Twelve Shopping Tips From A Mall Insider

— Say please and thank you to associates and managers. They’re working long hours with fewer breaks and are trying their best.
First 4 digits of a credit card
It's not a license to kill! Image via Wikipedia

— If you can’t find what you need, don’t punish the staff or manager by yelling or being rude. They didn’t choose the store’s inventory nor do they control the amount of goods available.

— If you’re eating and drinking as you shop, please do NOT leave your food and drink bottles or cups on tables, shelves or the floor — where they will spill, make a mess, be dangerous and ruin the merchandise. Ask an associate, nicely, to throw it away for you, which they will (or should) gladly do.

— If an associate helps you, ask their name so you can be sure they are credited with that sale. Each one typically must meet a sales quota per shift; without those sales credits, their managers have less proof they’re productive, (and won’t be inclined to offer them post-holiday jobs.)

— If you don’t see what you want, ask if there’s more in the stockroom — but if the wait is a long one, don’t wander off. During the holidays, the stock room can be pure chaos so even the hardest-working associate can’t help you as fast as they would like.

— When an associate asks you if you want a store credit card, don’t bite their head off. Management insists they do so. It’s not because they want to!

— Don’t assume that an associate is on commission, (most are not) and is trying to sell you something to earn more. Most do have a daily sales goal to meet, and it can reach four figures.

— If an associate tries to sell you more than one item — even if you didn’t ask for it – it’s also because they’re required to by company policy.  Each associate is measured by this standard, called UPTs.

— While you’re shopping, stay hydrated and fed. The more exhausted you, and your kids, are the less pleasant shopping is for everyone. Take breaks! Sit down. Bring a bottle of cold water and some granola bars to keep your energy level up.

PLEASE keep a close eye on your children. Stores are not designed or meant to be a combination of a garbage can and a playground. They’re dirty and full of ways for a child to get hurt, from smashing into a metal pole to grabbing a fistful of dirt while playing peek-a-boo beneath a row of coats. Associates have neither the time nor the energy to play babysitter.

— Don’t assume the store, or associates or managers, have as much access to web-based information, even about their own products, as you do. Even though it’s logical to expect, many retailers are not investing in this.

— When an associate or manager is helping you, on the sales floor or as they are completing your sale at the register, look them in the eye and listen. They need your full attention to make sure they are properly meeting your needs – and the many demands from senior management. If you’re talking on your phone or texting, you’re selfishly slowing business down for everyone else.

Caitlin Kelly is a 27-month veteran of working part-time for The North Face in White Plains, NY and author of “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.”

Read an excerpt at

And for those who find the idea of shopping Black Friday’s my op-ed at

Originally published at The Stir at Cafe Mom.

10 thoughts on “Twelve Shopping Tips From A Mall Insider

  1. I think this is a great list, especially since I work in retail too. The whole being helped by someone and asking for their name is a big one, I can’t stand it when what I worked on with a walk in looking for retail isn’t credited underneath me and for my work high retail = raise. It is probably the most important thing they look at, and I’m a massage therapist.

  2. Well done, a good list, I cannot bear it when people get angry at the retail personnel. My second job for years was as a waitress. My Mother in Law is one of those who are impatient and curt .One day i was shopping and she was along for the ride and got bitchy with the guy helping me. So I gave her the keys and told her to go outside and wait in the car. I was a school teacher and used my teachers voice. I don’t know why she does that. The guy was so grateful, and I was so embarrassed. but he has never forgotton. Though I will still answer the credit card request with my gentle, “no I don’t buy anything unless I can pay for it”. Usually they get a chuckle out of it! They know that I know that they have to say it. And I know about the sore tired feet. c

    1. I wonder (?) if it’s worth asking your mother in law why she behaves this way to sales staff. Some people don’t know their effect — or don’t care.

      I loathe the pushing of the credit cards. In a time when so many people are in deep financial trouble, I think offering highpriced cards is obscene.

  3. Good advice! My first retail sales job was at Neiman Marcus as a holiday temp at the chocolate counter. I loved putting out the samples for the day and sampling a few myself. Despite what one might think, I thought our clientele was very friendly overall. Now that I no longer work in retail, I do not miss the craziness of preparing the store for the holiday madness. Eventually I landed at Borders where I stayed for 13 years not all of which was in the stores. I don’t know which is worse cleaning up the kids book section or women’s lingerie clearance? I hope you enjoyed your holiday!

  4. Thanksgiving this year was lovely — and I spent it far away from stores!

    I bet the chocolate gig was fun! I often greatly enjoyed my retail job, but after a few years of low wages, wanted to be better paid for my skills.

    In my book I describe the insanity of trying to keep our store tidy and organized between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, a month when too many adult shoppers behave like infants.

  5. It’s getting to that time again isn’t it. When we the general public collectively leave any sense of perspective or intelligence at home.

    The urge to kill small children and slow walkers becomes almost too much to bear. 🙂

    I love Christmas!


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