Just realized that I missed a very important rule for shoppers, so I’ve added it as rule #3, in italics.
For all of you folks shopping during this holiday season, remember:
Be nice to the sales associates.
Chances are that many of them were hired for the Christmas rush, after which they will be unemployed. Some of them may be moved around from department to department, and so not know where items are located, or have any specialized knowledge of the items for sale. Some may be covering areas due to shortages in staff. Others may have been dropped in the thick of things with register training–and not much else.
So, here are a few rules to keep in mind:
1.) Don’t yell at the sales associates. This only makes you look like an ass to the other customers, and angers the sales associate with whom you are dealing. Plus, it doesn’t solve anything. If, on the other hand, you wait patiently in line and correct the associate’s mistakes with a smile, you might just get that extra 20% off that was advertised in the paper, even if you forgot to bring the coupon. After all, we sales associates react kindly to kindness.
2.) Remember, we are sales associates, not your personal valets. It is not our job to cart your stuff around the store, or to look for items in other departments. We will, however, direct you to those departments, and hold your items at the register. Want someone to carry stuff for you? Shop with a friend.
3.) We are also not your maids or mothers. If you’re trying on clothes, put back any clothing that doesn’t fit you, or hang it on a put-back rack. We can serve you much better if we don’t have to clean up after your sorry asses. Do not leave it in the dressing room in a large pile, or even hung up in the dressing room. You brought it into the dressing room; you can take it out of the dressing room.
4.) If you can help it, go during regular store hours (if they’ve been extended), or towards late morning/early afternoon (between 11 and 7, ideally). The hardest hours to get coverage in a store are in the early morning (opening) and late evening (closing), so if you go during those hours, you might encounter a stressed sales associate covering two departments by himself/herself. He/she will be especially stressed out if there are special sales going on that day. Which leads me to:
5.) Notice the ratio of customers to sales associates. If there are five customers to one associate, be prepared to wait for assistance, or even for the sales associate to tell you that he/she is busy at the moment. If you’re dealing with a good sales associate, they will help everyone in turn. But, remember, many of them are only here for the holidays, and so really don’t give a shit if you’re pissed that he/she can’t find the cashmere sweater that was advertised in this morning’s newspaper. Then again, if you’re pleasant about it, they might give more of a shit and check the back room for you.
6.) Give yourself lots of time while shopping. This will prevent unforseen delays and prevent ugly confrontations. Remember, if you’re going to a store on your lunch break to “grab something quick,” chances are that so are many other people, and if the store is understaffed…
7.) Sales associates are human. We make mistakes. Sometimes they are to your benefit; sometimes not. If you notice a mistake, help the sales associate out. Kindly point out the error. If there’s anything you can do to help rectify their error (like knowing what the price of an item should be, and not what it’s ringing up as), do so. And if a sales associate is making too many errors for your comfort, you can always have them call a manager. Or, you can try coming back another time. And yes, having to make an extra trip to the store is a hassle, which is why I do most of my Christmas shopping online.
8.) Make a plan. Know exactly what you are going to buy and the general area where it’s located. If you don’t know where it’s located, do a dry run (it would be wise to do this before holiday shopping season begins). If you have questions for a sales associate, do it in person. We often can’t give you as much time on the phone because we’re busy helping other customers, and if we’re not near the phone when it rings, or we’re in the middle of a transaction, we’re not going to pick up. And if you’re letting it ring for long periods of time, by the time one of us does answer the phone, we’re not going to be too happy. One exception: if you’re only getting one item from a store, and you’re not buying anything else nearby, you can call to see if it’s in stock. Best time to call? Late morning or early afternoon, but limit your questions to two or less, and make them short. If you drone on and on, we might “accidentally” hang up on you.
Finally, a word of advice to sales associates about customers. Many of them have had to deal with long lines, rude associates, even ruder shoppers, coupons that have so many exclusions as to be impossible to figure out, items rung up at incorrect prices, items put in the wrong place so that they cost more than the sign says they do, traffic, and (possibly) unruly children. So, try to make their shopping experience as hassle free as possible. Learn as much as you can about your area from experienced sales associates. Make sure that items ring up correctly. And treat each customer with the respect that he/she deserves. Unless they start yelling at you. Then you can tell them to go to hell.