It's that time of year once again...every place I look, I see Christmas. And every time I see a tacky reindeer ornament, it brings me right back to that horrible phase of my life when I worked in retail. It was many, many years ago...yet the scars still remain. There is nothing, nothing, worse than working with the public around the holidays. It eats away at your very soul. I've witnessed so much despicable behavior, I think that my mind has blocked some of it out. I've seen grown, seemingly reasonable people regress to pushing and shoving like small children. The holidays bring forth the worst of humanity: people with unrealistic demands, people throwing crap all over the floor, people acting like outright savages. Back in my retail days, I was screamed at on a regular basis. I was also called filthy names, and threatened with bodily harm. When I was in my late teens, I worked in a very upscale chocolate store. One would think that clientele coming in to buy fancy schmancy chocolate would be somewhat well-behaved, wouldn't one? Oh, but no. The shoppers in that store were absolute nightmares around the holidays.
I once told I woman that I couldn't wrap her box of chocolate due to store policy, and she reacted by ripping everything she could reach off of the shelves and throwing it on the floor. This was a well-dressed woman in her 40's, holding a baby carrier with a sleeping baby inside. Another day, right around Easter, a woman tried to return some food items, which was understandably against store policy, as well. When I explained this to her, she asked me to come outside so that she could kick my ass. I declined.
One of the worst experiences I had there was the week before Christmas. We were not allowed to take checks, and apparently this infuriated an older man that I was waiting on. He told me that if he couldn't pay with a check, he would pay me in pennies...and he proceeded to do so by pegging them, hard, at my face. I was so shocked, I couldn't speak for a moment. Then I realized that, yes, this hurt...and yes, this probably constituted assault. After a few yelps of pain, I found the presence of mind to duck. He was threatened with a call to the cops, and I spent the rest of the night with my face covered in little red welts.
Seriously, how does this happen? I honestly believe that, for the most part, humanity is good. But there is something about the stress of the holidays combined with crowd mentality that brings out the darkest of human nature. A trip to the mall on Good Friday is like electing to spend a few hours marinating in a stew of frustration, frenzy, and rage. And who ends up suffering the most?
Those poor, poor souls who are stuck waiting on you. And unlike you, they have no escape.
My retail days are long behind me, but if you are reading this, I implore you to take a moment to think of those who will be serving you this holiday season. If you've already done your time working retail, the odds are good that you are a well-behaved, tolerant shopper. Good for you. If you haven't...don't fall victim to the pack mentality. The holidays are supposed to be a time to think of others and to let your best side shine. Don't do anything that will make you think less of yourself after you leave. Wait your turn. Ask questions in a normal tone that you would use with a friend, or a colleague. And when you make eye contact with that person behind the counter, here is a helpful hint: position your lips so that they turn slightly upward at each corner. This is called a "smile." It's a form of non-verbal communication that can ease personal interactions.