I wish I would have written this earlier in the holiday season, but work has been keeping me so busy, I didn't have time.
As you know, the holidays are upon us in full force. This time of year makes me hate my job so very much. Not only does my workload increase almost twofold, customers get mean and evil. Everything is suddenly my fault; they are cranky and tired; and we just can't make some of them happy, no matter what.
I've been on the "other side" of retail for nearly 14 years now, and have handled almost every kind of customer one can encounter. Based on my experience, I've created a list for how to be a good customer, as well as what to expect during your shopping trips, during the holiday season.
1. If the item you want to purchase is sold out of the color/size/style you wanted, it is not the retail worker's fault. 90% of the time, items are auto-shipped to the store based on availability in the company's warehouse. So if it's sold out in the store, one of two things are happening: It's out in the warehouse too, or it's in transit to the store. WE have zero control on when or if things arrive to the stores. My advice - start shopping early for best selection.
Oh, and if the item you are looking for that your husband/girlfriend/child just HAD to have is sold out on Christmas Eve when you finally decided to come looking for it, please do not throw a hissy fit and blame us. It's YOUR fault that you started your holiday shopping at 4pm on Christmas Eve. Yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. Track Suit jerk from 2009.
2. If you decide to shop on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, you cannot and should not complain about lines being long or the stores being crowded. Every store has long lines during those times, as those are typically peak shopping hours. You chose to shop during that block of time, as did 75% of the rest of the world. Stores will staff more people during those times, but every store only has a certain number of registers and associates, so there will be a line no matter what.
My advice - shop early or shop late. I go to malls or do my shopping when stores open during the holidays (8am or 9am), and am out of there by 11am. I never hit a line, I never see crowds. It's wonderful. Typically, business slows down after 7pm on weekends too, that's another great time to do your shopping. Or, if you can take a weekday off (Tuesday/Wednesday are the slowest days), and knock out your shopping then, do it. You'll be glad you did.
3. Retail workers are not mind readers. If you are looking for a very specific item, it is helpful to have an item number (you can find those on the store website), or detailed description. Some kids go as far to cut and paste the items they want into a list, including photos - those are amazing! (I've built a $500 sale on a list like that).
If you come in and say "My daughter wants a black jacket", that is of no help. We have about 20 different black jackets. If you say "My daughter wants the black Ashley brand peacoat with the fur-lined hood", we know exactly what that is and can get you in and out of the store in no time.
It's also important to know sizes of the people you are buying for, not "well, she's about your size" when talking to the retail worker because that is NEVER right. (I look at lot smaller than I am, so I guarantee your granddaughter is not my size). This will also help minimize returns after Christmas (more on that later).
4. I can tell you that retail workers hate people who wait outside the store before opening, peering into the door/windows and banging on the door. We will purposely open late if we find people doing that. Trust me. Wait in your cars or in the mall food court, and come into the store after the door/gates are open.
And if you call the store to find out if the store's hours, don't assume that because someone answered the phone that we're open. Employees get to the stores HOURS before it opens in order to restock, do markdowns, set up new promotions, etc. I know that we get there 3-4 hours prior to opening many days of the week. Yes, I'm talking to YOU Ms. White Winter Coat lady from two weeks ago - you called to see if we carried Uggs at 7:30am, and showed up at the door at 7:45am, and wondered why you couldn't get in - that's because we opened at 10am. Moron.
5. Know the return policy at every store you purchase at. Every return policy is different. The return policies are posted at the point-of-sale (register area), typically printed on the front or back of the receipt and, many times, available on the store's website.
A couple rules of thumb about return policies and returns:
-Keep the tags on. In my store, we will get about 10% of customers trying to return items purchased at a different store every year, because we carry similar merchandise to other stores. We know our product and if we carry it, so please don't argue with us when we tell you it's not ours - I think we know better than you. Keeping the tag on (just remove the price) will prove that it is our product and make your return easier.
-Gift receipts ONLY guarantee the price paid for the item and that the item is from that store. It is NOT a real receipt, therefore refunds cannot be processed - information regarding the tender is not included on the gift receipt. DO NOT expect cash back or a credit card refund with a gift receipt. And DO NOT get mad at the cashier when they tell you this.
-Gift cards usually (there are some small exceptions) cannot be cashed out for amounts over $10. So don't ask. If you don't like the gift cart you received, sell it on Ebay or Craigslist. You'll get about 50% of the value for it, usually. Or regift it. But don't ask if you can cash it out, it won't happen.
-Do not get mad if the store is sold out of the size you need to exchange your item for. Stores can do up to 20% of their entire holiday business in the three days prior to Christmas, so things will be picked over and sold out. That's why knowing the size ahead of time is very important. :-)
6. Just a note about spending your gift cards - I know that they are burning a hole in your pocket on December 26, but WAIT to use them. On December 26, stores are very picked over and light in merchandise selection, and will be that way until at least the first week of January, where the new spring stuff starts to trickle in. I suggest doing your gift card redemption shopping then. Or, if you're really patient, shop in February, when the bulk of the new spring items are coming in. Trust me on this one - I've been doing this forever.
Well, I hope that gives you some insight to the other side of retail and some tips to make your holiday shopping easier. Good luck and happy shopping!
Oh, and in case you were wondering - I'm completely done with my shopping. :-) I was done as of 12/3!