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13 Oct

- 2020 -

Afro Hair Shop Experience

The glaring, the staring, the foreign language aimed at your direction and the ‘innocent’ asking if you’re okay.

I dread the journey of going to them every single time – to the point where I have to mentally prepare myself. For people who aren’t black and/or female, this may be news to you.

Let me tell you about my most recent experience from said shop, which I must add, is always the same (I won’t name and shame, but they are the biggest chain in London..). When I entered, I picked up my green trolley (hint hint) and wiped my feet on the mat. Call me hopelessly optimistic but despite past encounters; I always make eye contact with the cashier to see if he will acknowledge me. I do it in every shop I go too, plus I think it’s a friendly respectable approach to take.

The cashier met my friendly eye contact by looking at me up and down almost examining whether I fit in his category of potential shop thief. After the unpleasant experience of being judged, he decides I’m not worth welcoming and continues cracking joke in his language with the ginormous man at the door (who is obviously there to look intimidating). At least I tried! Luckily, I knew where my products were and went straight to the shelf – which just happened to be at the back of the shop.

While I’m looking for my products, another member of staff walks past me carrying a heavy box and on his way to the back room. He shouts back to someone in his language. In less than 3 seconds, another staff member appears out of nowhere and walks up to me, asking if I’m okay (they must practice this daily the way they were in sync). Even though I smile, nod, and reply “I’m fine, thanks”…he proceeds to just stands there. I don’t know if it’s London culture, but I’m very aware when someone is in my personal space and he was gate-crashing.

Annoyingly, they didn’t have what I was looking for (Crème of Nature Argan Oil Shampoo, in case you were wondering) so I asked Mr Intruder if they had any round the back. He obviously didn’t have a clue what product I was talking about, so he ignored my question, examined the shelf for a while and then asked again what it was I wanted (face palm). When he accepted that both our eyes weren’t fooling us, he declared they didn’t have it in stock and it’d be coming in tomorrow. Here’s me thinking this trip would be different.

How could it be coming in tomorrow when he didn’t even know what it was!? Smh.

I then went off to look for something else (Jojoba Oil) and my new found stalker came to pay me another visit. Unfortunately for me this item wasn’t on the shelf either. I took another bold chance to ask the space invader if there was any at the back. To my surprise, he decided to ask someone else. Was this progress? Was my initial unrealistic optimism coming to fruition? NO! This new guy looked on the shelf, then declared: “Oh, yes that oil…it’s not safe to sell”. Sigh. He then suggested I should buy Peppermint Oil as an alternative. Yes, Peppermint Oil. Why have staff who don’t have a clue about their products?

Thankfully, they had the Black Castor Oil I was looking for, so I grabbed before I could be interrogated further and headed to the ‘friendly cashier’. I had to signal for Mr Cashier Comedian’s attention because he was still cracking joke with his tall buddy. To add to my frustration, I just knew that I knew that they started talking about me. It was only when I looked back at the tall guy; that they stopped laughing and sniggered like two school boys.

Enough was enough, I had to leave with some parting verbal shots.

I’m not expecting a red carpet with a cup of tea, but the non-existent customer service, lying, and glaring takes some mental preparation. I get the glaring – they must experience shop lifting. However, the sad truth is, I’m sure a lot of shops do. I’m also convinced they could find ways to patrol without making me feel like I came there with the sole purpose of featuring on Crimewatch. I wouldn’t normally stand for this treatment, but what am I to do when they are the only place that sell the products I want?

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