POSTED ON JUNE 4, 2008:
A Shopper's Lament
Simple rules that make shopping easier for everyone
Blame Game. If we can't find something, if the store isn't spotlessly clean, if we have a problem with the return policy, then we blame the staff. But these aren't their problems. They're our problems.
I'd never been so thrilled to stop shopping in my entire life as when I visited the mall during Memorial Day weekend. It was truly awful. True, I did take a trip to the mall on a holiday weekend (ah!) in search of shorts (yuck!) for my upcoming vacation to sweltering (ick!) Orlando, Florida. But I didn't approach my task with a poor attitude.
I remained optimistic even as I battled horrible traffic and a torturous parking lot crawl-a surprising feat being that my biggest pet peeve is people who sit and wait for someone to pull out of a parking spot even though they could have parked and walked in already if they weren't too freaking lazy to walk that far.
Hell, even once I was inside the moods that hit me weren't negative (although they weren't necessarily upbeat). It took only one store to be completely overcome with a painful realization that ruined my perfectly lovely mood. Why are my fellow shoppers such douches?
Pardon my bluntness, but I don't know another way of describing people who behave so poorly when shopping. Where is the shopping etiquette? Emily Post should establish rules for this section of society -- a guide to all things proper when being a good little consumer. The problem is that we typically blame bad shopping experiences on salespeople. Whether shopping at a huge conglomerate or a locally owned boutique, retail associates get the brunt of the complaints. If we can't find something, if the store isn't spotless, if we have a problem with the return policy, then we blame the staff. But these aren't their problems. They're our problems; you're the problem. I'm the problem. All the other shoppers are the problem.
Family Shopping Spree
First it's amazing that I could even battle my way into a store on this particular trip to the mall. I know everyone loves a leisurely promenade on a Sunday, but can't that be accomplished outdoors? It's not Super Market Sweeps, so there's no reason to rush. Please, allow space for your fellow shoppers to briskly stroll past you.
The worst are the big groups that walk so slowly. Not that I fully understand why you would need a family reunion at a store in the first place. Why do people shop in such large groups? Is it something out of Little House on the Prairie? Did everyone gather up for a full day in the big city? Yes, it's okay to have the closest women in your life present when you try on your wedding dress, but I can't really imagine a situation where you would need your extended family when buying new flip flops. It can't be easy to shop with so many people related to you and it's certainly not easy for the rest of us.
Although slow walkers are annoying, I suppose the first etiquette lesson should be a re-evaluation of that old cliché "the customer is always right." Yeah, it turns out we're not. These retail associates know what they're doing. For the most part they are adequately trained in customer service and are there to make your shopping experience easier. If shopping is easy for you, their jobs are easier too. The more they help you and the more you spend, the more they could potentially make (in hours or pay increases).
Sometimes things may ring up incorrectly or there might be confusion regarding what is and isn't on sale. Whether you're right or wrong, whether it's a difference of $2 or $22, it's not worth causing a scene, getting aggressive or belittling the person just doing his or her job. You're just trying to purchase a pair of jeans; it's not a life-or-death situation that warrants such drama.
Furthermore, these people aren't paid to put up with your BS. Associates are also not there to be your personal babysitter or to clean up after you. Shoppers are notorious for digging through clothing, destroying tables of folded merchandise and discarding what they don't want in the most random places. While you may have to dive into the middle of a folded pile of t-shirts to find your size, it shouldn't be approached as a ravenous scavenge.
If someone offers you help, accept it. Yes, they want you to find what you need, but they're really asking so you don't destroy their displays. You wouldn't want to deal with a pile of crap, so why make one for other shoppers?
Thanks, but No Thanks
This also holds true when visiting the fitting/dressing rooms. Sometimes there is a person assigned to that section of the store. If an associate is there, don't be crude and leave everything you've tried on inside out and thrown on the floor. And definitely don't leave a mess if there is no one there. You don't know exactly how they want their clothing displayed on the hanger and that's fine, but as a courtesy to your fellow shoppers, you shouldn't trash the fitting rooms. Hang things up, fold them in a neat pile and move them out of the way for the next person. If there is a staffer who wants you to give the items you aren't purchasing, allow them to take them. They want to make sure the clothing is up to their standards before it's placed back in the store.
If you leave the fitting room thinking an item is great, but then decide it won't work, that's fine. However, it shouldn't be discarded in the place where you change your mind. Should you decide you no longer want something, return it to it's proper home or politely hand it over to an employee with a considerate, "Sorry to bother you, but I've changed my mind on this fill-in-the-blank article of clothing and I don't remember where I found it." I know there's not always someone within two feet of where you're standing, but there's a 99 percent chance someone is near the register, so mosey on over there!
Speaking of the register...when you're at the register and they ask you to apply for a credit card (and then ask you again, and possibly once more) it's not to annoy you until you succumb and ruin your credit; it's because "The Man" is making them. A polite "no thank you" works just fine; upon further drilling, just say "I'm not interested today, thanks."
Similarly, the rules about returns or exchanges-no matter how asinine they might seem-weren't created by your cashier. They were either determined by the boss or someone high on the corporate ladder in another city--the person standing in front of you has no control over the rules. If they could change them, they probably would because it would cause a hell of a lot less trouble for both you. But they can't bend the rules for you because then they'd have to bend them for everyone. Does it suck when you can only get credit instead of cash for an exchange, or they have restrictions about how many days you have allotted to return something? Yes, but that's why nearly every store has their particular policy posted in store or printed on their receipts. By ranting, you get nowhere and you hold up the line.
With these simple rules of shopping courtesy, you can stay in line while waiting in line.
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