Wednesday, December 4, 2013

10 Ways to be a Better Shopper (and human being) This Holiday Season

I did it this year. I broke all of my rules. I went against everything that I believe in. Forsaking common sense and rational thought, bowing to societal pressures, I allowed myself to be talked into something so out of character for me, that I'm having trouble coming to terms with the person that I've become (and perhaps always have been?).

I went Black Friday shopping.

I work retail, you guys. I know better. The only reasonable explanation is temporary insanity brought about by the dangerous mixture of wine and tryptophan. I was in a warm, happy, Thanksgiving daze when my mother asked me to accompany her that evening to Wal-Mart. She'd just worked so hard preparing such a nice meal. By gosh, it was the least I could do!

What a fool I was.

Now, I don't begrudge anyone who actually has the disposition for Black Friday (especially when it starts on Thursday). I imagine you end your day joyously rolling around in the piles of money that you saved. I just don't have the stomach for it.

What's going through my mind on Black Friday:

What I see in the eyes of my fellow shoppers:

 What is it about entering a retail store this time of year that makes people lose their humanity?! I'm kicking off my 9th year working in customer service at a retail store, and even after all I've witnessed, I'm still continuously shocked by the behaviors exhibited by shoppers during the holiday season.

So what's to be done about this? Is society just f#%!ed?

I always try to believe that people are inherently good, and these poor misguided souls just need to be educated. Unfortunately, telling people they're behaving like douche monsters will only serve to get me fired (and we've already established that I don't have those extra piles of money to cushion that fall), so I'll just have to settle on telling the internet.

1. Before you leave the house, ask yourself, "Am I currently in control of my bowels?"

If the answer is yes, you may proceed to the store.

If the answer is no, stay home or see a healthcare professional.

I've seen things you guys. Horrible, awful things. Things I'll never be able to unsee. I've seen walls with so many feces on them that it looked like someone let loose a hose on full blast. I've seen poos so big that they had to be broken up with a clothes hanger so they would fit down the drain. I've been asked to check on someone because of the horrible noises they were making from the stall. (As a side note, every single one of these things happened in the women's restroom. You ladies are nasty.)

And these experiences all pale in comparison to the worst experience I've ever had at that store...

I was warned of a mess near our entrance by a customer. I thanked her for letting me know and let her know I'd look into it as soon as I had a chance. Obviously uncomfortable, she leaned in and whispered in my ear, "I think you're going to want to take care of this now." 

Really not a great sign.

I expected something awful. Something like spilled soda, broken glass, an elderly woman with a broken hip. I didn't expect to see a giant pile of poo in the middle of the carpet...and then a second two feet away...and then a third that had been stepped in. I followed the foot prints that were now being left to the door of the bathroom where I found the fourth pile caught under the door, smearing all over the floor as the door opened and closed. The footprints continued to a stall where I had to scrub the floor, the toilet seat, and one handprint off the wall.


Why are you people out shopping?! I just...I can't even...

2. Don't park like an asshole.

Don't drive the wrong way down the rows. Don't take up more than your allotted space. Don't try to squeeze your giant Bronco-sauruses into spots that are clearly too small, and for the love of God, don't park in senior citizen spots if you're not a senior citizen. 

There's certainly no legal ramifications for taking one of these spots. I've personally never taken notice of who is parking there, but do you know who is policing these parking spots? Little old ladies with a score to settle.

So because you're too lazy to park an extra ten feet away, I get to be harassed by a gray haired little old bitty with a walker and a potty mouth who is insisting that I page your license plate number, hunt you down, get your car towed, and get you taken out in cuffs. Then I get to have a written complaint sent in about me when I explain that unfortunately there's nothing I can do. 

And I have to smile and spell my name for her while she fills out the comment card in front of me.

3. Don't tell us how terrible you think it is that we have to be here on a holiday.

Guess what, f#%!er, the only reason we're working on a holiday is because people like you feel the need to shop on a holiday. I've made peace with the hours that are required when working retail, but when comments like that are made it makes me want to slap you on your stupid face.

