Be kind to retail workers this Christmas

Posted on Apr 21, 2020 Tags: , , ,

Christmas shopping can be stressful for anyone. But it’s a particularly trying time for retail workers. This Christmas, show some goodwill to shop assistants by following these simple rules:

Have realistic expectations (especially about the amount of influence they have)

As a general rule, the person behind the till has little to no influence over wider company policy. If your favourite lipstick has been discontinued or if you don’t like a certain display, there is basically nothing that an ordinary shop assistant can do about it.

Shop floor workers are the front line of retail. They take all the flak but issue none of the orders. This is especially true in larger chain stores. The people who make the decisions are far away, maybe even in a different country. The likelihood of your complaint getting all the way from a supermarket cashier here to the boardroom in New York is virtually zero. Many chains don’t even have procedures in place for workers on the ground to pass on customer complaints. Yes, their influence really is that low.

If a retail worker says they are not authorised to issue you a refund, or to alter a display, or to order in new stock (or whatever): believe them. It’s not their fault that they have neither the authority nor the influence to do what you want. What’s more, they could well face disciplinary action for acting outside their remit.

If you have an important complaint or suggestion, the best thing you can do is to take it up with the higher-ups. Social media is particularly good at grabbing corporate attention. If letters and emails fail, try tweeting. But don’t take your frustrations out on the floor workers. It’s not their fault.

Be patient

The High Street is BUSY at Christmas. And retail workers are under an immense amount of pressure. What this means is that things aren’t going to happen as quickly as you’d like. It’s understandable to be frustrated by the crowds and the queues but, again, none of that is the fault of the people working in the shops. If you’re stressed by Christmas shopping, imagine how they feel. They have to be surrounded by all that chaos for hours on end, every day.

Cut retail workers a break. Take a deep breath, be patient, and save your frustration for the folks who deserve it (like that idiot who parked over two spaces in the multi-storey so you had to drive around for aaages to find a space. Honestly. Some people!)

Be prepared

You know what’s a great way to avoid the stress of Christmas shopping? To get it finished before Christmas.

OK, realistically very few of us are that organised. But you can make things easier for yourselves and for retail workers by heading into town with a plan. Know what you want to buy and where you want to buy it. Get your money and bags ready while you’re waiting to be served. If you’re ordering something (coffee, for example) over the counter, don’t daydream your way through the queue and then look bewildererd when asked what you want. Have your order ready. That kind of thing sounds small, but it really can make all the difference to the stress levels of shop assistants, other shoppers, and yourself.

The more organised you are, the quicker you’ll be done with your shopping. Best of all, the workers will wish that every Christmas shopper was more like you!

Don’t tell them to ‘cheer up’

Christmas is a stressful time for shop assistants. So, they might look stressed. Don’t tell them to ‘cheer up’. Telling them to cheer up is not going to make them cheer up.

Put yourself in their shoes

If all else fails, try and see things from their perspective. Your Christmas shopping is the most important thing on your mind right now. But, for a shop assistant, you are just one of hundreds and hundreds of stressed, irritable customers that they are going to have to deal with today.

They’re trapped among the bright lights and the interminably repeating Christmas tunes, dealing with the same queries day in day out and getting the brunt of people’s seasonal frustrations to boot. It’s not fun. But they’re doing their best.

Be kind.

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