Rome, not only famous for all the old stuff, is also very well-known for its shopping scene. I spoke to Juliana, saleswoman in a popular store on one of the main shopping streets, Via del Corso.
Where are you from? Bogota, Colombia.
For how long have you lived in Rome? One and a half years.
Which was the last restaurant in which you ate? McDonald’s. (Yea, she said it.)
Which was the last pub/club you went to? La Saponeria, in the Ostiense area.
Where do you work? A store on Via del Corso.
How long have you worked there? One year.
What does the average work day look like for you? I get to the store around 9 AM, clean up, smoke a pre-opening cigarette, then open the store at 9:30 AM. Around 9:45 AM, the first tourists (tourists, not clients, she verified) arrive, asking directions for the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, or maybe even Piazza del Popolo. That goes on until 10:30 AM, when some shoppers begin to arrive. On occasion we get the Italian who comes in before work (in the area, or form a different store), looking to buy something quickly. Until noon, things are pretty calm, but around noon, things go crazy, the store becomes a Zara: everything you folded is no longer folded, the store is full of clients, who buy merchandise. This lasts till around 2 PM, when I start to refold everything and put everything back in its place. Around 5 PM, our Italian clients come in. These are the one that ‘rompono le palle’ (break your balls), asking many questions. Too many. From 5-7 PM we are in a dynamic, between Italians and tourists. From 7-8 PM, is always a special hour: meaning either the store is mobbed, or it’s empty. At 8 PM we close the cash register, we fix up the last things, and then HOME! Unless us salespeople want to go get a drink and complain about our day that is…
Would you ever advise someone to buy something that isn’t for them? No never! I would even send them to another store if I knew they had something for the client that my store does not. That is how you get customers to return.
On average, how many customers come in on a daily basis? Around 800.
Has anyone ever asked you any odd questions? Once someone asked me where Via del Corso was…
I’m sure we are all wondering this, but is there a secret bathroom hidden in stores, for staff use only? Yes there is a bathroom, but it’s in the warehouse behind the store, so customers can never use it, it’s a legal problem.
Finish this sentence: The bigger the shopping bag on the entering customer…‘ The more I’ll make her spend in my store- she’s gonna give me all her money!
Between yourself and the other saleswomen, how many languages do you speak? No more than four-five-ish : English, Spanish, Italian- for sure, and some French and German. And of course we can say ‘thank you’ in Russian.
Have you ever not been able to help a customer due to language differences? Yes. Actually I sort of invented a ‘language’ for the customer that doesn’t speak any of the ones we speak in the store. I’d say it’s a mix of random syllables, ‘pippobado,’ adding different faces and expressions. I use ‘pippobado’ because it sounds Italian, and it’s better than just grunting or a thumbs up. The clients seem to like it.
What nationalities do you get most in the store? Russians and Americans.
Do you get first pick of merchandise when it comes in? Yes.
Have you ever caught anyone stealing merchandise? Yes. Someone stole a perfume, another client saw it happened and told me about it. I went to the thief and asked him for the perfume but he denied having it. Then once I saw a coat of ours leaving the store. I did not see a person leaving, just the coat, and as per store policy, I could not go after it.
Do you think that salespeople are treated well in Rome? Well it depends, there are some salespeople that do it as a career, and some that treat it as just a job. For those that it’s just a job, like for me, it pays well, but the life is hard- long hours, little vacation… For the salespeople that want a career in retail, they endure the hard work in order to arrive to the position within the company that they want- manager, consultant.
The world of the salesperson in Rome is like a mafia. If you make connections in a lot of stores, you will always be able to find work. On the other hand, if you get a bad rep, or piss someone off, you will never find a job.
Do you have any advise for anyone that goes shopping on Via del Corso? Do NOT trust the salesperson- make friends with him or her. When you become friends with a salesperson she will show you where to go shopping, where not to go, the newest items, the incoming trends, even where to eat… But always be wary, because at the end of the day, they want to make you buy more! And, have fun, it’s shopping!
Sooooo who wants to go shopping now?!