When times are tough, shoppers do funny things

I have worked a few retail jobs in my time, so I pity sales associates this time of year. Their stores are busy; their inventory is a mess and shoppers are by now often less than cheery. The ones who close the store often face several extra hours of sorting through messed up tables, racks and dressing rooms.

With the economy taking a rough turn shoppers are also relaxing their morals when it comes to clothing. Last week I was in an Anthro where a woman was trying to get a price adjustment on the Brekka Cardigan (now $70) but her receipt was almost 30 days old. Anthropologie will do price adjustments for up to 14 days which is pretty fair in my opinion. I can certainly empathize with the woman — she would have saved over $50. But a price adjustment policy of 30 days would kill many retailers.

My friends who work in retail have also seen an increase in the dreaded buy/wear/return pattern. I admit to being guilty of this in college. I was invited to a fancy ball but had no suitable dress. I bought something in a department store, wore it with the tags on and then returned it. But I was so self-conscious the entire nite that I haven’t done it since. This trend is rising again though. Sometimes clothing has clearly been worn when the shopper tries to return it (makeup stains, pills, etc.). All a sales associate can do is point to store policy.

And now with the holidays so close there are the tales of desperation. The thing I hear about the most are shoppers taking someone else’s items on hold. A store that shall not be named has a pretty dumb habit of leaving customer holds right behind the register with the names clearly visible. So all a sneaky person has to do is go up to the register, announce that they are the person the item was set aside for and make off with it. Later on the true purchaser arrives only to find their item is long gone. And the store associate is the one who suffers the blame.

So my dears as you wrap up your holiday shopping — even though you are suffering through crowds a’plenty and lines as far as the eye can see — remember that the harried sales associate who processes your purchase has been dealing with this for 20 days and nights, for up to 12 hours at a time, and has only a 15-minute and 1-hour break to get away. Be patient, and spread some patience. We will all thank you.


  1. December 23, 2008 / 9:46 am

    I agree! I've also done my time with retail during the holidays and it's so disheartening- it's supposed to be such a happy and "giving" time of year, but customers feel that with the added stress of the holidays (and this year, the added stress of a crappy economy) they can use sales associates as human punching bags. This time of year truly brings out both the best and the worst in people.Because I've paid my dues in retail for so long, I make sure I am extra super nice to any sales associate or cashier. I mean I always do- but even more so this time of year.Even if I'm in a bad mood- screaming at them won't make me feel any better. Being nice to them will. It always does. Besides- you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, right? I'm still in customer service (simply a different form, but as management) and it never fails…I am always much more willing to go the extra mile to help someone who is nice at me versus someone who is flipping out and screaming at me. It doesn't matter what the situation is OR WHO YOU ARE- as a sales associate, you're going to take that sort of behavior personally and it impacts how you rectify the situation or treat that customer in return.I'm glad very glad you posted this, and if I'm not back in the next few days- Happy Holidays! 🙂

  2. January 5, 2009 / 12:56 am

    ugh. just spent my first holiday in retail. i wish more people read your blog… just so they would learn appropriate shopping etiquette! 🙂

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