A Retail Worker’s Guide to Holiday Shopping Etiquette | Pittsburgh City Paper

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A Retail Worker's Guide to Holiday Shopping Etiquette

PR illustration: Lucy Chen

When Bex Tasker used to work holiday shifts at Sheetz, they heard a common refrain of customers trying and failing to be polite.

“‘Wow, I can’t believe you work here!’ Tasker said. “And it’s like, yeah, you’re here to fill up!” Who did you think was going to do that? And people were standing there and keeping the line busy and wailing and wailing, “Oh, I can’t believe you had to work on vacation!”

Retail employees endure constant mistreatment from customers throughout the year, but during the holidays they reach Santa-sized proportions. Pittsburgh City Paper spoke with people who have retail and restaurant experience during the holidays to help our readers avoid acting like a jagoff.

The holiday rush is an inevitable phenomenon that shows no signs of stopping. After a drop over the past two years due to the pandemic, Americans expect to spend an average of $932 on holiday gifts this year, about the same as in 2019, according to an October Gallup poll.

I asked a friend of mine who worked at Best Buy for years what advice he would give to customers looking to be courteous to retail employees during the holidays, and he said “don’t come”. God bless him, but I’m not sure this advice will hold the landing.

Take the example of the White Whale bookstore in Bloomfield. According to owner Jill Yeomans, there’s a pretty laid-back atmosphere for most of the year, with staff able to chat comfortably with each other and with customers. However, in November, that changes.

“When the holidays start, everyone is really busy all the time,” Yeomans says. “There is always something to do. Either we are fulfilling the orders or managing the queue or managing the door or asking people to mask up, or we are in the pending shipping orders, receiving a lot of boxes. It’s just really busy for all of us.

Michelle Obama’s first book Become, provided an early holiday season challenge for the independent bookstore when it was released in November 2018. White Whale sold out immediately and constantly heard customers trying to get a copy that season. Now White Whale is overbuying, according to Yeomans, so the store generally meets demand for new holiday releases, including the former first lady’s new book, The light we carry.

Simple enough, Yeomans’ biggest recommendation is to recognize that retail workers are human beings.

“Not everyone is a robot and is not there to immediately respond to your needs,” Yeomans says. “And what that means is that often we have staff … who have only been there for a few months, or they started when it was slower and they are really not used to a busy store and people who need something very quickly. ”

Despite the stress and hectic pace of the holiday season, it’s not uncommon for online orders to be accompanied by messages like “Thank you! which Yeomans says goes a long way.

“It really makes a difference to us, especially when you’re in the drudgery of fulfilling order after order or having a bad interaction with a customer,” Yeomans says. “It’s really nice to remember that most of our customers are lovely people who enjoy our store.”

Gayle McGarril, who has worked in cafes since 2017 and in retail before that, currently owns and operates The Garden Cafe in the Northside. It seems to her that she received more bullshit from customers as a young high schooler and college student, but she thinks she might be better at handling it now. After having children, she says dealing with a teenager at home avoids placating unpleasant customers.

McGarril urges avoiding cold and rude behavior and being careful not to hold the line because your face is buried in your phone. She also says it’s best not to draw attention to any understaffing issues a company might have, which she’s seen when visiting other companies.

“People are going to say, ‘Are you the only one here? You don’t have anyone to help you? It just makes things so much more stressful,'” McGarril says.

Tasker has worked in a variety of retail and restaurant jobs since he was 16. Their recommendations for vacation shoppers looking to show courtesy mostly boil down to being patient and getting their groceries as early as possible.

The 26-year-old Greenfield resident recently launched The Hop Along Cafe, a bunny and cat cafe that showed up in pop-up locations ahead of its impending permanent launch in downtown Pittsburgh. Thus, they will go from being a worker during the holiday rush to being a manager during the holiday rush.

“I really want to prioritize the mental health and well-being of my staff,” says Tasker. “We’re a very, very small team, as we’re just getting started, but I really want to make sure no one gets too overwhelmed or works too many hours and also has time to spend time with their family this season. parties.”

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A Retail Worker's Guide to Holiday Shopping Etiquette

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