Letter to the Times, May 19, 1932:


I wonder if any of your male readers suffer as I do from what I can only describe as ‘Shop-shyness’? When I go into a shop I never seem to be able to get what I want, and I certainly never want what I eventually get. Take hats. When I want a grey soft hat which I have seen in the window priced at 17s. 6d. I come out with a brown hat (which doesn’t suit me) costing 35s. All because I have not the pluck to insist upon having what I want. I have got into the habit of saying weakly, ‘Yes, I’ll have that one,’ just because the shop assistant assures me that it suits me, fits me, and is a far, far better article than the one I originally asked for.

It is the same with shoes. In a shoe shop I am like clay in the hands of a potter. ‘I want a pair of black shoes,’ I say, ‘about twenty-five shillings — like those in the window.’ The man kneels down, measures my foot, produces a cardboard box, shoves on a shoe, and assures me it is ‘a nice fit.’ I get up and walk about. ‘How much are these?’ I ask. ‘These are fifty-two and six, Sir,’ he says, ‘a very superior shoe, Sir.’ After that I simply dare not ask to see the inferior shoes at 25s., which is all I had meant to pay. ‘Very well,’ I say in my weak way, ‘I’ll take these.’ And I do. I also take a bottle of cream polish, a pair of ‘gent’s half-hose,’ and some aluminium shoe-trees which the fellow persuades me to let him pack up with the shoes. I have made a mess of my shopping as usual.

Is there any cure for ‘shop-shyness’? Is there any ‘Course of Shopping Lessons’ during which I could as it were ‘Buy while I Learned’? If so I should like to hear of it. For I have just received a price list of ‘Very Attractive Gent’s Spring Suitings,’ and I am afraid — yes I am afraid … !

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

W. Hodgson Burnet