Lessons in Christmas Shopping

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As Christmas comes closer, my work-place becomes crazier. Now, it’s not just weekends that are filled with hectic shoppers- all hours of every day of the week are just plain nuts. I’ve been working in retail for 4 years now, 3 years at my current job and 1 year at a previous place… But both stores have taught me SO much about customer service. I often get really bitter around the holidays because it’s the time of year that as employees we are most mis-treated. People take out all of their stress and problems on customer service representatives… Probably without necessarily realizing it.

Luckily, there are some really amazing people out there who make the days better. Over the years, I’ve learned to deal with the customer service craziness, especially around the holidays… I thought I might share some of my wisdom with the world & see what you all think about shopping at this time of the year!

1. If you shop anywhere between November 1st and January 1st, expect it to be busy. It’s not the employee’s fault that there is a huge line-up, it just happens. So take a breath, grab a magazine, and wait your turn.

2. If you are in a store and need help, that’s fine. Just remember that a lot of other people do too, and interrupting an employee as they help someone else is frustrating.

3. If you’re in a rush and need something in five minutes or less, it’s not the store’s fault if you’re late. Shop earlier. 🙂

4. This might be the most important. Don’t be rude! Even if you have a million questions, if you’re NICE, you will be helped a million times faster and more happily than if you’re just shouting out random things and hoping to get an answer. My favorite is when someone walks up to me and, without saying hello, just tells me the name of what they are looking for. This irritates me a lot. Don’t be that person.

5. Try and be as helpful as you can to the salesperson when Christmas shopping. If you’re looking for specific items, come with a list prepared so that you don’t forget half of the information when it comes time to being helped. The color of the item and the first word rarely help.

6. If you’re not sure what to buy for certain people, salespeople are usually quite good with recommendations. Important- try and have some background info about the person. A “really popular item” doesn’t usually cut it. Who are you buying for? What are their likes and dislikes? Hobbies? Similar favorites? These things help. Provide your salesperson with information.

7. Be understanding about time constraints! It’s Christmas time, many people need help. Salespeople can’t necessarily dedicate 100% of their focus to you, even if they truly WANT to. Lots of customers need help and, more often than not, they need it RIGHT NOW. Be cool about it. It’s so helpful.

8. Long line-ups on December 17th-24th are inevitable. If you complain to a salesperson, you will not get their sympathy. Remember you’re probably the millionth person to make the obvious comment that it’s a long wait. If you’re being funny about it and aren’t actually upset, that’s more fun!

9. If you’re looking at a product but don’t want it anymore, try and put it back where you found it. This isn’t ALWAYS possible, but don’t put it one shelf over because you’re too lazy to walk back 5 steps. This happens regularly. On top of customer service non-stop, salespeople have to deal with the constant mess. It makes our lives about 100x more difficult to keep everything clean and shoppable. If you can’t remember where you got something? It happens! Just leave it with a clerk.

10. SAY THANK YOU and SMILE when you get good service! Letting the salesperson know that they were helpful brightens their day ENORMOUSLY. I can tell you from experience that a genuine thank you and ‘that was exactly what I needed’ means a lot.

I hope that if you read this, you’ll think twice before being rude while Christmas shopping. Just remember, if it’s stressful for you, imagine the people working who aren’t allowed to be snappy, rude, and often don’t get nearly enough break-time from the chaos.

Happy Christmas shopping, don’t forget to ENJOY it!

What kind of Christmas shopper are you? What good points of advice have you learned over the years?

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7 responses »

  1. I’m never mean to people in the service industry (except in the case of egregious mistreatment, which is rare). These should all be common sense…sadly I’m afraid too many of us forget common courtesy.

  2. I worked in retail one Christmas in high school and then worked in the restaurant industry for 3 or 4 Christmas seasons throughout college so I totally feel your pain. While people can be very generous this time of year (especially in the serving industry) they can also be incredibly rude because it’s such a stressful time of year! I think it’s so important to always be polite to retail workers or servers and try really hard to do so because you’re right, 99% of the time the problem is NOT their fault!

  3. I loved this, Melissa. I always try to be extra nice when I shop around the holidays, because I can imagine how frustrating this must be for the sales people. Good advice though. I think a lot of people just don’t think about everything you pointed out here, so it’s good to raise some awareness! 😉

  4. I’ve always tried to be extra-nice to sales people any time of the year, because I know they work in a thankless job and showing some appreciation can go a long way. I don’t understand people who yell at customer service people & get so frustrated so easily. I know Christmas is a stressful time of year but taking it out on the salespeople is not the answer? 9 times out of 10, you’ll get a better response (and more help!) if you’re nice and polite and patient. 🙂

  5. I often joke to the cashier when other people mistreat employees…like “maybe if I raise my voice in complaining how few cashiers are on, this line will go faster!” I wanted to tell you I was in a Chapter’s today and thought of this post the whole time!

  6. I wish you could somehow get this list out there to the world. People really need to understand these simple requests. Another tip is that it really isn’t necessary to toss an entire pile to get to the bottom size. I wonder if people really think they are saving more than a fraction of a second when they do this.

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