Your How-to Guide on Not Being a Total Jerk-Face While Doing Your Holiday Shopping.

Hello friends. I have missed you. Life has been really busy over the last little while, between my two jobs and family stuff – have barely had time to think. Also I’ve been reading a lot, which has seriously cut into my writing time. I would say that I’m sorry about that, but it just wouldn’t be true. I’ve read more this past year than I have maybe ever, and it’s going to be good for my writing.

Now, I have to talk about something very important. As a 20something, I have a degree. I have a degree and also do not have a job in the field in which I studied. This is totally fine… Most of the time. When it’s not fine, is when my retail job that I actually really enjoy becomes torture during the holiday season. Am I being a little bit dramatic? Probably. But what I need to talk about is how TERRIBLE PEOPLE ARE WHEN THEY ARE SHOPPING. And unless you’ve ever worked in a service industry job, you won’t understand. The following will be a comprehensive, though by no means exhaustive, guide on how to not be a totally terrible human while doing your holiday/post-holiday shopping.

Please be gentle with merchandise. 
We retail workers work really, REALLY hard to keep our stores looking tidy and inviting. A lot of the time, we don’t have enough time (or hands, really) to be following shoppers around cleaning up the trail of destruction in their wake. I get it. You don’t work here, so why should you care if you leave a mess? For the same reason that you would expect guests in your house to not totally destroy your home, despite the fact that they don’t live there. When merchandise gets taken out of the package or left on the floor, it can get broken and will need to be damaged out. This is super wasteful. Come on, people. It’s 2016. I thought we all agreed that we need to do better at having less waste.

If you would like to see something, please ask an associate for help.
We have absolutely no problem opening packages for you, or finding a display model for you to look at! Seriously. We want to help you. So please, if there’s an item that you would like to have a closer look at, ask an associate. Don’t destroy the zipper or packaging on something just because you can’t be bothered to ask someone to remove a hard tag for you. And if you absolutely MUST open something, please do your very best to put things back in the package; and if you can’t do it yourself, please give it to an associate and explain that you couldn’t get it back together. I promise this is a better route than just opening it and leaving it.

Please be as specific as possible, when asking for help.
Like I said, we are more than happy to help you. From my own experience, customer service is at the very centre of what very retail job I’ve ever had has strived to foster in its employees. So seriously – ask for help. And when you do ask for help, please try to be as specific as humanly possible about what you’re looking for or need help with. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t mind readers. We can’t help you find that “thingy” unless you give us enough information to even allow us to get started on a search. A brand name. A colour. Fabric/material. Function. One keyword. ANYTHING. I cannot help you if I don’t understand what you’re asking for. And if you notice that I’m not quite clear, please be patient while explaining. You’re probably the 73rd person I’ve helped today, and the description of the “thingy” that you’re giving me is just about as clear as mud. Also, please do your best to answer our questions patiently – they are the means for us to narrow down what your needs are.

Please be patient if you need help, and an associate is assisting another customer.
If you can see that we’re helping someone else, please don’t just interrupt. Feel free to get in my line of sight so that I know I need to come to you when I’m finished what I’m doing – but don’t just completely bowl over the other customer. Your needs aren’t more important. Stop. Stop doing this. Why do people do this.

Don’t ask if something’s free if there isn’t a hard-marked price on it.
Just don’t. Don’t do it. I can’t believe I even have to put this one on here. You know that joke that your Dad tells over and over and over and over and over and over and over again? This is worse than whatever that joke is. So PLEASE. I’m begging you. We can only chuckle about this so many times in one day. We will be happy to check prices on things for you…. Because spoiler alert: life is good when you buy things. Such is the way of capitalism.

Don’t argue about the price of something or tell me you can find it for cheaper somewhere else.
If there is a sticker on an item that has a different price than what is ringing up in the computer, or there’s a sign that has a different price on it, I will be happy to investigate and accommodate the price adjustment for you. If it comes down to it, that the price in the computer is correct, and I can’t change it, please don’t yell. Because I’ll call the manager and they’ll tell you exactly the same thing. Associates have literally zero control over what things cost – talk to Kathleen Wynne or Justin Trudeau about that one if you’ve actually got serious beef. And don’t complain to associates that an item is “so ridiculously expensive!” and that you “can find is somewhere else for like, half that price”. Again, I have no control over the cost of items in the store. All you’re doing when you say things like this, is tempting associates to say “Okay, good. I wish you all the best in your shopping at *someplace else*”. And that’s not good customer service. This is a store. In Canada. A corporate owned retail facility. Not a flea market. There is no haggling process here. So just don’t.

Don’t get huffy when something is out of stock. 
It’s December. I’m not sure what you expected. Is it super annoying when you’ve driven all the way from *insert place that is really not that far at all* and the one thing you want isn’t in stock? Of course. I can promise you that we are just as annoyed about things being out of stock as you are. I’m happy to check online. I’m happy to check other stores. If it comes down to it that I can’t obtain the item for you, please don’t get angry. I’ve done my due diligence and searched for the item that you’re looking for on the 21st of December, that I had an initial stock of like 5485792348305 when they came in at the beginning of December. There’s nothing else I can do. There’s nothing else anyone else can do. It is your unfortunate fate to not be able to buy that item because it is not in stock… AND YES I ALREADY CHECKED “THE BACK” AND NO WE DON’T HAVE IT.

