Over two-thirds of shoppers would much rather be left in peace to browse than be asked "can I help you?" by pushy shop staff, a MoneySavingExpert.com poll of more than 11,000 people reveals.

That familiar phrase may be commonplace in shops and stores UK-wide, but it's one the vast majority want to see the back of (see our Haggle on the High Street and Cheap Online Shopping guides for tips on getting the best price).

The site asked users whether a shop assistant saying "do you need help?" puts them off. Here's how they voted:

  • 68% said "don't ask me: it's annoying – I'll ask if I want help".
  • 19% said "do ask me: there's no harm, and it saves me needing to approach them".
  • 14% said they didn't care.

Martin Lewis, creator of MoneySavingExpert.com, says: "It seems Brits are rejecting the seeming robotisation of shopping, and prefer staff to give help when they're asked, rather than pouncing as soon as we cross the threshold. A huge majority of people would simply prefer to be left alone to browse. 

"Yet shop assistants tell us they're forced to do this. Hopefully retailers will remember the customer is always right and listen to the poll. Even so, much of it is about how the retail staff make the approach. An open 'do let me know if you need any help' is far less off-putting than the closed 'can I help?'"

The reaction of shoppers to the poll on the MoneySavingExpert.com forum and other social networks was equally strong.

'Scares people'

ColMayers said: "I just want to go in, have a look what's there, buy if I like, ask if I want help. Not a forced corporate conversation."

LouiseShawLD said: "It feels a bit like they want to rush me into making a decision."

Hedgeryhoops said: "I'm an assistant manager in retail and I would stop my staff from saying it - it scares people!"

JajHKR said: "I work in a shop, we get pulled up for not asking #cantwin."

As the final comment shows, many who work in stores say they have no choice but to ask customers if they need help, reflecting the frustration they often feel.

And, as the results prove, some people still don't mind being asked. JacquiOatley said: "Much prefer it to when they ignore you and talk to each other."