In case you didn’t notice, we’ve passed Thanksgiving. And what does passing Thanksgiving mean? Yes, we’ve officially entered the holiday season. Everybody knows the holiday spirit starts as soon as you have leftover turkey in the house. And if you happen to be lucky enough to work in anything resembling retail, you are supposed to be in the holiday spirit well before December. Most stores started planning for Christmas before October. And that’s if it’s a small store. If you’re lucky enough to work for something like a large department store, or (even better) a chain of large department stores, you probably started hearing about Christmas and holiday shopping in August! Early September if you were lucky. Ho, ho, holiday shoppers, you think you’re prepared when you go out the day after Thanksgiving? No, no, no?#34;we’ve been waiting for you.
We, the retail workers of America, have a Top 10 list we wish you’d keep in mind. It’s just a friendly suggestion. We love you?#34;now buy something. Just kidding!
10) Let’s return to childhood values
Remember when you were little, and every time you wanted something at dinner, your mom or dad would gently say, “Now, what do you say?” or, if you were my sibling, a pointed glare and a “Please, say please.” And then you got the ketchup to drown your poor innocent mashed potatoes in, and then Mom said, “Now say thank you. Your sister says thank you!” This simple childhood act goes over well at your local clothing store counter. When the clerk is ringing up another customer, and you, Customer A, need something, you should flash to a vision of your mother (or my mother, if that helps. She has dark curly hair), who would remind you to say, “Excuse me, store clerk. Could you please help me find this article of clothing?” She would not be pleased if you interrupted Customer B, and said, “Miss! (or Sir!) Where’re the baby booties in this store?” Clerks love please and thank you. We may be paid to serve you, but you’ve all heard about what happens when you treat servers badly. You all saw Clerks. You’ve all heard about Fight Club.
9) Making the sales clerk feel bad will not help you get what you want
Oh, the muttered comments. Oh, the glares. Oh, the meanness of customers when they discover that you cannot find a book that has been out of print for 20 years. And, oh, the guilt they want you to feel when they say, “Well! I am just going to your competitor!” And you know what I say to that, Mr. or Ms. Customer? Something about how I’m not on commission. If only they had waited until the end of my explanation! I could have helped you with my wondrous command of the Internet and the phone. Just like asking nice gets you ketchup, listening and being nice gets you valuable advice like, “Ma’am, I found it on Amazon.com, gently used, perfectly clean, $20 bucks less. It’ll ship to your house in three days.” Irrational rudeness helps no one, puts you in a bad mood, and makes me contemplate forgetting to give you your gift receipt.
8) Know what you want?#34;and where you’re likely to get it
A person walks into a sporting goods store and says something like this to the employee: “I have an uncle, and he just loves the opera. Do you have books about opera or opera stars? What? No? Well, now what?!” We don’t want you to feel bad about not knowing exactly what to get or about needing a suggestion or wanting help finding it, but … we don’t think you should go looking for things in stores where you won’t find them.
7) Either lower your expectations or shop earlier
We love to give suggestions?#34;OK, I don’t mind giving suggestions. I can’t speak for everyone else. But shopping five days before you need the item means you’re getting slim pickings. And I’ll help you look for it?#34;or for something similar?#34;but don’t blame me when the pink ‘n’ silver IPOD that everyone wants is sold out. I cannot make it materialize out of thin air!
6) Christmas Even desperation shopping shows
A follow-up to #7: Last minute shopping the day before?#34;the boyfriend/father/husband/stressed mother is standing in a drug store/grocery store/pet store asking themselves, “Would they like a studded cat collar? Or a tiny plush reindeer with five pieces of chocolate on it?” Honest, we’re sorry for you, and we’d love to help, but guess what? We’re all just trying to get out of this freaking store ourselves.
5) If it doesn’t have a sale price, then it’s not on sale
I saw you, you tricky customer! I remember when I worked at a large department store. It was amazing how many buttons I found on the floor around the check-out, and how many pleasant-looking people said things like, “Miss! This is missing a ton of buttons! This better be on sale, or I want to talk to your manager!” It’s also amazing how many people find the one book with a bent cover, or the one children’s pop-up that has a torn page. My word. And I would be suspicious indeed if I let myself think that people were trying to weasel out of paying the stated price. On the flip-side, I also shop at places, and do I ever want to pay less. But you know, I usually read the sign next to the item that says, “20% off sweaters” or “Children’s books 10% off every day.” And then I just go with it, or I don’t.
4) Your trash is not part of our decor
I know it’s cold. I go outside, too. And when it’s cold, you want hot coffee, and your nose runs, so you need tissues. Or some food gets dropped. It’s OK, I understand. As a consumer-driven culture, we generate a lot of trash. Just don’t leave it on the merchandise. I bet you good money that every store you go to has at least one trash can.
3) Glaring at me gives both of us a headache
Just relax. If you’ll stop being mad at me and everyone else who is making your shopping expedition such a debacle, we can get through it! This is the time of the year when stores like to put things on sale, and they try to have lots of staff to help you find things. It’s just unfortunate that everyone else also wants to shop now too. Being mad at us won’t help! I could use the line about how many muscles it takes to smile vs. frowning, but I’ve forgotten it. Just relax, enjoy the snow outside, and try to flash forward to opening these presents.
2) It’s our holiday too
Ah, the benefits of working in retail. But guess who doesn’t get holiday bonuses? Or a lot of time off? Or reduced hours? I don’t think we should call Michael Moore and get a documentary made about it because people who work in retail know what they’re getting into. We’d just appreciate it if customers remembered all of the above.
1) Yes, you do deserve good service
You do, really. So do the many retail workers. So does Tiny Tim. We think that you the customer are practically perfect in almost every way. With just a few tweaks, you’ll get through the holiday shopping season and so will we. Ho ho ho!