I buy soap and shampoo from a particular shop for a particular reason. They sell solid shampoo, which means it doesn’t come in a plastic bottle.
I hover around fifty-fifty on whether it’s preferable to avoid plastic or palm-oil when it comes to soap and shampoo. I don’t know which is worse – buying things with palm oil in them, or buying things in plastic bottles. Each as bad as the other, probably. However, at the moment it is certainly easier to avoid the plastic bottle (soap and shampoo-wise) than to avoid palm oil. Even fair-trade places like Ten Thousand Villages still use palm oil in their soap.
I’m not sure if the particular shop has palm oil or not.
Okay, I just looked it up. Apparently not, so there’s another reason for me to keep going there.
Anyway I was lucky enough to receive a gift voucher for this shop, and was almost out of both soap and shampoo, so today I went.
I headed straight for the shampoo, and picked up the one I always get, because it’s meant to be good for if you swim in chlorinated water a lot. Immediately, a sales assistant appeared. ‘Which is your favourite shampoo?’ Um, this one. The one I’m buying. She fetched me a little paper bag to slide it into and I carried on. Another assistant asked if she could help me. I asked her to cut me a piece of the face soap I use. ‘Have you used this before?’ Yes. A third assistant then approached to ask if there was anything she could help me with and if I’d seen a particular product, the one she was holding. No, I said, because I hadn’t. Then she told me all about what it did. And then, shampoo assistant came back, and, wondered ‘Do you know that buying two shampoos would mean you get a free tin?’
I’d been in the store about a minute and been asked six questions already.
At that point the second assistant came back with my soap and asked if I knew about their promotion. I could get the same amount of soap again – of any soap – free! So I set off to look at all the soaps and choose one. Then, the first assistant came up again. ‘How long have you been a (our product) lover?’ I blinked. Caught off-guard, I actually started explaining how when I first moved here I’d fly home to England through Toronto airport and there was a shop there, and then when I came back I…
Then I stopped. You know, I finished vaguely. She nodded receptively, but I managed to hold my tongue and turned back to the soap.
‘Have you chosen your second soap yet??’ I jumped. Second assistant was back. No, I’m still looking. She slipped away again. Each time I reached for a soap, I could feel her inching back towards me. I backed off and took a turn around the shop to steady my nerves. And, in honesty, to see if I could do it without getting questioned.
With a deft two-step I made it back to the soaps and grabbed one of approximately equal size to the one I already had. I stepped smartly to the cash desk to pay, congratulating myself on avoiding having to parry a single enquiry.
‘Have you seen our (these products on the counter)?’ This time, I went for yes, because they were technically in front of my eyes and I had, in fact, seen them. ‘Would you like one?’ Not today. ‘Have you received our newsletter??’ No, I said, again truthfully, and watched as one was put in my bag while I paid. ‘Have you signed up for our email newsletter???’ Just for a moment I almost told the truth, but caught myself in the nick of time. I straightened my shoulders, got a grip and, Oh, yes, I said sunnily, signing the slip with a flourish and picking up my bag, escape now firmly in my sight.
One soap was left on the counter. The sales assistant picked it up to put in my bag. ‘Ah, you chose that one?’ she said encouragingly, and unable to stop myself, I said, I once got a lip salve thing in the same…flavour, and I liked it. ‘Oh!’ she exclaimed, ‘we don’t have the lip balms in that line in our stores any more. You must shop online. How long have you been visiting our online store?!’
I eyed her for a long moment.
I haven’t, I said. But I begin to think I might start.