Working in retail during the holidays

Retail During the Holidays: Otherwise Known as Your Annual Reminder to BE NICE

Working in retail during the holidays

Last year I wrote a tongue in cheek post about working retail (or any service based industry) over the holiday season, and I feel that with less than a week to go until Christmas it’s due to be revived.

You all may or may not know, but my day job is retail-based and If you’ve ever worked in any sort of service industry or retail (and everyone should be made to work a Christmas in retail once in their life in my humble opinion) then you’ll know that familiar dread that comes this time of year.

For many of us, the joy of the season is simply squashed a bit by working in retail, and regardless of what you do or don’t celebrate there is only so much Christmas music a soul can be forced to listen to.

If you don’t read the rest of this post, that’s fine but I’ll leave you with this: Be nice to those who work in retail, hospitality, service industry, etc especially this time of year. You’d be surprised the last time they might have heard a ‘Thank You’ or a simple ‘You too!’ when they wished you Happy Holidays (or Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah or whatever the hell else… it’s not about that people! It’s the thought!)

If you have worked in such type of job industry, you might commiserate with me on some of these things…

If you’ve worked in retail, then you know these types of customers well. Let’s all have a light-hearted laugh about some of these, and feel free to join in with the comments below!


The “I know you’re on your break/off shift/shopping on your day off, but could you just help me with one thing?” Customer

I am always amazed how often I get stopped by customers, in my coat with handbag on the way out for the day. Regular customers come to recognise us over time, and some believe that because they ‘know’ you, it doesn’t matter if you’re actually getting paid to help them.
Here’s the thing – we all have places to be, people to see and families to spend time with, just like they do. We show up to work for scheduled shifts, often missing breaks and putting overtime during the holidays anyway, and have earned the right to get the heck out of dodge without being questioned.

The “Moseying around 5 minutes after store close” Customer

This customer usually has selective hearing, and tunes out store announcements stating the shop has in fact closed and to please leave.
You may even approach this customer to gently sway them towards cashing out, only to have them say they just ‘need to find one more thing’ which actually turns out to be a birthday card that they need to read 25 different cards before choosing.
They have no regard for the fact that the staff are waiting for them to leave so that they can in turn go home for the night.

The “I need this yesterday” Customer

This is quite common in service industries – the customer who doesn’t understand that holiday season might mean slower than usual turn around times for certain services.
This customer is often also combined with the previous customer and doesn’t seem to understand reasonable time concepts, nor respect other people’s time.

The “How dare you wish me Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas/Hanukkah/ Festivus” Customer

Yep, we’ve probably all been there. You wish a Merry Christmas to one, they complain because you shouldn’t assume. You wish Happy Holidays to another and they are offended because of course, you should celebrate Christmas.
You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Welcome to Christmas/Holidays/Festivus in retail. 

The “What do you mean you’re out of stock?!?” Customer

It’s Dec 24th at 4pm and the shelves are nearly destroyed, lineups are curling around the store and you have an outraged customer who can’t believe you could be irresponsible enough to run out of stock the hot priced sale item two hours before store close before Christmas.
Most of the time this customer is actually angry at themselves for poorly planning their shopping and then panicking because everything is picked over.
They’ll still yell at you for it though. 

The “Why is this line so long and why don’t they have enough staff working” Customer

This one happens all year round, but especially so during the holidays.
The other day I was standing in line at the grocery store when I heard a woman complaining this very thing. I couldn’t help myself but turn around and point out to her that all 8 checkouts we’re in fact on and staffed, so more staff wasn’t going to do a darn thing for the lineup length.
Funnily enough, this same customer decided to pay for her groceries in change that she dumped out on the till… (the lineups only count when you aren’t the one holding them up…) 
Now, of course, this is all in a bit of fun.
I’ve worked in retail for close to 20 years, and it obviously is what pays my bills and keeps food on my table. It’s my job, and like any job there are highs and lows – I’ve made friends for life, including Mr. GLG through work, including some incredible customers that have almost become like family to me. I’ve had cookies baked for me, cards and chocolates brought on my birthday and numerous lovely things written in to managers about me over the years, and that is what makes it all worthwhile. Christmas in retail is hard, and anyone who works it will agree; When the malls get too damn hot, the lines are way too long, and parking takes 30 minutes to find, the frustrations rise. Just remember this when you are shopping this year: be nice to those who work in the industry. It is amazing how far a “please” and “thank you” goes (especially if you are asking for something above and beyond the scope of what it offered!) and basic manners are often all we ask for.

If you’ve got some fun/frustrating/downright stupid stories from working in retail, please share with us below! If you’ve got some amazingly sweet customer stories let’s hear those too!

Similar Posts

One Comment

  1. The holidays brings out both the best and worst in people.
    I fully agree that most of the time they are angry at themselves and just use strangers for an outlet.

    Anyway, I hope you have lovely holidays and that you get to spend them with your loved ones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *