NoBloPoMo, Reflections

Unsolicited Advice… (Day 26)

For those of you who celebrate the solstice season, at least in part, with a shopping and gift giving frenzy, this post is meant for you.  It includes my unsolicited advice for maneuvering through the retail chaos of this season, offered from the perspective of one who has worked in the field for over 30 years, filling every position from cashier to clerk to management, and several in between…  (And if it sounds a little snarky at times, just go with it, as I’m merely trying to get into the holiday shopping spirit!)

  • DO shop small.  Please support your local small businesses whenever practical and possible.  Not only will you likely encounter more unique gift options, shorter lines and more helpful staff, but you may very well be helping that business (and its employees) to stay afloat.  Many small businesses depend upon the holiday season to pull them through each year.  And though they may not offer the Black Friday deals you’re looking for, many do offer huge sales on Small Business Saturday (the next day), and American Express offers incentives for shopping at local businesses that day as well…
  • DO come prepared.  If you come with just a list, hoping some clerk will help you find the “perfect” gifts for you, please be prepared to answer a few simple questions: what age you are shopping for; what price range are you looking for; and what interests does your recipient have.  If you have no clue on the last one (and most don’t, so you are not alone), be prepared to take suggestions, and to make the final decision.  We can tell you what’s been selling (trendy), and what might be unique and memorable (our own personal favorites), but we cannot, under any circumstance, guarantee that your recipient will like it.  So please don’t come back after the holidays and tell us you’re returning a gift because our clerk failed in their recommendations.  Ultimately, you are going to get credit for a win, so take responsibility for any fails as well…
  • DO be patient!!  I cannot emphasize this enough!  Expect to encounter lines and wait times.  There are only so many of us working, and we are vastly outnumbered by those of you who are shopping.  We WANT to help you, we really do, but you are going to have to wait your turn.  For while you, as the customer, may be the most important person there, you are most definitely not the only most important person there!  Tapping your toes, rolling your eyes, and making snide comments will not improve your status or your wait time; in fact, the opposite may occur.  By the time you finally get to ask for help, you may find we are “out of stock” or “going on break.”  Let’s face it, it’s the only power of retribution we have…  And if you are one of those customers requiring a lot of “help” time (as in you want us to shop for you), be prepared to be interrupted several times while we’re working with you; there’s absolutely no reason why another customer should wait 30 minutes to ask us what aisle such and such is in, and we clerks are well-practiced at multi-tasking…
  • DON’T delude yourself .  There is no magical retail warehouse we can call to get that one last brand-specific requested gift you want that’s out of stock everywhere!  If you need it that badly, plan ahead.  Shop early, call ahead to see if an item can be put on hold (and yes, folks, if we say we will only be able to hold it for three days, we mean three, not four, five or six), buy it online for in-store pick-up, or put it on layaway.  If all of that fails, and no substitute or gift card will replace it, call Santa Clause; maybe he can help you…  (And remember, every minute you waste ranting at us about not anticipating your last minute need for this item, is time Santa’s elves no longer have to create your miracle!)…
  • DO control your children!!!  (Do I feel strongly about this? Yes!!)  They are your responsibility!  Please do not let them run amok in the store while you shop, grabbing whatever they want off the shelves, opening packages to see what’s inside, and generally wreaking havoc.  Demo items and toys for kids to play with are usually prominently displayed; anything else should be off limits! And while we provide play tables in our store for kids to demo products, that does not mean you should leave them there unattended while you shop.  Please understand, we are not babysitters; we don’t have the time, or by now, the patience for it.  (I’m more serious than snarky here because I have seen parents of small children walk several aisles away from their kids to shop, leaving them at the play tables, one of which is right by the door.  Some time later they come back, demanding we tell them where their child went.  When told we don’t know, but we’ll help them look, the parents scream at us, “well, weren’t you watching him?!  He was right there in front of you!”  Problem is, we weren’t able to be there the whole time, and countless other people were.  Usually, the child has just wandered off in search of the missing parent, but we did have a case where a little boy followed another family right out of the store.  Luckily, they brought him back!). So, seriously, folks, please watch your kids!
  • DON’T  just drop unwanted merchandise wherever you happen to be!  Classic scenario: customer asks us for something we happen to carry (yay!); we take them to its location, but the shelf is empty (noo!);  we check inventory, in case we haven’t had time to restock, which happens quite often at this time of year (so always ask if you are looking for something specific), and computer says we have one left (yay!); we check backstock, but it’s not there (nooo!); we enlist other clerks to help search, who are busy with other customers and such (yay!); we search reshops, hold bins, layaways, everywhere, but we do not find (sad sigh…); we fail to produce said product and both the customer and store are disappointed…  Closed, finally (yay!); cleaning up the mess the customers left us so we can do it again tomorrow (nooo!); find missing product shoved behind other merchandise on a shelf four aisles away (grrrrr…..).  Is it any surprise, really, that retail clerks get a little grumpier as the season progresses?  Seriously, friends, if you don’t want it, fine, just please hand it off to a clerk or a cashier and tell them; they will be more than happy to return it to its proper place.  Really!
  • DON’T throw a fit about how long your transaction takes to process.  Just an FYI to those of you using credit cards this season, especially the new chip cards: they take 2-3 times longer to process than the old cards did, especially if the store has the new chip reader technology that requires the card to be inserted into the machine.  We have no control over that.  And if your chip card has the word “Debit” on it, expect to have to enter your PIN, even if you’re using it as “Credit.”  It’s how the new system works, and it’s designed to protect you!  We cannot override it, even for you…  Also worth noting that during the busiest shopping times, the credit card servers can get back-logged, slowing things down even more.  Yelling at the cashiers, and ranting at the system will not change anything but the moods of all those around you; and they will get darker and meaner the longer you carry on…
  • DO take the time to acknowledge excellent customer service.  Really, this is important!  We, as a society seem to have no problem voicing our complaints whenever anything doesn’t go our way, but we spend precious little time acknowledging our victories.  Your compliment, even expressed to management, will not likely result in a raise for that cashier or clerk who helped you, but I guarantee it will make that clerk or cashier’s day!  We are mostly overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated (and I’m not just talking retail people here), but it’s amazing how worthwhile it can all feel when that one person steps up and says, “Thank you!  You made my day!”  If you can take the time to tell management, even better, but please try to get the name of the person before doing so; that kind of personal recognition might just keep them going another day in this retail hell.  And if you don’t have time to wait for a manager, consider going on the store’s website later and leaving a review, or calling to speak with a manager on the phone.  Trust me, this small act of kindness is more in keeping with the holiday spirit than any gift or deal you might find while shopping…  Speaking of which…
  • DO try to have fun, and spread a little cheer.  Ultimately this holiday season (whatever you celebrate, be it religious, spiritual, or simply capitalistic) is about spreading a little light and love in the world.  It is no coincidence that the holidays come at the time of the winter solstice, when days are short and nights are long and cold.  Whether you are celebrating the birth of a Son or a Sun, or Lights in general, it’s all about a little love and hope to get us through the darkest nights.  We can all share that much, even if we never agree on details…