4. Understand that we do not have an infinite amount of product hidden in the backroom. 

Yes, I understand it was shown in our ad (our ad that is created months before and sent out to every store across the nation), I understand that this was supposed to be a present, and I really do care that your nephew really needed that specific Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure (Michelangelo is my favorite too), but our inventory system is sophisticated enough that I can promise you we don't have any in stock.

I'd be happy to go into the backroom and pretend to look if it would make you feel better. It'll give me a chance to check my hair and complain about you to my coworkers.

5. Put things back where you found them.

I mean seriously, we learned this in Kindergarten, people. 

I'm willing to concede that putting things away can be an inconvenience. Maybe you've changed your mind about something that you picked up all the way across the store. We're happy to have that put away for you if you simply hand it to your cashier at checkout. I'll never understand people's need to hide shit that they don't want. You won't get in trouble for having a change of heart, in fact we'll be applauding you for making the mature decision to not just ditch it somewhere in the store.

The most infuriating instance of this happened to me just the other day. I was running a register, and I watched  someone look at a shirt, decide against it, make eye contact with me, and then tossed it over the top of the magazine rack...just beyond my reach.

That's going to sit there directly in my line of sight for the next forty five minutes when I'll finally be able to get over to take it down...after I've been scolded for not keeping my work area neat.

This goes for your shopping cart as well. You're going to be walking by at least one cart corral on the way to your car. Probably the same one that you got your cart from. Does it really take that much more effort to put it away than it does to leave it at the end of the register? 

6. Don't complain to your cashier about how long the line is.

They're having even less fun that you are. You've had to deal with this line for 5 minutes...they've been staring at it for 7 hours. Being short staffed makes for the most miserable day during the holiday season. Whether it be because someone called in sick, the store is busier than anticipated, or someone just made a shitty schedule, I guarantee you the fault is never with the person that's actually there checking you out. 

Just ride it out, and maybe tell the cashier that the (likely horrible) color of their work uniform really brings out the color of their eyes...they could use a win right about now.

7. Consider the behaviors that you're role modeling to your children.

Whenever an adult throws at temper tantrum in front of their child I rest easy knowing that their kid will never again be satiated by the phrase, "We can't always get what we want." 

"I demand to speak to a grandparent about this!"

8. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

In other words, don't be a dick.

Want to know a secret? We have the power to make a lot of things happen, even if they are "against policy." Return policies, coupon expiration dates, and limited quantity items all exist for a reason, even if you don't understand that reason. Rules are made to be broken though, and if you are polite, friendly, gracious, and most importantly, admit fault when you were in fact the one who messed up, I will bend over backwards to take care of you. 

If you're a dick about it?

"Oh shoot. My hands are tied."

9. Save your receipts

How can you seriously be shocked that I can't just hand you fistfuls of cash for your return if you can't prove to me that you actually bought it? You can't tell me when you paid for this, how you paid for this, where you bought it from, or if you used your savings card?

And you're annoyed with me?!

10. Consider if you're really willing to let a shopping trip ruin your day.

I read an article awhile ago that begged the question, "Are you getting bad service, or are you a bad customer?" I know that bad customer service does happen, and that sucks, but does it really need to be an experience that ruins your day. Do you really need to take to social media to vent your frustrations (btw, your friends all think you're a dick when you do this)? Do we still need to be talking about that time you got overcharged for an item a month later?

I can honestly say that, as a customer, I have never in my life had a bad customer service experience. There have been people that I've thought could be doing their job better. I've been less than satisfied when I left a store. I just can't be bothered to care about it. The energy that it would take to work myself up to the level of hysteria that I've seen in my almost decade of retail work seems downright exhausting. It's just so much easier to give a smile, thank them for their help, and wish them a good day.

It's also the easiest way to make them feel like shit. I get such a horrible guilty feeling when I've been a jerk, and the customer is nice to me anyway.

So as you continue your holiday shopping, please try to remember that retail workers are human beings. No matter how robotic our canned questions about loyalty cards, extended protection programs, or credit cards are, we've got feelings. We're not drones.

At least until Amazon gets its way.

1 comment:

  1. Preach! Common decency should be a lot more common than it is!