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Shashi Priya swallows her pride and gets down on her knees to help a girl find the right pair of shoes

Written by Shashi Priya | Published: February 1, 2009 3:45:20 pm

Shashi Priya swallows her pride and gets down on her knees to help a girl find the right pair of shoes
I’ve been a shoe princess. I’ve never bent down to tie my shoe laces. If I couldn’t find an elevated platform on which I could place my feet,my friends would tie them for me. Despite being used to the pampering,I was going to let my shoe vanity hibernate for an hour.

I had decided to be a saleswoman at Mochi,a shoe showroom in Pune. Of course,this role reversal wasn’t without the apprehension about doing something I had never done before—kneeling down on my knees in order to fit a pair of shoes into a pair of feet. That this pair would be somebody else’s added to my discomfort. Nonetheless,I went ahead.

Javed Sheikh,a salesman,briefed me on how to go about the job. “Most customers are the self-help types,browsing through the racks first. Trail them,” he said. And so,I trailed and trailed and trailed customers as they browsed the racks and picked up shoes,with none asking me for any assistance. Maybe politely asking them if they needed any help could evoke a response,I thought. And so,I asked a mother-daughter duo if they needed help. First time I asked,they ignored me. Second time,they said an inaudible ‘no’. Third time,they gave a stern look. I felt like a stalker.

After unsuccessfully ‘stalking’ a string of customers,I got a surprise in the form of a 40-something,bespectacled,stout woman wearing a salwar-kurta. As soon as she walked in,she demanded,“A flat one,simple in design,white in colour,thin front straps,no heels and some support at the back.”

At first,it seemed easy to scan the two racks (each with five rows and three columns) reserved for flats. But when the task had to be completed “as quickly as possible”,thanks to the customer’s impatience,it just got near-impossible. “By the time she’s done trying one,you should be ready with two more,” said Sheikh as the woman coldly rejected the only piece I gave her after 10 minutes of careful selection. In comparison,Sheikh got her seven pairs in 10 minutes. After selecting two pairs,she looked at me,expecting me to act. I vaguely recalled what Sheikh said in the morning: “When a customer makes a choice,ask her the size and get a piece from the stock room.”

“Size 38,” she said before I could ask. After noting the “model number” from the shoebox,I braced myself for the scariest part of the job—catching the shoes as they are thrown from the roof. I observed Sandeep Sonam,another salesman,throw five boxes into the square gap in the ceiling and in just a fraction of a second,catch another five hurled at him by the stock room people. “Tell the stock guys the model number and the size,” he explained to me.

Wary of the boxes hitting me and even more conscious that I’d look like a fool if I had to duck,I asked for the boxes to be thrown one by one,but slowly. After years of missing catches in galli cricket,I miraculously caught the three boxes hurled at me. After I excitedly handed them to Sheikh,I turned around to greet another customer—a tall,slim college-going girl who wanted red stilettos. As she sat on the couch and I got three from the rack,I was told to kneel down and fit the pair into her feet. She was snooty and I was grumpy. I realised I’d better get back to being the shoe princess.

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