Are you finished your Christmas shopping yet? The week before Christmas you can’t chase me anywhere near a mall, I’d rather shove splinters under my fingernails. I worked one Christmas season in retail and that was enough.
Today, I have a guest on Blogging Through the Fire. Brandon Insley regularly beats me at Settlers of Catan, lets my kids play video games in his mancave, installs car stereos at Future Shop by weekday and enjoys hiking and camping with his family on weekends. His rants on Facebook absolutely crack me up, so I invited him to try his hand at blogging. His rant on The Grammar Apocalypse has become one of my most popular posts, so I’m ecstatic to have Brando back with a new rant. Ever wondered what it’s like to work retail this time of year? Apparently it’s akin to running a guillotine obstacle course!
Christmas shopping from the other side of the cash register.
Break out the flame-retardant suits and the Valium, because it’s another December in retail. This will be my 10th year working in a retail environment for the holiday season, and I’m no closer to understanding the perplexing mindset of the Christmas shopper this year than I was when I first started.
Deep down inside, I still feel like that wide-eyed fledgling, staring out abashed from behind a fixture in the store, watching the madness unfold. Granted, I’m lucky enough to work in the service department, so most of my time is spent in the back of the store in my quiet little sanctuary away from the chaos of the sales floor. But every now and then I have to venture out into the crossfire, and every year I’m dumbfounded by what I see.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for retail salespeople this time of year, and also for the poor souls who have to work the customer service desk. Those who’ve been around for a few Christmases know what to expect, and their hides have been thickened somewhat by the onslaught, but those poor seasonal hires are going to leave needing mental rehabilitation. I can picture each one of them in a straitjacket, hunched in the corner of a padded room, rocking back and forth on their heels.
To be hired on as a seasonal salesperson in retail this time of year would be analogous to being dropped on the shores of Normandy, handed a rifle and a set of binoculars, and told to run towards the gunfire. Most of them will probably be picked off within a few paces of hitting the ground. It must really be an eye-opener for them, to see the true nature of the Christmas shopper.
Come between an item on someone’s shopping list and that little checkmark, and suddenly you’ve become public enemy number one. Any other time of the year it’s easy breezy shopping, but in December when people have a list, a budget, and a deadline, you’d better have what they need in stock and for the advertised price. If not, you may as well throw yourself into the cardboard compactor and have a co-worker hit the green button.
I’ve learned a thing or two in my retail experience. In December, simple things like going to the bathroom become an exercise in evasion. For me, that means hoofing it to the opposite corner of the store, and if I’m not careful it’s easy to get ambushed by some inquisitive customer looking for an e-reader. You can always tell when a customer is about to ambush you, because they’re usually standing near the end of an aisle looking around like a toddler who’s lost his parents in a shopping mall. Once they’ve made eye contact with you it’s game over, so I’ve learned that staring at the floor while I’m walking is an excellent deterrent. Also, sticking to the outside perimeter of the store will lessen the chance that you’ll run into some chump with a thousand questions about a Garmin GPS.
Here’s a classic question I love to deflect: “Excuse me, what’s the difference between this one, and this one?”
It’s important to keep a straight face with this response. And if the price happens to be the same, you can substitute with “the color,” or “the model number,” and so on, and so forth.
There’s just something about this time of year that puts a twinkle in peoples’ eyes. The twinkle lasts until you inform them that season two of the Gilmore Girls is out of stock, and then it turns into a twitch, followed by a lunatic rampage. It’s a wonder we don’t hire members from a biker gang to work behind the customer service desk, because the poor girls (and sometimes guys) who work up there deal with some pretty ridiculous stuff.
So, next time you’re out shopping in a retail store, tip your hat to a salesperson or customer service rep, because chances are they’re having a much worse day than you are.
Have you ever worked retail at Christmas – got any survival tips? Do you save your Christmas shopping for the last minute, or are you one of those who are prepared days or weeks ahead of time?
I blog when I have something to say, not on a set schedule. Make sure you don’t miss any posts by subscribing using the box below to have updates arrive once a week in your inbox. I would love to meet and chat, find me on Facebook here.