Fangirl Lifestyle Tips: Be Nice to Retail Workers During the Holidays

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I’ve worked retail for about ten years of my life. With Black Friday kicking off the holiday season, I wanted to share some guidelines for shoppers. Here are some helpful tips to help my fellow retail workers!

Does that worker seem new and a bit confused? They might be a seasonal worker

Most stores hire extra help for the holiday season with the increased shopper traffic. Most of these workers will only be there from mid-November to early January. Because of this short time, they’re only trained on the very basics of the store. Most of the time they are there to clean, watch for shoplifters, and do basic selling. Some companies won’t waste the time and resources to fully train a seasonal worker for about fifty days of work. Many have an incentive that they can earn a job after the holiday season, but some know they will only be there a short time. Be patient with these workers. They don’t know every detail of a corporation. They might have to ask a full time employee for help.

Cashiers don’t make the return and exchange policies

Returns can be hard. You bought a present for someone or received one. It might not be the right size or the wrong item. You’re walking into a store already unhappy. That’s understandable. Then you find out you shouldn’t have removed the tag or lost the receipt. Or maybe the giver didn’t give you a gift receipt. The cashier won’t be able to do the return.

Please don’t be mad with the cashier or manager on duty. In most corporations, the individual store doesn’t make the policy. These people are only trying to do their jobs. This is actually to help us prevent thieves. If someone steals a shirt, they might try to return it to get the money. This is a common tactic with crooks. In my store, we’ll see a person steal a vinyl record from Best Buy or Hot Topic to sell back to us since we buy used vinyl. There’s certain things we’re trained to look for. We’re not trying to ruin your day. We’re only protecting ourselves and doing our jobs.

Editor Bri note:  I can’t tell you how many people were furious with me about not being able to return a book after 30 days at the bookstore where I worked, or that they weren’t able to return a book without a receipt. Often they were trying to return stolen books or would just walk in, grab a book off the shelf, and try to return it with an elaborate story.

It is also our job to help you anyway we can. We might not be able to give you your money back, but we will present you with various options. We could exchange the item for something else. We can give you store credit on a gift card to shop later. We will find ways to help you.

Pay attention to the return policies of a store. Some items are final sale. In my current store, single comics can’t be returned. When I worked at Spencer’s, none of the sex items could be returned for hygienic reasons. At Hot Topic, clearance and makeup items can’t come back. Before Suncoast was bought out by FYE, any DVDs that had been opened could be sold back for store credit but not for full price. Every store is different. Check with the stores if you have any questions. Many return policies can be found on the receipts.

Please don’t cram products you don’t want away to be found later

I’m totally cool with my customers opening up shirts and looking at them. It’s to make sure the garment is the right size. I encourage my customers to do this, because they’re more than likely to get it. They buy it, it helps me meet my monthly goal, and I get my bonus. I’m cool with this.

You know what I’m not cool with?


This makes my job harder. If we can’t get to this right away, it makes it difficult for your fellow shoppers to find items. Shirts like this get wrinkled making them tough to fold. They never really lay quite right again on the display. Again, this is to prevent shoplifting. It’s easy for someone else to hide small empty packages in already left messes.

What’s the solution? After you open a garment to look at it, return it to a sales associate. It’s our jobs to fold and upkeep the store. Don’t be afraid to give it back to us. Customers always apologize for that. Don’t worry. It’s what we’re paid to do. If anyone gives you lip, they’re not doing their job.

We don’t set the prices

We get our items from a distributor. Items have a cost in making them. We make our money from selling it higher than wholesale. What that means is we keep that difference. Even with sales, a company still makes a profit.We can’t change the price especially when it’s set by a corporation.

That being said, we know that shoppers have budgets. Finding that perfect deal is half the fun. Keep in mind you’re paying for quality. Tim Gunn always said in his old show Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style that a higher price item is made better than a $5 T-shirt from Walmart. It will last longer than something cheaply made.

Think of your favorite stores. Do they have great customer service? Do you go in certain days to see a particular employee? You can get something cheaper on Amazon, but you’re paying for the experience of the shopping trip too.

Please watch your kids

I LOVE children. I have three nieces and a nephew. I was a camp counselor and a nanny for years. My main focus working in my comic book store is the kids section. I adore children so much. They brighten up my day all the time. There is, though, one problem I’ve seen for years working in various stores. Parents don’t watch their kids.

