This holiday season, remember to be kind to retail workers
Retail workers share stories and tips to survive the season
By Anna Junker, News Editor
Retail workers are bracing themselves for every person that celebrates Christmas hitting the malls hard with dreams of finding the perfect gift for the important people in their lives.
Over two million Canadians work in retail, according to Statistics Canada. The packed malls mean those retail employees, the ones who are folding clothes, behind the tills, making your favourite Starbucks drink have to put on a brave face, a warm smile and try their hardest to politely deal with some of the most difficult customers.
Tyler Ryan, an ex-employee of Chapters who worked there for just under four years, has his fair share of stories of dealing with difficult customers.
“I saw some savagery that only the holidays can produce. I watched a grown woman rip a toy out of a crying toddler’s hand, I listened to parents get into yelling matches with their kids in the store, and I even saw two dudes throw down in the parking lot after one of my shifts,” said Ryan.
One of his “favourite” stories is from last Christmas where the latest toy craze for children was the Hatchimal, a robotic animal that hatches from an egg.
“We got a tiny shipment to the store and we were straight up told we wouldn’t be getting any more until New Years,” Ryan said.
“Within a few days we were all sold out and those things were something like $80 a pop. Not a single Indigo/Chapters in the city got their stock replenished before Christmas.”
According to Ryan, they explained the situation to customers and most took it well. Except for one woman who walked into the store to acquire a Hatchimal on Dec. 23, two days before Christmas.
“I tell her — in my super nice retail voice — ‘Sorry ma’am, we’re totally sold out of those and we won’t be getting any until after New Years. No stores in the city have them,’” recalled Ryan.
“She doesn’t believe me and tells me to go check in the backroom because she ‘knows we have them.’”
Ryan goes to the back to appease the woman and comes back empty handed. Yet, the woman is still not pleased and tells Ryan to go check again because he wasn’t in the back long enough and could have missed seeing the toy.
“As I come back, she goes ‘Are you serious!? How the f— can you guys have no Hatchimals!?’ She proceeds to go on a tirade about how poor our customer service was and how I’m a bad employee that’s clearly incompetent etc.. She then demands to speak to my manager,” said Ryan.
In efforts to appease the woman, Ryan went to retrieve his manager and warned her that the customer was becoming “irate.” The manager then proceeds to reiterate what Ryan had previously told the woman. The store has zero Hatchimals.
“The customer explodes into a tirade about how we’re terrible employees and how stupid it is that we don’t have enough stock. The icing on this dumpster fire of a cake was when she said, ‘You’ve f—— ruined my child’s Christmas you assholes, I hope you’re all happy.’ She then stormed out of the store but not before I got in my ‘Hope you have a happy Christmas ma’am!’”
Drew Tytgat works at a home furnishing store and also shared their thoughts about working retail during the holidays.
“Working retail over the holidays is somewhat of a grab bag of people, I think. I’ve gotten some really awesome people who are totally understanding if things don’t go their way, or really appreciative if things do work out, but I’ve also had a fair share of people who take their holiday frustrations out on me and the people I work with,” said Tytgat.
Tytgat also had an experience of dealing with an upset customer over the sold out Google Home Mini.
“It’s real popular and we’ve been selling out of it every time we get a new shipment, and he got really frustrated with me when I said we were sold out – starting to get confrontational and asking why we were advertising it if we didn’t have it, and really seemed to be taking it personally. Thankfully he dropped it, but that’s really not uncommon,” said Tytgat.
“It’s unsettling when that happens, because even though it’s out of my control, someone wants answers, and I get that, but it really freaks me out sometimes.”
Ryan says he understands Christmas is a stressful time of year, especially for parents but he would like it if people were more understanding during the season.
“If the happiness of your child and the health of your relationship with your family hinges on your ability to get them a toy, maybe you should re-evaluate what’s important in your life.”
For all the retail workers out there counting down the days until the holiday is over, Ryan does have some tips to survive the season.
“First, think like the customer. If you were buying stuff, would you really want to hear about all 36 of the dumb promotions that are being offered? Of course not,” said Ryan. He adds that although it may be part of your job to offer the promotions, read the person’s body language. If they seem disinterested, move along.
“Second, kill them with kindness. You may have the worst human being come through your till, but if you stay nice and they still treat you poorly, ultimately you win,” said Ryan.
“Why? Because no matter what they say to you, just remember that you’re not the loser being [rude] to a retail worker. As one of my old managers used to say: ‘Well they can be nasty to me, but karma is going to make a bird shit on their car one day.’”
The third tip, not only can retail workers use this, but any holiday shopper can take to heart.
“People are savages when the holidays come about. When you go to work, there’s a chance that you won’t be seeing your car for eight hours. Park far away because people in parking lots don’t care about anything but themselves. They’ll ding your car, scratch your doors, and maybe even fight you for a spot. Not worth it.”