May I help you?

Special to the Los Angeles Times

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But the least wonderful part can be shopping. There are jostling crowds, long lines at registers, parking lot hassles. All this might put you in the mood to doubt the motives of even the staunchest of sales clerks. Thus, we offer our Cynic’s Guide to Sales-Speak — what they say and what the weary shopper might fear they mean:

Can I help you with anything? (This fake smile and insincere request to help you was forced on us at this morning’s sales meeting.)

I love your handbag — or, hair, dress, shoes, ring, perfume, coat, scarf. (I have not made a sale today and better butter you up.)

That looks so comfortable on you. (It’s huge.)

That looks so sexy on you. (It’s too tight.)

That’s so glamorous. (It’s over the top.)

How cute! (You look like you’re 5 years old.)

That’s so hot on you. (You look like a stripper.)

That looks so elegant. (The last person that bought this was 80 years old.)

I’m not sure I like this one on you. (I’m going to put this one on hold for myself.)


It’s popular. (Nobody’s been interested in this other than you.)

I have this exact one. (I bought mine with an employee discount.)

Would you like me to call you, if we get one in your size? (Our district manager is watching.)

We don’t work on commission. (But I better make my sales quota.)

No, this item has never been worn. (Except when I wore it on the sales floor all day yestereday.)

You should get it in both colors. (I’m on a roll.)

Sorry, we don’t have what you’re looking for. (My manager is on her lunch break and you’ve just interrupted my conversation with a co-worker.)

Are you buying this for yourself or is it a gift? (Please don’t ask me to gift wrap it.)

You can always exchange it for something else. (We don’t give refunds. You have exactly 14 days to change your mind and swap it for something more expensive and pay the difference, otherwise you’re stuck.)

Our sizes run small. (I’m only saying that to make you feel better.)

Would you like a glass of Champagne? (You should. You’re spending a mortgage payment.)

Sorry, but we’re closed. (There’s 10 minutes left to closing time, but I have a date tonight.)

They have this exact dress in the shop next door for half the price. (It’s my last day here.)

During her student days in London, fashion writer and jewelry designer Sabrina Azadi worked as a store clerk in upscale boutiques, a lingerie store, a menswear shop and at Harrod’s beauty counter, where, she says, “I spent all day spraying fragrance on unsuspecting customers.”