Who rules the fitting room?

After a recent clothes shopping experience here in Malaysia, I was led to wonder what the unspoken expectations are for us shoppers when utilising the fitting room in a store.

While researching this blog post, I’ve read some interesting opinions and ideas about what people believe should be required of us customers when trying on clothes in their shops.  I’ve read rants from retail sales people, entertaining etiquette lists on random blogs, and even a reference to Ann Landers’ answer to a dressing room etiquette question (which, by the way, she answered with severely conflicting information to that given by a ranting sales person. Seems Ann Landers doesn’t know everything after all! But more on that later).

It’s all left me wondering, who really rules the fitting room?

While I completely understand that the people working in retail stores don’t probably have the most fabulous job in the world, they are getting paid to provide services for us that should increase exponentially with the price of the clothes for which we are shopping – i.e., I don’t expect much help nor do I expect to be bathed in deep sales love at Old Navy, but if I was the type who shopped at Chanel, you can bet your cabootie I’d be anticipating some personal worshipping!

Chanel dressing room


I understand that it must be exasperating when people try on 50 garments and then leave them in a pile on the floor for the retail slave to clean up (interestingly, my research tells me that adult women are worse for this than their teenage counterparts!). That’s terrible etiquette and shows a complete lack of respect for anyone who has to pick up after them (Moms the world over yell at kids for this very reason!).

Another common infraction by customers in the dressing room is by those who hand back quantities of clothing that are either in a pile without the hangers; are inside out; or those who actually place items back on the hangers, but in complete disarray thereby negating the purpose of doing any re-hanging.  Again, I get that this is a complaint.  Aside from the fact that If I purchase a clothing item, I would like to think it had been treated nicely before I paid for it, the poor girl has enough folding and re-buttoning to do ad-nauseum that I can see why my inside-out pajamas might just make her want to wail with weariness.

I’m reasonably thoughtful and I put things back on the hangers when they have been provided for me (unless it’s one of those freakish bra hangers. Then I’m not responsible for my neglect in re-hanging. Those things are just silly.). And when I bring things out to the fitting room attendant, I provide the corresponding number for the number of clothes I tried on.  Hear the hallelujah chorus from the sales chicks for that one!

Where I fall down occasionally – and in good company with Ann Landers apparently – is that I sometimes don’t bring the clothes out of the fitting room with me when I leave. Gasp!  Shock and horror, I know!  But I’ve only just discovered that this is a retail sin.  In my defence, I will only leave the offending clothes behind if there isn’t an obvious fitting room attendant at work, but I would hereby like to apologise to any sales people who I have offended by violating this code.

But what I never do – and this is unapologetically – is to return my clothes to the racks in the shop after I’ve tried them on. Well as hideous as this may be of me, I would never remember where the items went and would just cause more work for the staff who would have to chase around putting them in the correct places after I made a disaster of it all. And I could never fold a sweater up the way the staff could – I’m not trained!  Besides, in my mind, this task definitely falls within the sales person’s job description.

We’ve all been into shops where the staff are growly, disinterested or disgruntled and treat us with as much disrespect as they claim we the shoppers show them regularly.  Likely they are pissy because someone has left thirty inside-out clothing items on the floor and their empty starbucks cup in the fitting room for them to clean up while strolling out without acknowledging their existence (reference retail gal Way Too Much Aubrey’s funny testimonial about the ‘Rich Chick’). But – and this is where I should maybe explain that I had to fight being growly for many years when I was waitressing (some years being more successful than others) – this is part of their job!  I want them to be cheerful and helpful and, yes, grateful when I bring things out of the fitting room on the proper hangers. I need them to get me different sizes because I won’t remember where the item was located and I certainly never know what freaking size I wear (yes, I can feel you sales people rolling your eyes at me, but unless the world goes universal with sizing you are going to have to cope with my kind!).

We also expect the shop in which we are spending our hard-earned money to maintain a certain level of cleanliness and care in the fitting rooms in which hundreds of women are peeling down to their skivvies, don’t we?  Nothing is worse than taking off clean clothes and trying to find a place to put them in a dressing room in which cleaning, dusting or washing have obviously not been made a priority. Or taking off shoes and having to walk around on a grimy floor.  Ew.  This says to me that the company doesn’t care enough about my business to make an intimate room, which is intrinsic to its sales, clean and comfortable for the people who are key to those sales.

And so yes, there are some unspoken expectations on the part of the consumer to treat staff respectfully and in return we consumers expect the same consideration, of course.  But one party shouldn’t have a stranglehold over the other. A kind hello and a thank you are equally welcome from both parties and will go a long way to maintaining a fruitful symbiotic relationship between the sales team and the spenders-of-money.  We need each other to keep this retail bliss going, afterall!

Who do you think rules the fitting room?  Do you have a story of a customer or a sales person who took over rule?  Tell me about it in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Who rules the fitting room?

  1. This is a fantastic piece, thank you for the shout-out! It’s true, there are days I simply cannot force a smile for the masses after a certain few have treated me badly. This is a good reminder that kindness breeds kindness!

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