I’m working holiday retail again this year. I thought that between my loans and the two jobs I’ve worked this semester I would be alright, but between replacing the timing belt on my car and missing three days of work to drive up and stay with my brother in the hospital . . . I’m a bit short on my January rent. So instead of writing my finals and spending time with friends before the holidays, I’m going to be writing my finals and selling ham to frenzied holiday shoppers.
The busy week for my store was actually last week, but for most people in the retail industry the madness is just beginning. For those of you who will be shopping tomorrow, here are a few things we’d like you to keep in mind:
- Be patient. In most of the seasonal jobs I’ve had, I only worked one shift before Black Friday. Sometimes, I just got a walkthrough and an hour or two of register training when I came to fill out my W-2. If you shop somewhere regularly, you probably know more about the store than the seasonal employees at this point.
- Be realistic. Regular retail employees have little to no power over how the store is stocked, how they handle coupons, and whether or not the in-store price matches the advertisement. Most of the things you are angry about can’t actually be addressed by the people in front of you. If something about the store’s policy or condition really bothers you, go home and send an email complaining about it to the company. Don’t chew out an employee who can’t actually help you. That’s just an attempt to make yourself feel better by making someone else’s day shittier.
- Be compassionate. Retail is hard work, especially around this time of year. It’s boring. You spend all day on your feet. Most of the people you deal with are grumpy or rude, and after a few hours you start to feel kind of invisible. And most of the people I know who take seasonal positions are squeezing them onto an already full plate. These are students who are trying to stretch their bank accounts until next semester’s loans drop or working mothers who are trying to scratch together Christmas for their kids. Of course their performance is a little lackluster. Their minds are always somewhere else. And while they are being paid to be there, they probably aren’t being paid very much. I’m currently making slightly less than half of what I make at my regular jobs.
- Be respectful. Treat store employees like human beings, and treat the store like a place of business. Treat the merchandise like it belongs to someone else because at this point, it does. Look the cashier in the eye. Say “please” and “thank you.” Smile occasionally. Hang up the clothes you don’t want after you’ve tried them on. If you knock something over, fix it. Put things back the way you found them. One year I worked as a dressing room attendant at a women’s clothing store during the holidays. On Black Friday, I walked into multiple dressing rooms that were literally knee deep in clothing that customers had tried on and discarded. It took me ages to straighten everything out, and the whole time I had impatient customers complaining about the wait for a dressing room.
Enjoy your Black Friday. Get great deals. Shop ‘til you drop. But be nice about it.