Are you thinking about making a trip to your local sex shop? We've already talked about what you should do before you arrive and how to make the most of your visit, so today we'll look at how to ensure that your experience is a positive one, both for you and the store's staff.
People who work in adult stores come from a variety of backgrounds and have a wide range of specialties when it comes to the wares they sell. Someone who sells novelties at Spencer’s may not know much about sex toy safety, although this isn’t always true. Similarly, you can expect a lot of knowledge about BDSM and kink safety from someone who works at a boutique store specializing in kinky implements of pleasure, although they may not know how to help you find the perfect pink penis tiara for your bachelorette party. Give what you are looking for some consideration when you choose where to shop.
Learn What You CanSome stores are more focused on education than others; tell the staff your preferred price range and what you’re willing to spend. This is a good litmus test for whether or not the staff will really listen to your questions and concerns. A good salesperson should be able to tell you what will suit your needs. They should ask you questions; how much experience you have with a particular product or play, how much you know about the safety of certain products, and any other questions that are pertinent to what you’re looking for. (To learn more, check outLet's Talk About Sex Education and Sex Toy Shops.)
Do Your PartDespite all this, not all adult stores are the ideal place to learn. I recommend that you research as much as possible. It doesn't matter whether it’s reading books on your subject, going over reviews from reputable, honest adult product reviewers like Hey Epiphora, Dangerous Lilly, or other sites like mine . If you’re looking for a highly educational adult store visit, search out a sex positive adult store. The Redhead Bedhead’s "Superhero Sex Shop Tour" is a good resource to help you find good adult stores across the U.S.
Creating a Positive ExperienceSome retailers are better than others, but there are a few things you can do to ensure that your experience is a positive one.
If you want to see a product out of the packaging or out of the case, ask someone who works there. Many stores have a display for you to look at or may be able to put batteries in a toy or provide a floor model that's already been charged.
Tip: If you’re looking at a vibrator, the tip of your nose is more sensitive than your hands. Say, "I’ve heard that the tip of my nose is more sensitive to vibrations than my finger tips. Is it OK if I touch it to my nose?" This is a really good way to gauge whether a vibe is buzzy or will penetrate deep into whatever you’re holding it against; if it’s irritating to your nose, don’t buy it. If you can feel it reach into your sinuses, it’s good to go!
Be honest with the staff. It sounds obvious that you should be honest, but people are really uncomfortable talking about sex and sexuality especially with strangers. If you’re not open about your interests and boundaries with the staff helping you, they are less likely to be able to help you.
Be specific about what you want. Sexuality is an incredibly complex thing and everyone likes something different. There is not any one product that’s good for everyone. The more specific you can be in what you’re looking for the better off you will be. Ultimately, people who work in adult stores can only go so far as to tell you what’s ideal for the majority of people looking for a given type of product. It’s up to you to experiment and figure out what works best for your body and your mind.
Don’t flirt with the staff. This may seem obvious, but unwanted attention is a common problem for people working in sex shops. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t flirt with anyone while they’re at work because they can’t leave if they’re made uncomfortable by your advances. Many people fetishize those who work in adult stores as nymphomaniac sexuality gatekeepers. While we may know a bit more about sex toys than others do, it doesn’t change common courtesy.
Tip: Don’t make assumptions about the staff. I’ve worked in adult stores with people who are very "vanilla," people who are kinky and proud, and people of all genders, orientations, and abilities. We’re just as varied a bunch as any other workplace.
If you wouldn’t reasonably do it in a grocery store, don’t do it in an adult store. Don’t open packaging without permission, be courteous, and use your inside voice. You’re in an adult store - act like an adult.
Remember that the staff are people too. Working in retail - any kind of retail - means interacting with people who get nasty when they don’t get their way. We often have to suck it up and smile. If you’re that person, you’re not going to get the best customer service possible. As people, we also have bad days.
Overall, the more prepared you are to ask questions and the nicer you are to staff, the better your experience will be. Enjoy your visit!