Reared from an early age on marathon mall trips with my mom and aunts, I did not anticipate that I would ever tire of the physical act of shopping.
But these days, I'm dismayed by the growing lack of civility between shoppers and sales clerks and I find myself turning to online retailers more often.
Think I'm being dramatic? Witness two encounters shared by friends:
K was shopping at an upscale Lake Norman boutique and had tried on a designer dress that didn't quite fit. She told the sales clerk, who responded, “Well, maybe that can be your goal – to fit in that dress.”
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R was attempting to pay for her purchases at a gift shop when the clerk started offering snarky, unsolicited advice about her weight.
As they shared their jaw-dropping stories, I was amazed by their ability to maintain their composure. If I had been blindsided by rudeness like that, there would be words exchanged, managers spoken to and no purchases made (no matter how badly I wanted the items).
There's simply no excuse for that type of behavior. If you're having a bad day, or you don't like your job, please don't take your frustrations out on the customer.
But don't mistake my outrage for being an attack on salespeople, I've got plenty for unreasonable shoppers as well.
I'm familiar with the thankless work that makes up the service/retail industry: I put myself through college waiting tables and worked in accessories at Hudson's in Battle Creek, Mich., part-time to make ends meet after I took my first newspaper job.
At Hudson's, we were visited weekly by a customer who would empty the contents of her purse onto our counter and demand returns of items that she had clearly bought ages ago (the tags were yellowed and had an old logo on them). I couldn't believe management would tolerate such behavior, but they said she was a regular, and they felt bad for her.
Of course, shoppers could do better, too. Just because you're spending money at a store doesn't mean it's acceptable to be ugly. I am guilty of taking out my frustration at a long wait in line on innocent salespeople. And I immediately feel bad about it.
It's not their fault I'm eternally running behind, or that I happen to be in line when a new employee is learning how to work the register.
Let's make a pact – especially as we head into a holiday season in a tanking economy that shows no signs of stopping – to mind our manners.
Shoppers, clean up after yourselves in fitting rooms. Check your superior attitude at the door – retail clerks are not your personal servants. Say please and thank you.
If you don't like the service you're receiving, take your business elsewhere.
Sales staff, leave your preconceptions at home. And keep the unsolicited advice/observations to yourselves.
The next time you sense a retail experience is heading down a dark path, take a deep breath and remember: Consideration and decorum never go out of style.