Open Letter to Holiday Shoppers

by K.M. Zahrt

Dear Holiday Shoppers,

I want to encourage you to get out there and shop local, to support our local retailers, even to support our local part-time sales associates, but it only takes a few difficult shoppers to make trouble for everyone. Your behavior can make all the difference. One happy-go-lucky customer can go a long way toward turning a whole line of Scrooge McCustomers around.

We all know there are many variables at stake that could change at any moment and put you on Team Scrooge. The parking lots are crowded. The aisles are cramped. The lines are long. The lights are bright. It’s hot inside, and of course, you can’t take off your coat. You would hate to carry it, and it would take up all the room in your cart. And, to make matters worse, you came ill-prepared. You didn’t bring a beverage or a snack to sustain your energy. I understand what your good nature is up against in this environment, but please don’t lash out at your barista. It’s not their fault.

Nevertheless, I applaud you for wanting to share holiday cheer with all your friends and family members, so here’s a few tips from a former sales associate to you, dear Holiday Shoppers, as a gift:

1. Silence and stow your electronic device. This should be a no-brainer.

2. Make decisions quickly and efficiently. Operate as if you’re Matthew Stafford on a last-minute drive down the field to save the game, as if getting through the transaction with the cashier needs to happen in two minutes or less or your shopping day will be lost. Don’t find yourself at the front of the cafe line, staring at the menu. The clock will run out on you. This goes hand-in-hand with the next tip…

3. Be informed. When you track down a sales associate, know what you’re asking for. Don’t say things like, “My son asked for that book about Thomas Jefferson’s boots.” Or, “It’s a big red [insert mostly inaccurate description here]. I forget what it’s called.” When Stafford takes the field on Sunday, you expect him to know the plays. Expect the same from yourself.

4. Seriously, silence and stow your electronic device. You can’t even stand in line properly with that smartphone in your hand. There’s now a large enough gap between you and the person in line in front of you that–yup–here comes your cousin, guy who can’t find the end of the line. He’s carrying on a conversation on his BlueTooth. If he cuts in line, that one’s on you. Oh, and don’t talk on your phone in line. Just don’t.

5. Know the rules and play within them. Wouldn’t it be annoying if Stafford didn’t know that he needs to snap the ball before the play clock expires or that he needs to move the team ten yards in four plays otherwise their turn is over? The same is true for you. Know the return policy and the gift receipt policy. Know the buy one get one policy. Of course the discounted price applies to the cheaper item. That’s how it works everywhere. You shouldn’t need to review the rule book on that one. It’s annoying when players dispute every penalty, and it’s annoying when you play dumb. Don’t ask for exceptions.

6. Be Patient. Challenge yourself to wait in line happily. If you’re an introvert, take a stroll down memory lane or go through your mental Christmas list. Pretend the loud, gabbing packs of older women don’t exist. If you’re an extrovert, talk to them. Engage them in conversation. You know, if you can’t beat ’em and all… Whatever you do, don’t be the customer who knows how to run the place better than the managers. If you’re about to start a sentence with “You’d think they would…” Stop and take the time to quietly reflect upon your life. Re-assess your priorities. Ask yourself, How did my life come to this? Your time in line will be much better spent.

7. Silence and stow your electronic device, now. Your kids are destroying the impulse-buy racks, and everyone is hating you.

8. To donate or not to donate. Look, celebrating the holidays according to your family’s traditions can be expensive. We all get it. Don’t be a jerk when the Donation Elves crawl out of the woodwork. Rule #2: Make decisions quickly and efficiently. Either donate or don’t donate. If you do, a big show of your philanthropic spirit is not necessary. Likewise, if you don’t, excuses are not necessary. We don’t need a sob story. We don’t need to hear a laundry list of charitable organizations you choose to support instead, either. You can look the DE’s in the face and say, “No, thank you.” That’s acceptable behavior. Which brings me to my next point…

9. Be kind. It won’t kill you–seriously, it won’t–to share some of your generosity of spirit with the people around you, not just the people for whom you’re buying gifts.

10. At least sympathize, if you can’t empathize. The sales associates don’t want to be stuck there during the holidays any more than you want to be stuck there. I would be in favor of a law dictating that only shoppers who’ve worked a holiday in retail in their life can shop on Black Friday (soon to be known as Let’s Eat a Big Dinner and Go Shopping Weekend); otherwise, you should stick to Cyber Monday (soon to be known as Amazon.com Day).

If you violated any of these over the past weekend, there’s only one thing for you to do: own up to it. Go back to the store, find the nearest sales associate, apologize, then never do it again.

Now, try to have some fun out there.

Happy Holidays,
K.M. Zahrt

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One thought on “Open Letter to Holiday Shoppers

  1. I have a problem with number 10. I agree no one should be rude to employees or anyone for that matter but why do we act like they are chained slaves? This is their job, by choice, no one is forcing them to be a cashier. This piece implies that most holiday shoppers are jerks. The ones reported on the news are, but the vast majority are regularly old nice people. Sorry you have misconceptions about humanity.

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