This time of the year, the malls break out into sales. And, lot of people (read : women) throng these places of worship like hordes of devotees clambering and jostling to get ahead. I am with them. No, not like ‘with them’ in a missionary, esoteric sense, but I am actually with them, at 11:00 am regularly at one mall or the other.

It is a stressful experience to shop at a sale. One needs to appear casual and disinterested and yet dive for the pile that has a ’50 – 70% off’ placard stuck in it, trampling over other women and few salesmen. The items, usually clothes, are piled in heaps and women revel in diving into them. Sometimes the heaps are so huge that you need scuba gear.

And, you often retrieve the dead remains of a salesman who could never make it back to the surface alive. For that act of bravery, he gets the ‘Salesman of the Week’ certificate and a cute badge, posthumously. It is collected by his wife, at a ceremony which is conducted after she is done with her shopping.

Coming back to my SALE SHOPPING SUCCESS TECHNIQUES, the steps are as follows:

1. Dive at the portion of the pile closest to you and rummage through it.

2. Use your other hand to reach out as far as you can to poke into the pile being explored by your neighbouring woman.

3. Appear casual and disgusted as you toss things into your basket.

4. Toss anything that has 70% written on it. Go to a secluded corner and sift at leisure.

Today, I was at the Forum Mall. At the Westside Sale. It was an annoying experience. Nothing seemed to work, no one seemed to know anything. It seemed that all they did as part of planning that sale was getting those red ‘SALE’ placards printed.

I went from one counter to another getting my issues sorted out lugging my loot. It was so tiring.

I suspect Westside does have an employee training program. And, like all good Tata companies, it must be a complete 12-module program covering all aspects related to core skills, product and sales skills and so on.

But, my guess is that the program was shelved after the 1st module was offered due to budget constraints. And, if I take an intelligent guess, the first module was, ‘Smile at the Customer at All Times’.

So, here I am asking the salesman how much discount I get on a pair of shorts picked from the discount section. He smiles and says, ‘No discount, ma’am’. I point to the section and say I picked it from there. He smiles more and nods. It gives me a false hope that he has just spotted a huge discount tag. But, his reply remains the same as he smiles some more.

I go to the Billing section where some smiling men work at the pace of cold porridge being doled out. They bill each item separately, and smile as they furnish me those bills. I ask why so many bills – they smile and tell me the BILLING SYSTEM IS LIKE THAT, MA’AM, with that ‘don’t-you-understand-this-important-technical-feature, you idiot’ look embellished with a smile.

I then go to the Customer Service section for some clothes alteration work. He smiles and tells me that it can’t be done. I argue. He gets a smiling senior manager to explain why. I yell. There is a short conference and they smile and say they can do it. So, I decide to hang around and return in an hour.

On returning, I see the counter manned by a squint, smiling salesman. He smiles at me or my neighbour and hands the packet to the space between us. We both grab it. He smiles and says ‘Yours is not yet ready, ma’am’ , leaving us guessing to whom it was addressed.

Phew! If any of you have any non-smiling and sensible contacts in Westside, please give them some feedback. As for now, I need to get some rest – I have to hit Garuda Mall tomorrow at 11:00 am.