Dear Department Store Shoppers…

I’m almost done with my Christmas shopping, but I know that’s not the case for everyone else necessarily. I know because I was working part-time at Walmart during this time last year. Based on my experiences while working there, I’ve made this little list to contribute to pleasant shopping experience for you… and the store employees. Note also that I say “departments” and “department store”, but really, this applies to any store. And anytime, not just Christmas.


Dear Department Store Shoppers:

Don’t try to catch an employee’s attention from twenty feet away. Even a friendly “hello” or an inquiring “excuse me?” could, technically, be addressed to /anyone/ (and yes, people use both on more than just employees). So if a worker doesn’t notice you at that distance, just move closer.
Note that the slightest change in your tone of voice – no matter how polite your words are – makes a massive difference in how you address an employee. With the slightest adjustments, you can sound annoyed by the long lines up front, pushy and demanding assistance /now/, gentle and calm, or even friendly… all in the word “hello”.
Have some basic respect. The managers and employees are there to help you, yes, but they’re also human beings. Irritation at slow service is understandable to a degree, but that’s no reason to snap at help when it comes and definitely not a reason to order a worker around as you would a dog (I was three feet away from a case of that, complete with a snap of the fingers; not pleasant).
“Please-and-thank-you” said in the span of a second sounds demanding. Tacking it on as an afterthought sounds like a weak attempt to remember to sound polite.
Be aware that there are usually less employees still working in the evenings. It happens at any store that stays open late. So if there is nobody in the department you need help in, calmly and politely ask for assistance. The employees will do their best to help you.
Try to notice ahead of time if there’s any indication that a cash register is closed. If there’s a “lane closed” (or similar) sign up, chances are very, very high that it’s up for a reason. Even if there’s an employee right there.
Ask if a till is open before plunking down your desired purchases. Just because there is an employee behind the till doesn’t mean that said till – or even worker – is available. Also don’t walk up waving the items you want to purchase, especially if not accompanied by a polite query.
Don’t make a massive fuss over an item misplaced and therefore priced wrong (eg: an $11 movie in the $5 dollar bin). I’m sure you haven’t tossed unwanted items in the wrong place before either. Not to mention that cashiers, department specialists, managers , and – yes – other customers don’t want to hear you flip out over a trivial matter and plug up the line behind you.
Follow company policies and procedures and let the workers do their jobs. Getting snippy, loud, or even violent are not appropriate responses.
There is such thing as an honest mistake. Relax.
Even if a company is willing to sell you a mispriced item at the lower and incorrect cost (and even give you one of these items free), don’t lord this over employees in a “yeah-this-is-how-it-works-so-shut-up-and-just-give-it-to-me-already” attitude, especially to a worker who is new or can’t quite remember how the policy goes.
If at all possible, remember where you picked up a product and put it back if you decide you don’t want it, /especially/ if you’re still near the spot you picked it up from. Not putting the dill pickle chips with the ketchup chips is frankly more annoying than finding the dill pickle chips with the tea towels.
If a product (such as shampoo or a DVD) is displayed on one of those little mechanisms that pushes stock forward and you decide you don’t want the item after all, try to push the item back onto said mechanism in the front rather than just leaving it somewhere else or sticking it behind the mechanism. They’re typically not hard to work with. (If you do run into a sticky one, though, feel free to put it nearby.)
Don’t assume that any ol’ worker is going to know where to find what you’re looking for… or even /what/ you’re looking for. It’s not hard to be ignorant of all that a store has to offer or where it is or what it is. Plus, a worker will tend to know more about his own department than a dozen or two others.
Just because an employee isn’t aware of which facial cream is “cruelty-free”, doesn’t mean you should tell him to “keep up with the world”. In all the world, there is more knowledge than a person can process in multiple lifetimes. I’m sure that employee could tell you multiple things you don’t know and, in his opinion, should.
Ladies, try to avoid making the men do your cosmetic and health-and-beauty shopping. It’s awkward for most of them not knowing what it is you want. (Despite what you think, men aren’t mind-readers.) 🙂
Just because someone works in a department doesn’t mean they know about the products, how well they work, etc.. Most employees aren’t going to take meticulous notes about this-vs-that or this-this-and-this-are-the-best-options-for-you or this-is-made-of-such-and-such. Not to mention that the employee may not use many – or any! – of the products in his department.
Try to look for the product you’re looking for, especially if it should be something easy to find in a department, before asking where it is.
On the flip side, don’t feel bad if you ask where a product is and find that it’s right in front of you. It happens to everybody, even the employees, believe it or not!
In short, make shopping a pleasant experience by making it pleasant for everyone else around you. I’m pretty sure you know the effect of a look or a tone of voice or an aura of attitude. Most people are willing to help you out. Some will make your day; some may need you to make their day.

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