A Retail Employees Holiday Survival Guide

Ross employee at the Lloyd Center Mall handling the holiday rush. Photo by: Brittney Muir

With the holidays quickly approaching, many students find themselves working in a variety of retail jobs in order to earn extra money. Extended store hours and increased business means that there are a lot of opportunities for work.

Although it is a great way for students to earn money, retail work can be physically and mentally demanding. When not handled properly, it can actually deplete your enjoyment of the season. Here are some tips to help you make it through the season as a retail worker.

1. Eat right, exercise and get plenty of sleep.

This may sound like an annoying soundbite from your mother, but it’s true. When you are dealing with long hours on your feet, huge crowds and the overall assault on your senses that comes with the holidays, it is important to take good care of yourself or you will find your energy reserves quickly depleted. Try to avoid mall food and find a healthier option, exercise regularly to reduce built-up tension, and while no one is saying that you have to skip the many holiday parties that are on your social calendar, it is a good idea to make it an early night on evenings when you have to work the next day in order to be well-rested for the day ahead.

2. Wear sensible shoes.

If you are working in retail, you are guaranteed to spend all of your working hours on your feet. Unfortunately, if you wear those fabulous stiletto boots you just bought, as gorgeous as the boots are, your feet will not make it past your first break. Invest in some cute flats or at least low-heeled shoes for work, and save the stilettos for the holiday parties.

3. Don’t take anything personally.

If you work in retail, especially over the holidays, you can expect to get yelled at at some point. It’s that simple. The stated point of the customer’s anger may be real, imagined, justified or nonsensical. The key is to remember that “the customer is always right,” which, of course, can be pretty hard when the customer is actually dead wrong but yelling anyway. Just
remember that its more than likely they are yelling at the situation, not you. Let them vent, try to help them, and if you can’t help them, get a manager and move on.

4. Avoid engaging in debates with customers.

This is an offshoot of the prior tip, but it is worth noting, because at some point a customer is going to come to you with a ludicrous claim that, in their opinion, is worthy of a full federal investigation of your store and perhaps even of you personally. Usually the offensive act is something to the effect of a regular price sweater having been moved to a table with fishing poles that are marked at 80 percent off, and now the customer is demanding the fishing pole discount for the sweater.

It can be tempting to engage with the angry customer in order to get them to see the error in their claims, but don’t do it. It is actually better for your sanity and blood pressure to sell a sweater at a fishing pole price and have a satisfied customer than to “win” the argument and have your customer leave unhappy.

5. Bond with your co-workers.

When it comes to working in retail over the holidays, no one can fully understand what you are going through quite like other people who are going through the same thing. Although it will probably happen organically, take the time to get to know the people working around you. It’s a great opportunity to give and receive much-needed moral support.

6. Never lose your sense of humor.

A good sense of humor is the one thing that will get you through the craziness that comes with being a retail employee during the holidays. Although you may find the crowds, noise and stress hard to deal with at the time, all of these things make for great stories later over eggnog or hot toddies with loved ones.

If you are a retail employee, it is important to remember that there is very little that can be done to change the circumstances of the average work day. There will always be crowds; there will always be a fair amount of angry or upset customers. The key to surviving the holidays in retail is to take care of yourself and prepare yourself for each day. Remember, it is only a few weeks out of the year. What seems stressful today will fade into a memory very quickly if you have the right attitude.


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