to have time to look without someone watching and waiting. I just… I just don’t have the energy for that today.”

And Billy looked at me like I was crazy. And I responded by practically pushing him out of the spray tan aisle towards the checkout. 

I decided I'd just get my makeup when I returned to the States. You know… where no one talks to me until I’m walking up to their checkout line and they flip the light off and say, “This lane is closed. I’m going on my break.”

What about you? Do you appreciate assistance when shopping or do you prefer to be left alone?


  1. andres villatoro9:56 PM

    hahaha. ahhhh Guatemala. where everyone it seems is genuinely happy to serve you as a customer. well mostly everyone. your so right tho. even mcdonalds employees are happy and serve you awesome. me and my sister have a theory because my mom somehow always ends up complaining about something at stores and restaurants here in the U.S. and its probably because she got used to such great customer service in Guate growing up. ha. im sure you've experienced this but even getting to the airport to the U.S. is hard. ha. maybe im used to the guatemalan way. i enjoy these

    1. You can definitely get used to some of the kind, welcoming service in Guatemala. That is the truth! When I was at the GUA airport recently, the agent asked if I wanted an emergency exit row seat. I asked if it cost more, and she laughed. Oh no. They only do that in the States! :)

  2. Denise L Hershberger5:52 PM

    I appreciate being greeted. But then I like to have my space to browse. If I look confused then I don't mind if they offer more help but normally I will just ask if I really do need help. I'm like you - I want privacy!

  3. I feel ya! Maybe you and I have shopped together simultaneously but never knew it because we keep to ourselves! :)

  4. Sometimes I'll pretend I don't hear someone asking if I need help. Oh, I also hate talking to *some* people.

  5. Oh yes. I have pulled the "i'm-so-confused-are-you-talking-to-me-oh-I-didn't-hear-you" routine. Nice one! :)


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