Shopper Stalking

I’ve never shopped in Sao Paulo for clothing before today. Luckily, between the move and my last trip to the U.S., I’ve been able to maintain supplies. But we are going to Rio for the holidays so I thought I might pick up some Rio-type casual dresses to hang out in. That did not happen.

First, I’ll fashion a dress out of bedsheets before I pay what some of these jokers are asking for basic, only semi-attractive clothing. Ridiculous. Duties and taxes or retailers taking advantage of the market? No thanks.

Second, my shopping experience was so strange. The salespeople literally follow you around the store. I’ve of course been approached by salespeople in the U.S. But this felt different. In a store called Richards, the shop girl actually followed me as I made my way on all three level, keeping just a few steps behind without saying a word but I caught a big goofy smile on her face out of the corner of my eye. Once, I turned around and she suddenly pretended she was busy sorting through hangers on a rack.

What gives?

I was so uncomfortable I just gave up. I’ll just have to sport my old digs (which of course don’t fit so well because of the weight gain). So if you happen to see me in Rio looking like I found the clothes I’m wearing in a bin on the street, just know… I tried.

This entry was posted in Daily Escapades, Expatriate Info & Advice, Foreigner Insights, Living in Sao Paulo and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Shopper Stalking

  1. I’m pretty sure they all work on commission only. My friend here had a statement she used to get left alone….I need to aske her what it was- something like “You can let me be free” but in Portuguese of course. “So olhando” does not keep them from following me. I really don’t like being followed around, but Carlos really knows how to work it and is very comfortable with it.

    Sometimes Carlos even asks workers in the grocery store to get the french bread, that is clearly ‘help yourself’ with bags and tongs available. What’s even weirder is that the bakery workers happily do it, even asking him which piece he wants.

    • Bizzare. I guess I could take advantage of the service, I feel bad having them help me, especially if they are on commission only, because I’m just trying to find the sale rack to dig through and probably won’t buy anything.

  2. Alex says:

    LOL the “big goofy smile” made me make a big goofy smile too. Interesting way to sell clothes!!

    Have fun in Rio!!!


  3. Brasilicana says:

    Jennifer’s right – it’s because of the commissions. It can be great if you want help – sometimes they’ll act like your own personal shopper, or if you’re looking for something very specific – but I’m like you and generally prefer to be left alone.

    Some of them will even give you a ticket thingy with their name on it that you take to the checkout, so that when they ring up your purchase, they register that you were helped (or stalked :-p) by so-and-so.

  4. nina says:

    I was in a Baby store in Campinas, most of the women in the front of the store would hound you. By the time you made your way to the back in the nice sized store, there was one seller sitting at the cashiers. She would smile at you and ask if your finished. Then tell you she’ll handle the rest. Wow. Her co-workers must hate her.

    But you get hounded and hounded. When you really need someone, good luck. Why does it work that way?

  5. Ray says:

    Dear B.A.B,

    This one is totally cultural…
    Don’t take this habit the wrong way. I do understand where you are coming from, I have also gotten used to the way it is in the US. We need to keep in mind the cultural differences. Americans are very “independent” and “individualistic”. Brazilians on the other hand have a more collective mind set, we like to do things in a pack, yes, like dogs, and I am saying that in the most loving way, we enjoy the “group” thing. These girls in the stores are supposed to be following you the entire time or they might get in trouble. They are supposed to stay nearby even if you are just browsing, just in case you find that piece in Brown but might wonder if they have it Black as well. The girl will be right there to run and fetch you the Black version of the Brown piece you liked.
    Brazilians are used to this and don’t get bothered at all. You can ask her for her name and have her relax by saying you will call her if you find something you want and need help, she will most likely stop following you then.
    I also lost the habit and get bothered by this now, after living in the US for 15 years, oh, do I have some adapting to do? 🙂


    • Hi Ray! Thanks again for the explanation. Makes sense, my mother-in-law will have everyone in the shop working for her even though I know she’s only got about R$10 in her purse. Also, I’ll turn around and she’ll have a glass of water or champagne in her hand. There’s must be a socializing aspect to it as well, by the time we leave she knows everyone’s name and where they are from, and oh yeah, her cousin went to high school with that guy’s father… I’ve seen this happen with other Brazilians too. Maybe I just need to learn the art of Brazilian shopping. You are right, we Americans are accustomed to being individuals. Even though I lived in NYC, I did most of my shopping online!
      Now what’s your take on that statue in Parque do Povo that we’ve all been wondering about??

    • Well said, Ray! I knew it was cultural, b/c my husband is so natural with them. He’s also gotten drinks/food while helping me shop for clothes. Then he got a big discount for cash on our R$700 purchase…hilarious.

  6. Danielle says:

    Yeah, these girls usually have good intentions (plus hope that you’ll buy something and a lot of boredom). I felt overwhelmed the first couple of times I went shopping, too (not to mention the sticker shock). But now I just say “te procuro se preciso de uma coisa”. I don’t know how correct that is, but it works.

    Also, I usually buy clothes at bigger stores like Renner or C&A because they’re cheaper than the mall boutiques. Another option is braving the downtown clothing stories with their buckets of cheap dresses and tank tops. It’s more of a treasure hunt but if you can find something you like, it’ll be cheap!

    Good luck.

  7. Ray says:

    Dear B.A.B,

    I am sorry I missed that post, I don’t know how I did it.
    I looked at that statue and it doesn’t mean anything, from a Brazilian perspective. Maybe a respected local artist/sculptor, not really sure. I thought it was a weird looking statue as well.
    Regarding the fact that it had an exposed penis, on a statue in a public family park, that is not a big deal at all at a Brazilian family park. Americans have a completely different relation with nudity. And I could bet my right arm that this is an inheritance from the days of the Boston Puritans and the Mayflower.
    I have to say we are still trying to get used to that aspect of the American culture and we are still shocked when we realize how silly people behave sometimes when facing natural nudity…


  8. Ray says:

    We have seen beautiful Greek and Roman statues being exposed in American museums that people “cover” their breasts or penis with pieces of cloth!!! That is beyond bizarre from a Brazilian (and European) perspective, these statues are not suposed to be “pornographic”, they are just art.

  9. Anna says:

    you can tell me “estou dando uma olhando, se precisar de algo te aviso” or something like that.
    I dont know which whats your style but some stores I enjoy: le lis blanc , mixed , siberian

  10. I finally tracked down what my friend here said to scatter everyone away from us: “Pode deixar, estou apenas dando uma olhadinha.” whichi translates as “Do not worry, I’m just taking a peek.” Marilha says it’s a polite way of saying “leave me alone!”

  11. Pingback: Brazilian Challenge Day 48: Yoga and Brazilian Clothes | born again brazilian

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