Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rules of Engagement: How to Shop in Italy

Angela Caputi bracelets

So we know that there is definitely no shortage of shopping here in Florence and like most gals I loooove to shop. Italy is of course famous for its fashion and Florence has a few famous designers of its own like Roberto Cavalli, Patrizia Pepe, and Salvatore Ferragamo, who isn't technically Florentine (he's originally form Napoli), but loved it so much here that he bought a gorgeous villa in the hills of Fiesole overlooking the city where his grandchildren still live to this day, and one of my personal favorites, Angela Caputi.
But there are a few things you should know about shopping in Italy, especially if you are American.

We Americans are used to a whole different standard of customer service complete with the warm greeting when we walk in the door to asking if they can start a dressing room for us when they see even one article of clothing in our hand.  The salesperson is always checking up on us when we're trying things on and asking how everything is fitting and if they can bring us a different size in anything or perhaps even making suggestions based on the items we've brought in to try on.

Well my friends, the reality is that unless you are shopping at Gucci, where I assume they would be this attentive, although I wouldn't really know since I've never actually shopped at Gucci, don't expect this kind of attentiveness in Italy. If you are lucky you may get a shop keeper who gives you a smile and possibly says 'Salve' as you walk in but that's about as far as the service goes. For better or worse, this is just how things generally work.  

And if you do happen to have a question, be prepared to feel as if you are disturbing them and that they are being put out by you actually asking them to do their job! 

Another thing to keep in mind when shopping in Italy is that there is a NO REFUND policy. They will not give you your money back. Ever. Period. 

I've seen it happen. I've been in stores where American shoppers will come in with something they've purchased the day before expecting their money back only to get upset. I've even heard them say, 'well in the US they give us our money back in your store.' And to that you should probably expect their response to be something, like, 'Your not IN the US.'

You can exchange your item, but you will not be refunded. 

So before you buy anything here be sure that you really want it or at the very least there is something else in the store that you would want as an alternative. And be sure you try it on. You will not be able to exchange anything to another store location other than the one you actually purchased it in either. Most (big name) stores here are franchised meaning that they operate under a major company name but they are privately owned. Or they are small unique boutiques, which personally I prefer. And just to note that is a whole other experience entirely. 

In my personal opinion, this is incredibly poor business practice. There is a very precise mentality and psychology as to why stores in the US allow refunds. Think about it. If I know that I can bring something back if I change my mind I am more likely to buy it, however, chances are I'm going to think about it a little longer and won't ever end up bringing it back. Thus, resulting in more sales. Us women do things like that. We hang things in our closets thinking that some day we are going to find a use for it. If we like it enough to buy it we'll like it enough to hope that we may actually use it some day! duh!

Of course there is the thinking that if refunds are allowed people will purchase things and wear them and then bring them back resulting in quality issues. Of course this happens, but rarely and that profit loss is definitely minimal in comparison. But hey who am I to tell them how to run their business. 

As for customer service, well this is a no-brainer, if I walk into a store and someone is rude or has a superiority complex, well guess what? I'm turing around and walking out. So for this reason, I can't really feel sorry for them when they have to close down after only a few months of business. 

I hope this helps and gives you an idea of what to expect while shopping in Italy!
Got questions? Have a shopping story you want to share? Tell me in the comments below!
* Please note that my statements here are general. There are indeed many shops where you will find nice helpful staff. In my experience however, this is usually in the boutiques where the owner is also the shop keeper. These are the best places to shop anyway, your getting unique handmade or vintage products you won't find anywhere else in the world and you are supporting small local businesses and people who are living their dreams! 

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