You don’t know how many customers will browse while their children play in the store. I’ve had parents ask me to watch their children while they shop. I’m sorry, but I’m not your babysitter. That’s not my job. On one occasion, I pulled a child off of wire gridwall full of comics. She was halfway up when I caught her. That’s made to hold paper products, not the weight of a person. She could have been seriously hurt. I had another parent browsing through back issues while his children played hide and seek in the store. They were pulling off shirts and knocking over merchandise. The little boy crawled on top of our long boxes to hide behind them inside the shelf. He could have gotten stuck and injured. With comics, condition is everything. That could have damaged high price comics costing us money. I’ve seen children crash into shelves knocking toys on top of them. I’ve seen them try to put on necklaces and either break it or bruise their necks. I’ve seen kids walk out of the store by themselves for me to bring them back. If I was with another customer, your child could get kidnapped. When I was at Spencer’s, I’ve seen children eat sex lubricant thinking it’s candy. Watch your kids. Stores are not playgrounds.

Editor Bri note: I have a list of stories that could fill a book, but it was very common for people to turn their children loose for six hours at a time expecting us to watch them. Often the sticker books and activity kits would be opened, toys and books would be thrown across the room, and I’d be crying in defeat.

I’m not flirting with you

I’m from the South. I call everyone “Darlin'” who comes into my store (mainly because I’m TERRIBLE at remembering names). Customer service, smiling, being kind is both my nature and my job. I enjoy helping people. It makes me happy. That being said, me being nice to you isn’t me flirting. I’ve read other articles about customers thinking employees are flirting to make sales. This isn’t true. Working as a woman in a comic book stores, many guys ask me out. I’m flattered, but I’m not interested. I don’t treat anyone more special than others. I tell every customer new and returning to be careful going home, because when I was at Spencer’s, one of our regulars died in a car accident. I go out of my way for every person to make sure they leave happy. I’m not flirting with you. I treat every one of my customers equally regardless of who they are.

Retail workers give up family time to serve you

In my mall the last few years Black Friday starts on Thanksgiving. In many malls across the country, stores are fined if they choose not to open. I remember the Dillard’s in our mall didn’t open wanting their employees to enjoy family time. A huge anchor store can get away with that, because they will make back the fine money in a few hours. A small store like mine has no choice as the fine would wreck us. Lucky for me, we did our Thanksgiving this year the Sunday before. Some of my current and past co-workers have missed family meals with relatives they haven’t seen in awhile. If you choose to shop on Thanksgiving, give us an extra smile and kindness. That makes it a bit better for us.

Please remember the firefighters, first responders, police officers, hospital workers, and others who also have to work on holidays.

Retail workers don’t get paid a lot and we work weird hours

With over four million people working retail, most don’t get paid that much. The average is about $9 an hour. That’s below the living wage where I live in Georgia for a single adult like me. If I had a child, it’s half of what it should be. Despite this, many of us try our best to make your experience the best it can be. We want to make you happy. We’re all people making a living in the end.

Many of my friends work 9-5 and have weekends off. I don’t remember the last time I didn’t work a Saturday I didn’t ask off. We also have this thing called Clopening that we sometimes have to do. It’s where you close one night (sometimes 10pm-midnight) to open the next day (usually 7am-8am). This is incredibly stressful for us. If we’re on call, we might have a day off only to drop everything to go in. I’m glad I don’t have kids, because that makes childcare a nightmare. Before I hear the whole “millennials should get better jobs” thing, retail is sometimes the ONLY jobs we can get. It’s sometimes the ONLY job a single parent can get. The job market is horrible. We’re doing our best to give you the greatest experience.

Retail is hard work. We want to do what’s best for the customer while making a living for ourselves. Please remember some of these tips if you’re out shopping this holiday season.

To my fellow retail workers, remember Black Friday is only one day. The holidays will pass. Keep your chin up! We’ll get through this. Remember the words of this Target manager:

Editor Bri note: This year, I’m going to go shopping at the very end of Black Friday and give my cashier a gift card for Starbucks and a “hang in there” to make their day a little brighter. After being screamed at about 99 cents earrings not being on sale back in my retail days (also 10 years), I know exactly what these employees go through!


Hope set out into the world to be a Pokemon Coordinator. When she realized that Pokemon were not real, she pursued her other passion: writing. Hope was raised in fandoms and saw how they can help save the world from her work with The Harry Potter Alliance. Now, she works to bring that love into writing one article at a time. She's also a diehard Atlanta Braves fan, so don't diss her team.


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