Holiday Shopping: How to be Nice — Not Naughty — this Season

With Black Friday quickly approaching, gift giving is on my mind. As visions of loved ones opening their presents dance in my head, a less heartwarming thought creeps in: how to deal with poor customer service.

I’m not talking about retailers’ professionalism – I’m referring to impolite (and often downright rude) – customers.

I’ll never forget the year that a new employee was working the day after Thanksgiving at one of my favorite stores. As I stood in a long line for what felt like an eternity, I enviously watched shoppers in the other lines pay for their items and leave. Was I frustrated? Yes. Was I envisioning cookies from the food court as lunchtime approached and my stomach started growling? Of course. But some of my fellow shoppers were acting like they wanted to take a bite out of the rookie!

I’ve never seen so many people angrily rolling their eyes or folding their arms at once. I wanted to shout, “’Bah humbug!” at the top of my lungs. Fortunately, I refrained.

As the holiday season gets underway, the following tips on how to be a good customer may enhance your shopping experience and make an employee’s workday a bit more merry:

  • Do your homework and ask questions. Check out consumer recalls before purchasing toys and gifts for children. Know what the warranty covers, learn the store’s return policy, make sure you will be able to pay off a cartful of merchandise you put on layaway and check out online reviews.
  • Practice patience. Holidays and resulting crowds can put even the most patient on edge. Rather than attack a store employee because a product is not in stock or because the checkout line is a mile long, remember what your mother taught you about always being polite. "Please," "thank you" and "have a nice day" are words that can never be said too much.
  • Be courteous. Those long checkout lines often arise because customers are not prepared to present items for check out or have their credit card or check ready when it’s time to make payment. Do not get mad if the store will not honor competitors’ coupons; check before you go to the store.
  • Do your part: Standing at the cash register is not the time to suddenly realize you have neither wallet nor checkbook. It is definitely not the time for a conversation on your cell phone.