Don’t bully cashiers about coupons, or get angry when you can’t use them.
Sometimes coupons expire. Sometimes coupons have a list of products that are ineligible to have the coupon applied to them. Sometimes coupons cannot be combined with other offers. Sometimes coupons only apply to one item in your purchase. And I’ll tell ya a little secret – chances are, all of this information is printed (oh my GOD) RIGHT ON THE COUPON. So if you get up to the cash and it turns out that the coupon you’ve got can’t be used on your purchase, please just behave like an adult and say “Oh, okay. Thanks for checking anyway!”, and go on with your purchase, instead of holding up the enormous line that you just waited in, because you’re not leaving the store without your *insert coupon here* despite the fact that it has expired and there is nothing that can be done about that. What you’re doing is setting the cashier up to be possibly mistreated by the rest of the line, because you’re making it seem like they don’t know how to do their job. They do know how to do their job, and you are an assbutt.

Also – have your dang coupons ready.
You’ve been in that line for at least ten minutes. If you’ve got a coupon, have it ready to go when you get to the till so that the transaction goes smoothly.

Don’t complain about the line.
Don’t do it. Again, it’s December. I’m really not sure what you expected; that you’re the only last minute shopper? Or that somehow you shouldn’t have to wait, or something? Don’t complain about the line. Because we have been standing here for hours, and the line has not stopped. So we’re REAAAAALLLLYYYYY sorry about your 10 minute wait. We’re trying to get people out of there as quickly as possible, without rushing anyone out the door. Customer service is a delicate balance – a science, if you will. Don’t complain about the line, because I’ve had at least five customers that have been more rude than you are already today, and I’m doing my best not to burst into tears about things that are out of my control. And don’t even get me started about returns. I don’t care what your special snowflake reason is, you have to wait in the line, just like everybody else. I thought the lack of red carpet would be a big enough clue, but just in case ya missed it THE LINE STARTS OVER THERE.

Don’t talk on your cellphone while cashing out.
The cash-out procedure involves, get this… Speaking! To us! The cashier! Don’t be talking on your phone and then react indignantly when we ask you a question, like we have stormed into your own private bedroom in your own private home, where you are having an absolutely important life or death discussion on the phone. This is rude. It’s rude as heck. And I can tell you that it isn’t ever ~~~~~Millennials~~~~~ who are doing this. Don’t do this. Ask if you can call them back. Put them on hold. I don’t care what it is that you do, but the cashier that’s serving you deserves your full attention during the transaction, just like you (I’m sure) are expecting from them.

Ask for a gift receipt at the beginning of your transaction.
Seriously, sometimes the computers we have in our retail stores make it a huge hassle to reprint a receipt after a transaction is complete, so if you would like one, please tell us at the beginning of the transaction, and which items you would like on what receipt. Don’t make me start humming the Jeopardy theme because, if you take any longer to figure out this receipt, I swear to God, I WILL DO IT.

Don’t leave your half full (or totally empty, for that matter) beverage cups on shelves.
This is another one that I can’t believe I have to include in this guide. ARE YOU SERIOUS? Who raised you? Put your Starbucks cup in the garbage, and if you can’t find one, ASK. Associates really don’t appreciate a) having to clean up after grown adults, b) having cold coffee beverages spilled all over themselves and/or merchandise that will now have to be damaged out because your grandé Mocha chocolatta yaya has completely destroyed it. How does one misplace a nearly full $7 coffee beverage? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that I’ve left work wearing one, more than once.

And last, but certainly not least:

Say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’.
This one is self-explanatory, and yet is something that happens to almost every single retail worker. We are human beings, and we deserve respect. We’ve gone out of our way t help and serve you. So treat us like the people that we are, and not like garbage. I’m here because I need to earn a living, and I deserve to be spoken to politely. This is one of the first things you learn as a toddler, and it’s honestly embarrassing that grown adults can’t get it together. This is Canada, so mind your p’s and q’s.

As I said above, this is by no means an exhaustive list of things that will make your holiday/post-holiday shopping go more smoothly. They are just things that have stuck out to me this season, mixed in with a little help from some retail-warrior friends. I would love to hear your retail stories! So feel free to share in the comments below, or when you share the post on social media.

Shoppers: Just try to be kind, okay?

Love Always,

Emma Cate

Featured Photo by: Me! At an antique shop in Toronto, back in 2011.

4 thoughts on “Your How-to Guide on Not Being a Total Jerk-Face While Doing Your Holiday Shopping.

  1. Nice post! I’ll definitely remember to be extra nice and patient when I go in during Boxing Week.

    I’m mostly afraid that I will accidentally spill a drink on something so I always finish before I walk in stores (especially clothing stores). I also thought it was a rule that you couldn’t drink or eat in most stores? No idea where I heard that.

    I think the thing I am guilty of, though, is unfolding merchandise and not folding it all nice and pretty if I decide I don’t like it. I try to get it right, but am not always successful. Would you suggest I just bring it to someone then? Kind of like the package thing?

    Also, people really ask if things are free??


    • Things being unfolded are okay! That happens. Not a big deal. The rude part is when a customer has clearly seen you tidying an area, and then makes a mess directly behind you (what you’ve just finished tidying). And no they don’t ~~~really~~~ ask if things are free, but that joke is honestly one of the most irritating parts of retail work.


  2. A bit of a warranted rant! It continues to amaze me how inconsiderate people can be. I imagine expectations surrounding the Christmas Celebrations ramp people up even more. I appreciate your sharing! Peace!

    Liked by 1 person

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