With only six days left for anyone planning to offer Christmas gifts, the push — literally — is on. Stores are jammed, shelves are empty just when you wanted X in size Y, line-ups to pay are long. Customers tap their toes, click their credit cards on the counter, curse and sigh at the ineptitude of those they expect to help them. One woman, I heard this week, decided to toss a full, heavy box of shoes at someone behind the counter whose behavior annoyed her.
That’s assault, but the company — who I will name in my book — didn’t even call the police. Don’t be that person!
No matter how frustrated or tired you get, please don’t take it out on the people whose job it is to help you. As I told one furious female shopper last night, as I worked my final night at a store in a suburban mall: “The store right now has two people to help you. I assure you they are doing the best that they can.” She harrumphed and clearly didn’t care.
It wasn’t even my place to say so, as I was not the manager, which she mistook me for. But the store was a vision of hell: dozens of shoppers facing, in New York today, a blizzard predicted to drop up to six inches of snow downstate. They were all desperate to buy gifts or warm clothes, gloves and shoes. And it was the leanest staff possible. I left at 8:00 p.m. as planned and the manager, not there last night, had budgeted for.
Today’s New York Times offers a shopping story, with the same limited perspective I’d have brought to it before I switched to the other side of the register, as a part-time sales associate for more than two years. The reporter caught every detail — but one. That of the exhausted and overwhelmed associates working there. Yesterday, fighting a bad cold, I stood ringing people up in an unbroken stream of commerce, for hours. It may be utterly inconvenient, but associates also get dehydrated and/or need to use the bathroom, none of which is possible under those circumstances.
I quit my job yesterday, with notice, and as planned. Last year I worked through Christmas Eve. Anyone who’s ever worked retail in the holidays gets it.
Smile, say thanks, wish them a happy holiday. They are doing their best.