be more empathetic towards service workers this holiday season

Working jobs in fashion retail has led me to find some of the toughest co-workers. They have the extreme patience to be yelled at by customers while keeping a smile on their face. They work long hours (hello 5am shipments) and somehow have enough energy to be on their feet all day.

Service workers are trained to act as if the customer is always right, when the majority of the time, they’re not and they’re completely rude about it. The store I worked at is located in one of the highest-income counties of the U.S., and I’ve noticed that the shoppers with more money feel more entitled to have things their way, even if it means arguing over things that were out of our control (e.g. company policy, technology problems).

And so, ’tis the season- of long lines, full parking lots, and crowded stores. Young adults seem to understand polite social interactions with service workers more than the older generations. I’d like to reach out to you to call out your impatient parents, dramatic aunt, distracted grandpa, WHOMEVER: call them out and help them understand what service workers go through during the holiday shopping season, ask them to practice more empathy when shopping.

Some tips on helping out service workers this holiday season:

1. Be loud & clear when asking for help.

It’s annoying to be approached from across the store with a “do you work here?”. A polite greeting would be nice, and try to keep it short and sweet. Workers don’t have time to be hearing about the backstory of your husband’s second cousin’s engagement party you’re shopping for when they’ve got other customers waiting to ask them for something as well.

2. That said, we love to help but we are not your personal assistants.

I wish I had a dollar for every time a customer went up to me asking, “will this fit my kid?” and there being NO kid in sight around them. Retail workers are not all-knowing genies.

3. Do your research!

A lot of the answers to many questions I received could’ve been discovered with a little bit of common sense and a functioning pair of eyes (aka just look for store signs for elevator/other departments). Also, it’d be helpful to look around on the website before you shop so you have an idea of what you’re buying. One time, I had to give one customer a crash course on our store just minutes before closing.

4. Ask for help finding a size if you’re looking through folded items.

It seems very small, but workers try to keep the store as nice as possible so they don’t spend hours refolding every pile at the end of the night. If you do grab something, try to fold it as neatly as you can, it’d be a great help!

5. Shopping ends at the cash register.

Please don’t ask the cashier for different sizes or items when you’re at the register and there’s a long line waiting behind you. Try to find that before you go up to pay. Please don’t wander off and keep shopping while the cashier is ringing you up.

6. Just remember your manners!

“Please” & “thank you” go a long way. Don’t leave your trash in random spots. It’s not cute to find a half-empty Starbucks cup that can potentially spill and ruin the merchandise. Ask for the garbage or just wait to throw it out outside.

These simple tips will help things run more smoothly, and help us all ring in the holidays in good cheer. Remember that service workers have families and lives too. And that is year-round.