Of my pride and her prejudice.

I would not consider myself to be arrogant or unjustifiably vain.

I try to be non- judgmental of people based on their color, caste, creed, nationality etc. I try.

I really do.

I also try to avoid stereotypes.I hate stereotypes, but I guess everything becomes a “stereotype” for a reason.

It is no secret here that the locals and expats live in two alternate universes. I do not envy or bemoan their privileges. It is their country after all. We are but guests. Temporary residents.

What irks me though is the attitude shown by some sales assistants, guards and the like. How their demeanour transforms based on the presumed nationality of the customer. I am well aware that it is brought on mostly due to the higher purchasing power of the locals’ and the possibility of increased tipping. But I’m also sure they are missing out on other potential customers, in their relentless pursuit of impressing/ serving the “possible/ probable- local” (and in some cases the “Western Expat”).

Part 1

This rant of mine has its origins in an incident that occurred last evening. We were at a mall, and I somehow (I swear I don’t know how ;-)) ended up at the MAC store. I was there to randomly look at stuff and maybe buy something if I really fancied it.

I ended up fancying a couple of lipsticks…

There were two sales- attendants at the store then. They were both free since there was no other customer at the store. Neither of them bothered or cared enough to come over, or offer any help or assistance. Of course, they would not have reacted the same way if a local had entered the store (we’l soon come to that).

I wasn’t too perturbed though. I like to be left alone while shopping. There’s nothing more irritating than a sales- person following you when aren’t even sure you are going to buy something.

Aah wait, I guess there is something worse than that. A salesperson following you everywhere and talking to you.

Please my friend, if I need assistance, I will ask for it.

Funnily whenever I actually need help, they are never in sight!

Back to our MAC store now….

I chose a couple of shades. I called out to one of the attendants and told her the names. All she had to do was pick out the boxed lipsticks from a drawer. She did so. We went to billing counter and I paid for my purchase. As I was leaving, I saw a new product and wanted to try it. I did.

It was a foundation. And women reading this would know, how tricky foundations can be. Shades are always difficult to match. Then you have to make sure the formula matches your skin- type. It should also last the day. It should not melt- off your face in the sweltering heat….

In short, buying a foundation is dodgy business. And at 250 QAR a tiny bottle, I did not want it to be a random buy. I asked the nice, overly made-up sales lady if I could have a sample to test-out.

Everywhere in the world, cosmetic companies are encouraged to give out samples to potential customers. I was definitely a “potential” customer. I had just billed an amount more than the cost of the foundation. I was also courteous and polite to the sales attendant.  So, I did not give it another thought when the lady told me that she did not have the “sample-pots”.

I have made the same request at several MAC stores in several cities. And have never been declined.

As I walked out of the store, a  niqab wearing, heavily fragrant lady clunked into the store with her Prada Saffiano tote- possible LOCAL ALERT! The sales lady who showed no interest when I had entered and barely acknowledged my existence thereafter, rushed toward the new entrant to greet her. The other sitting at a high stool near the billing counter, nearly stumbled out of her chair in her haste to reach the customer.

I let out a low chuckle and moved on.

I thought of what Oprah went through at a luxury Swiss store a couple of years ago. And if Oprah can feel that way, I am but a nobody!

Part 2

We went up to the food court and ordered some really unhealthy fast food. I whipped out my shopping bags to kill time whilst our food arrived. I wanted to admire my new possessions. I picked out one of the lipsticks, and was puzzled. It was not what I had asked for! And silly me did not bother to check at the counter. But, I also really didn’t think there was any need to. I mean how hard is it to read and get a couple of boxes out, that too when you are the only customer at the store!

I ditched my food and headed back to the MAC store. Both the Ms. Uninteresteds were in conversation with Ms Fragrant Prada. I patiently waited for one of them to extricate herself from what seemed to be a incoherent discussion (Ms Fragrant Prada spoke heavily accented English) and come to me. I politely asked her to exchange my lipstick. She then went on to perform a series of actions that almost drove me to the edge…The edge of just throwing the bag there and leaving.

Action no. 1- She offered no apologies (was I expecting too much?)

Action no. 2- Inaction. She collects the box I hand to her, and goes back to Uninterested no.2 and Ms. Fragrant Prada

Action no. 3- Takes forever to find the lipstick. Texts relentlessly as she whipped open each drawer.

Action no. 4- Billing would have taken less than a minute- if only she chose to not answer her phone.

Action no. 5- Hurriedly hands me the bag and goes back to ….you know where! (Apparently, the new customer needed two attendants!)

Action no. 6- Hands out a foundation sample to Ms. Fragrant Prada, in a SAMPLE POT!

I usually am not flustered by such acts of prejudice. It is commonplace here. I am least bothered if the trolley- guys do not come out to help at Doha Airport (if only they knew I’m a handsome tipper!), while they seem to trip over themselves to reach the nearest Landcruiser or thobe or when I have to wait longer to be be attended to at high- end stores. The days, I wear my clunky heels and heavy make-up and floaty abaya; I too am tended to with care! So, I usually do not take such things to heart. But last night, I was livid.

This prejudice is rife here in the Gulf. And it has slowly started to gnaw at me. I guess it is because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

Or maybe I don’t have to. The universe will. As I walked out of the store the second time that evening, Ms. Fragrant Prada also clickety-clacked out. She had tried on at least a few dozen lipsticks and glosses, going by the number of wipes she threw into the bin. And then, she didn’t like any I assume since she left without buying anything. Not one. Nada.

I am not vengeful by nature, and yet I could not help but think ‘serves you right my prejudiced, uninterested friend’.

Isn’t pride a small but integral part of self- respect? And wouldn’t any self- respecting human being want to be treated fairly?

Alas life, like people is never fair!

Till the next rant…

Dr J.

10 Comments

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  1. pls keep ranting. keeps one sane at times without wondering whether u have started speaking to urself after being through the “multi-cultural” experience..

  2. I hear ya!!! I have had lots of similar experiences in shops… The snobbiness of shop assistants sometimes astounds me, especially they need to remember we are the reason they have jobs!!!’n

  3. can totally relate.. experienced a hundred times!

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