Monday, March 5, 2012

Do all these people really work here?

One thing I know for sure is that way too many people work at Home Plus. What I can't figure out is why. Just browsing around the electronics section, you'll get two or three people buzzing around, invading personal space, and speaking in rapid Korean. Even if I was attempting to understand them, I would never be able to.

After living in Korea for seven months, I find myself looking, while simultaneously pretending not to look, as I walk slowly past so no one will come up to me. I only do this if I'm not intent on actually buying something. I see it as a way of saving everyone's time. It's a kindness, really.

For those of you that don't know, Home Plus is a massive big box store that sells everything from groceries to running shoes to books. It's convenient to have everything in one place but it's not like your typical big box store. There isn't just one set of registers where you can buy everything. There are larger areas and smaller booth-like areas. The "booths" are each manned with anywhere from one to four employees. In the large more normal-to-me areas, there are people standing in the aisles waiting to help you. This makes for a lot of unnecessary employees milling about with nothing to do, which I find extremely overwhelming. If you go in on a weekday afternoon, you can actually expect to see more employees than customers.

When we first moved here, I thought, "What are all these people doing just standing around? What are they doing?" Then I walked into a "booth" area to look at something and one shot up to me, standing right at my elbow, smiling and talking in Korean. "Ahhh, I understand. They work here!"  I tried to convey what I wanted with a series of gestures and smiles. After about 20 minutes of "talking" to multiple employees, I finally bought the face powder I needed.

I am successful at this type of communication only about half the time. When I can get my point across, I feel very happy and proud of my interpersonal skills that can somehow transcend language barriers. Go me! When I'm unsuccessful, I usually end up trying to explain myself to more and more employees who congregate to try and help me. They are so thoughtful and try so hard. I know it's my fault we can't communicate because I'm in their country and can't speak their language. I always smile, bow and say thank you in Korean (one of my few words) even if I walk away from the exchange empty handed. I then avoid eye contact with every employee I see, which is almost everyone in the whole store.

I understand that people need to be there to help customers but why are there two ladies standing in the shampoo aisle? Do people really need help picking out the right shampoo and conditioner? Maybe they're there to put things in your cart for you. I still don't know.


1 comment:

  1. hahahah YES YES and yes!! Going to HomePlus around Chuseok or Seollal time is the worst. There are so many people trying to get you to buy spam gift sets, shampoo gift sets, seaweed gift sets, etc. Crazy, but hilarious too! :D I usually just wave my hand down low and say, "Kan-chun-i-o," like, "no thanks, it's ok." Sometimes are more successful than others though. haha

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