How to be a good hol­i­day shop­per

Tips on re­tail eti­quette from a re­luc­tant mall vet­eran.


The scene: Christ­mas mu­sic oozes from the tinny mall sound sys­tem, thicker than corn syrup. Crowds jos­tle, sweatily clutch­ing bags of gifts in over­loaded arms. Every­one’s in a hurry be­cause the count­down to Santa’s big scene is on, damn­nit, plus there’s still sup­per to make and gift wrap­ping to do— not to men­tion the tree doesn’t dec­o­rate it­self. The col­lec­tive stress scents the air.

It’s the most won­der­ful time of the year. Un­less, per­haps, you work in re­tail—then this set­ting is one that’s all too fa­mil­iar, nav­i­gat­ing height­ened sales ex­pec­ta­tions and ir­ri­tated cus­tomers for min­i­mum wage, ring­ing through or­ders as Santa’s shadow loomed larger and larger. Here’s how to do your part and not be the ass­hole who ru­ins a re­tail worker’s en­tire shift dur­ing this stress­ful sea­son.

DON’T Get au­to­mat­i­cally pissed off when we ask if there’s any­thing we can help you find to­day.

It’s lit­er­ally our job to ask you this.

DO Be aware of the crowds when you ask for help. When I worked at a cer­tain chain women’s cloth­ing store, part of the gig was help­ing cus­tomers put to­gether out­fit ideas. This was the most fun part of the job—ex­cept dur­ing the hol­i­day rush, when dozens of shop­pers are wait­ing to pay for their or­ders and one lady in­ter­rupts the line to hy­poth­e­size about turtle­neck and pinafore out­fit com­bi­na­tions. NOT THE TIME, SU­SAN! DON’T Ask to see a man­ager for no rea­son other than your own self-im­por­tance. Even when shops hire sea­sonal staff, we’re still of­ten un­der­pre­pared for the crowds. If you have a com­pli­cated re­turn that needs a man­ager’s as­sis­tance, we’ll gladly get you one—but if you just want those jeans on the top shelf, let’s re­spect every­one’s time and just let a sales as­so­ciate fetch them.


Leave dis­plays as you found them A gen­eral life rule that takes on added sig­nif­i­cance when hol­i­day crowds leave store em­ploy­ees less time to clean up after you. You truly do not have to knock over the en­tire tower of sweaters to reach your size. Trust.

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