So…  Having said all this, let me be one of the first to wish you a happy holiday shopping season!  Together we can get through this, and maybe, just maybe, we can have a little fun doing so!

End rant…



5 thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice… (Day 26)

    • Lol! I forgot all about this retail rant! Sometimes I get a little testy during “the Season,” but you can’t take it out on customers. This was my attempt to purge the resentment before it got out of hand… 🙂

      As for how you got here? I’m guessing you started following links in my archives, and they dragged you ever further down the rabbit hole with me… lol!

      Glad to see you here, though, as you genuinely did make me laugh out loud… 😉


  1. Reblogged this on the otherhood of one and commented:

    I wrote this last year, but I find it just as true and useful today, so I’m sharing it again. And, for the record, Small Business Saturday is November 26th this year; that’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving…

    Wishing you all a happy, family and love filled holiday season! 🙂


  2. This reminded me – loud and clear – why I don’t do “holiday shopping” ever! Closest thing is a gift certificate, but the usual thing is a hand-made card with money folded in, leaving the recipient to become the victim of consumerism… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • On behalf of retail workers everywhere, we thank you! Lol!

      Although, honestly, some of it is fun for me. Depends on the customers, of course, but usually by the time I break out of receiving long enough to work the floor, it’s mostly friendly, patient and fun people shopping. And it is the one time of year when I get to see people other than staff members at work… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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