Retailers aren’t elves

Features Editor Beth Bowles laying it down on how we treat retail workers

Since I was 16, I’ve worked retail. This means this will be my seventh holiday season as a retail employee. It’s a Christmas miracle I’ve been able to survive.

When I first started at the grocery store in high school, the week before Christmas, our check out lineups would be all the way to the freezer section.

Every day customers yelled at me because we were sold out of turkeys. Impatient housewives would tell me I was too slow.

Businessmen on their BlackBerry cell phones would have me running up and down the aisles because they forgot cranberry sauce, slowing down my line even more.

It was exhausting.

This year will be my second Christmas working in a mall.

While I absolutely love my job, Christmas time for retail workers means something different than Christmas time for everyone else.

We work extended hours, go in early, stay well past the end of our shifts and train multiple new employees hired for seasonal employment.

This year, my store hired seven new employees and they all started during the same month.

Because of high volumes of customers, we didn’t have the time or the manpower to train them like we usually would in the off-season.

We give them the quick low down and send them out into the battlefield without any armor.

I’m telling you this because customers can be real dicks around the holidays.

At the three different retail stores I’ve worked at, there seems to be the same sort of pattern.

Traffic in stores goes up and everyone is pissed.

I hate holiday shopping just as much as anybody else, but that doesn’t mean that when the local grocery store runs out of turkeys, the 16-year old cashier who is just trying to save money to go to university is the one to blame.

She probably hates being in that grocery store just as much as you do.

Even in the malls, customers don’t realize that 50 per cent of retail workers in December are temporary employees.

They’re new to the job and have most likely been poorly trained.

If they can’t find the dark wash jeans in your daughter’s size, it’s probably because it’s their second shift and management has been too busy dealing with real issues, making no time to show them where the extra jeans are stored.

Be patient, they’re doing the best they can.

The sheer volume of customers and long lineups during the holiday season is stressful enough.

Retail workers don’t need people screaming in their faces just to top it all off.

Respect is a two way street.

Today at work, I spent some time with a woman who was looking for a specific item.

We didn’t have it in stock so I checked another store for her and offered to call them and put it on hold.

This wasn’t an act of kindness.

This was me doing my job.

After, I overheard the woman telling my coworker how great we all are and that I gave her excellent customer service.

I spent the rest of my shift with a smile on my face, eager to help more customers.

It may seem so simple, but being kind to retail workers at the busiest time of the year can really make an impact on their day.

As you shop this holiday season, remember that — as cheesy as it may sound — the holidays are about giving and spending time with friends and family.

Retail workers are usually required to work Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

While you’re yelling at them for overcharging you at the register, remember they are people too.

They are probably missing a family dinner to work at a minimum wage job and in most situations, whatever you’re mad about is completely out of their hands.

Holiday gifts can’t happen without retail workers.

If you can’t maintain patience in the mall on a Saturday afternoon, then you do have the option to just stay at home and buy all your gifts online.

We aren’t Santa’s slaves, we’re just as human as you.

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