If you’ve ever worked in retail, you may be familiar with the hellish struggle of working a full shift on America’s favorite holiday, Black Friday. If you haven’t worked in retail, you are one of the lucky few. Any sense of etiquette flies out the window when shoppers are frantic, hungry, and under-caffeinated. With the holiday season upon us, here are some do’s and don’ts to avoid being an asshole when holiday shopping.
Don’t decide to go rogue and rearrange the store.
Do put things back where you found them. Extra points if you attempt to fold or place the item in a way that matches the display. Sales associates understand that sometimes management asks them to fold things in wonky ways—but they don’t expect you to do the same. Just an attempt would be nice.
Don’t leave the dressing room looking like a tornado ripped through it.
Do, at the very least, hang clothing back on their respective hangers (right side out, please). Treat the dressing room (and the store) like it’s your best friend’s closet—full of fun, new-to-you pieces that all need to be handled with care.
Bonus points: If you’re looking for some extra good karma this holiday season, considering putting rejected items back yourself. Store layouts often change weekly, especially during busier seasons, and associates may not even know where a discarded item originally came from.
Don’t leave your empty Starbucks cup (or any trash, for that matter) laying around.
It takes approximately ten seconds to locate the nearest trash can and sales associates shouldn’t have to clean up after you. So instead, do ask kindly if there’s a trash can behind the register where you can deposit your garbage. Sometimes the store isn’t allowed to take outside trash off your hands, so please be understanding if a member of the sales team is unable to help you out.
Don’t blame the register or store associate when your credit card gets declined.
I get it—we’ve all been there. It’s entirely possible it’s a fluke error, but they still can’t fix it for you. Accept the situation and, if you’re really desperate to follow through with the purchase and you’re sure it’s an error, ask if it’s possible to hold the items behind the register for you while you call the bank to sort things out.
If you haven't worked in retail, you are one of the lucky few. Any sense of etiquette flies out the window when shoppers are frantic, hungry, and under-caffeinated.
Don’t take something off the mannequin yourself.
The management team will blame the associates for an incomplete display, which makes their job even harder. Instead, ask if they’d be willing to swap the display item out for you, or if they have your desired size or color in the back. However, keep in mind that there isn’t always stock available behind the scenes. The joke about retail employees loitering in the back room before returning to report that an out of item is out of stock is… sometimes true. Some stores just don’t have back stock, but they don’t want to make you upset by refusing to check. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to check online, where there will always be a more updated stock assessment to choose from.
This one’s easy, but: Don’t steal.
They know you’re shoplifting. They see you. They don’t like you. And they’ll do one of three things: call security or the police, watch you like a hawk and ask you repeatedly if you want anything, or they’ll remember your face and ban you from the store. Not to mention it’s illegal, so just don’t do it.
Don’t think you can bargain with sales associates or assume that they control the prices.
The mall is not an open air market. Realistically, even if the store manager could, they wouldn’t even know who to contact at HQ to ask to lower a price. Similarly, do not ask them to discount something for you if it doesn’t already fall into the ongoing sale. Read the fine print about what’s included—or not—in any promotions. They don’t want to get in trouble, and jeopardizing their job is not worth you saving $17.
Do ask for help.
Found the perfect blouse, in your size, on sale, but it’s stained? The store will likely clean it for you, free of charge. Just ask!
Do understand that associates can’t control the weather.
As much as a retailer tries to provide a great experience, there’s always going to be a few things beyond their control. Is the line for the dressing room taking too long? The register machine is acting up? I promise the store associates are doing their best to remedy the situation as fast as possible.
Do keep your options open.
If you have your heart set on finding a great deal on a beautiful new kitchen appliance, consider having backup options so that you aren’t immediately disappointed when the blender of your dreams is sold out. And remember that while it feels good to get that one bargain, there will always be another. If you don’t get the last blouse on sale, chances are that life will go on. Plus, there’s always Cyber Monday—usually less hectic, less stressful, and often offers equal or better deals. The best part? You don’t have to dig through the store looking for your size or desired color when the website will tell you if it’s available or not.
Above all, do be polite. Pause, take a breath, and remember that you don’t need somebody ruining your holiday spirit by being rude, so don’t go and be rude to them first. The holidays are hectic as hell, especially on Black Friday, and a “thank you” and a smile go a long way.
When she’s not looking at photos of corgis or watching The Great British Baking Show, Leah Kidd can usually be found at a local coffee shop on her never-ending hunt for the best chai latte in San Francisco. If you don’t want to search the entire city, you can catch her on LinkedIn.
In a time when we're all inundated with self-improvement advice on how to go from good to better, maybe what we need is some help being… less annoying. For more where this came from, read our tips for how not to be an asshole in the office kitchen, at a conference, while commuting on public transit, in a meeting, on an airplane, while taking a selfie, or when you've got a flexible schedule and your colleagues are trudging in for the 9-to-5.