I am not sure if the way I felt is common in the society. But I would imagine it would be because of the individualistic mindset that most people have. Even my friends resist help if they can manage it. The parents, the school and other social institutions are helping perpetuate this kind of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. This is perhaps a crucial part of being part of the society. Deep down, I may be afraid to admit that I need help. Perhaps other people feel the same way too. My self-worth is dependent, in part, on my ability to make decisions for myself and do things for myself.
If that is taken away from me, then I would feel like I lost my worth. I wanted to air my annoyance to the manager, which I promptly did. I was not really surprised that I acted as such because I am used to acting based on what I think is my right. I also felt like asking the lady directly to desist from following me was a bit rude. So I had to talk to her manager instead. It is so much easier to talk to a superior than to a subordinate. If I talked to the lady, myself, I might have condescended and reprimanded her harshly. I did not want to make a scene so I just talked to the manager.
My motives were that I wanted to be discreet while making sure that my experience at the store was not spoiled. I know that I acted in my best interest and also in the interest of the store. If they followed my advice and just let their customers choose what they want while standing there patiently waiting and congenially for anything the customer asks, the sales might be a little better and customers will be happier. I would not have liked to behave otherwise. That would mean just letting go of what I felt was an affront to my shopping experience. I do not like sitting still when I felt that things are not going according to my liking.
I was conscious that I was a customer and therefore I deserved the best possible treatment in the store. The mall and the store is designed for the customer to have the best experience in shopping. From the arrangement of products and the colourful promotional items, the customer or shopper is made to feel as if he is at the centre of the mall’s universe. Anything that suggests otherwise would therefore be treated like it was an intrusion into the personal life of the shopper. Managers also are being seen as the keepers of the ranks in the sense that they have the power over their subordinates in helping them do their jobs properly.
They can also reprimand employees who do not perform according to the pre-agreed standards of behaviour within the organization. As such, the manager is seen as the ally of the customers in making sure that their shopping experience is protected and ensured. Synthesis There are power relations in almost all social settings. Even in the seemingly business-centred environment of the mall and department stores, there are power relations between and among the owners of the store, the managers, the employees and the customers who visit the stores (Pred, 1996).
While the customers have considerable power by virtue of the money that they will be using in purchasing products and services, the organisation also displays its power in dealing with the customers. The customers have the money and
One thing I noted though is that there are more women on the stores than there are men. Quite probably, the men are working “behind the scenes” and are tasked with moving large boxes and other things that need to be moved every now and then. I could not rightly say that this is discrimination but perhaps, there is a preferred gender when it comes to choosing attendants in particular areas of the store. This also opens up a whole new dimension of power relations. The manager I encountered was a middle-aged male who had the look of authority on him (Harding, 2004).
While I felt nothing more than a coincidence during the incidence, it now dawned on me that perhaps the power relations within the store are arranged that way so that it would be easier to subdue the attendants for anything that might have been seen or reported as inappropriate behaviour. In addition to this, the customer is, most of the time, given a big deal of power in dealing with the attendants at the store. There are customers who are treated like spoiled brats while there are difficult customers who insist on having their way even in violation of store policy.
Stores and malls arrange their space or architecture to maximize the purchasing power of buyers. As such, the products and services are arranged in such a way that customers will be enticed to buy. In exchange of this, customers also exert their power over the attendants and employees of the store so that they get something extra out of the money they will shed out as payment. The attendants, employees and managers also act as safeguards of the interests of the store while at the same time encouraging the customers to buy and spend on the stores. This kind of power relations or network is always at work within the store.
What seemed like a simple act of buying something at the mall is actually a complex pattern of relationships involving a number of factors. For example, managers tend to act as guards for the owners of the store as much as for the customers. Most of the time, it is the employees who are caught in the middle. With the concepts I learned in the course, I manage to identify these power relations much more clearly than if I was just using my common sense. Because of my cultural affiliation and the way I treat shopping as a commonplace affair, I have become inured to it.
The concepts discussed in the course helped me become more critical and draw on various theories in explaining what seems like commonplace behaviour, not only in the malls but in different social settings and situations. Reference Cuthbert, AR (2003). Critical Readings in Urban Design. New York: Blackwell Publishing. Harding, SG (2004). The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies. London: Routledge. Pred A, (1996). “Interfusions: consumption, identity and the practices and power . relations of everyday life” Environment and Planning A 28(1) 11 – 24.