Reminders for the holiday shopping season

As we get down to the wire with holiday shopping this year, which seems like it’s approached even faster than usual because of how late Thanksgiving fell in 2013, there are a few things I’d like everyone to remember. This list goes for shoppers, but it also goes for sales associates, as well. The holiday season is stressful, no matter who you are or where you work or what your plans happen to be. But there are a few things we could all do to make this time less stressful for everyone.

  1. Be patient.
    If you’re shopping in the weeks leading up to the holidays, give yourself a little extra time at each store to allow for crowds, busy associates, and lines. Remember that while you’re out shopping for gifts for your loved ones, so are lots of other people. And remember that your sales associates are doing everything they can to get to customers as quickly as possible. They’re trying just as hard to multitask as you are, and if you’re all patient with each other, your interactions will be far more pleasant.
  2. Don’t shoot the messenger.
    You aren’t the only one who desperately wants that fancy tablet! Store stocks are limited, and it’s not uncommon that they run out of hot-ticket items. If an associate tells you they’re out of stock, remember that the associate has no control over what gets distributed from the warehouse. Yelling at them won’t help! If they offer to order it for you online, remember our first tip: be patient. Consider the option. If you absolutely must have that item, getting it shipped might not be such a bad idea.
  3. Be flexible.
    Building on points 1 and 2, give yourself room to consider other options. This goes for associates as well as shoppers — ask questions, listen to suggestions, accept feedback. While that might not always seem possible, because people get their hearts set on certain things during the holidays, try to realize that both you and the associate are trying to maximize your time and your dollar. Flexibility is key for everyone involved.
  4. Be kind and considerate.
    Not everyone has a family to shop for this holiday season. Not everyone has a family they want to shop for this holiday season. Not everyone can afford to shop this holiday season. Try not to assume. In interacting with associates and shoppers, be polite with small talk and stay away from heavier subjects. While it may not seem like a bad thing to wish someone a good time with their family, it might strike a negative cord.
  5. Be generous.
    Don’t take this point the wrong way. I’m not talking solely about monetary generosity. I’m talking about all of the points listed above, as well as just general consideration for others. If you can afford to grab a pre-packed bag at the grocery store to donate to your local food bank, go for it. If you can afford to buy a toy or a book to go to an underprivileged child, please do. But if you can’t, or if you’re stressed about money or family or anything else, then be generous with kindness. Say “please” and “thank you”. Hold the door for someone loaded down with bags, or someone who has kids dragging at their legs. Drive safely. All of the little things that you probably do on a daily basis can mean a lot during the holiday season, when stress levels are high and everyone is on edge.

I’m sure there are lots of other things to keep in mind as you shop this year, so if you have suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments. As someone who works in both retail and food service, I can attest to the importance of all of these things. Please remember that people in customer service are just trying to do their jobs as effectively as possible. Remember that the cashier you’re shouting at probably has no power over whatever’s upset you. And remember that while you’re stressed, so is pretty much everyone else in the building.

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