Holiday Shopping Do’s and Don’ts from a Pro

Ever wondered which shopping habits bother store employees most during the holidays? Or need tips on getting through your shopping list as smoothly as possible? These Do's and Don'ts are for you!


Before becoming a SAHM I had a career in Store-line Retail Management. In fact, I worked 13 holiday seasons in retail; 10 of those in management.

By Halloween, I would already attend several holiday planning sessions and put up in-store decor. I have stocked, cashed out, scheduled, and greeted more times than you’d care to guess. This is where you can see the best and worst of people. The people sponsoring families in need with clothing and food, but also the people who literally spit on you when they think the prices are too high.

Not to mention all the weird in between. Did you know that I once pet a miniature domesticated wallaby while working one holiday season? That’s right, I encountered a kangaroo in a woman’s purse at the mall. Apparently, everyone goes shopping during the holidays.

That brings me to this post on holiday shopping tips from an expert. Over the years I have gained an inside knowledge of big department stores, mall specialty brands, and even home wares.

Although I have often thought of writing a book entitled Would you like jeans with that?, instead I’d like to pass some of this knowledge onto you, the customer. I have complied a list of simple do’s and don’ts so that you might be seen, and also feel, at your best while shopping this holiday season.

Do respect the store opening and closing times.

These times are desperately needed for cleaning and restock. It is incredibly difficult to do this while customers are in the store. Many companies even prohibit employees from certain “behind the scenes” tasks that must be done so that you will even want to shop in the store.

Don’t get upset if someone asks you to make you final purchases at closing.

They may be under strict payroll guidelines and are not able to stay much longer themselves – even if they wished to. Ask if you can place your items on hold until another day you may return.

Do ask if there is more of an item in stock elsewhere.

Sales dollars equal more payroll hours. In other words, the more everyone spends, then the more likely those employees will get more hours and pay. Therefore, employees truly do want you to find what you’re looking for simply because it is also in their best interest. Ask if missing items might be in a stockroom, or if they can be located at another location to be put on hold or shipped.

Don’t accuse an employee of lying or being lazy.

If and associate tells you an item is out of stock, believe them. They have probably been asked about the same popular item twenty times in the last hour. Show some faith in humanity and try to find it online when you get home.

Do bring coupons and check sales ads ahead of time.

This is a great way to help stick to a budget as well. If you can’t find a coupon code, you can also search Retail Me Not.

Don’t hold up the cashier line.

Too often people wait to pull up a coupon code on their phone, which inevitably bottlenecks the registers and increases everyone’s wait times. Don’t be this inconsiderate customer. Try taking a screenshot of your barcodes ahead of time so that it is easy to find later, and you are not at the mercy of a spotty internet connection.

Do bring mistakes to a cashier’s attention immediately.

Companies will often change sales daily depending on their profit gains and losses. Signs can be missed. Computer updates can be uploaded improperly. It is not impolite to ask a cashier, or even to inquire calmly if a manager can check prices based on the current ad. Just remember, the customer is not always right.

Don’t yell.

This is an easy one. Don’t scream, insult, or especially curse at someone because a mistake was made. Try to remember most of these people are working to provide a holiday for their families. Many employees are pulling extra shifts to cover another person during cold and flu season. Some are kids experiencing their first jobs. Be kind. I have given extra discounts to those who remain polite and helpful when errors occur. You will absolutely catch more flies (and deals) with honey.

Do look with your eyes, not with your hands.

Stores are counting on impulse buys to help them “get into the black.” Basically, this means they are hoping to make you spend more in order to make up on any profit loss to their fiscal year. (Incidentally, that is how the term “Black Friday” was coined. Businesses hoped by the end of business that day, they would make up their missed sales on the year.)

Impulse buy items will most often be found by a register, where your eye line is forced on certain product while waiting, or in the middle of aisles, where product must be seen to avoid crashing.

Furthermore, did you know that you are significantly more likely to buy something after you’ve touched it because you gain a psychological attachment of ownership on an item once you hold it? Retailers are counting on these shopping habits. You have been warned.

Don’t just shop Black Friday for a deal.

December deals are not written in stone, but many times will be equal or greater than Black Friday – doorbusters notwithstanding. Or try to save some of your shopping budget for Small Business Saturday. This is the day after Black Friday that small businesses hope to generate their own revenue. And Cyber Monday has become nearly a weeklong boom for online sales. Not only are many big-ticket items on a deeper discount, but you get free shipping and avoid standing in a lot of lines. If you still prefer lines, go to Disney.

Do dress comfortably.

Save the heels for the office party. Rock that ponytail. Holiday shopping counts as one of your workouts for the week. That big coat might seem cozy during your five-minute walk from the car, but it will feel a pile of bricks when added to the bags you lug around for a few hours.

Don’t forget to pack a snack.

Food courts, drive-thrus, and even restaurants will have longer waits these days. You never know if that protein bar in your purse will save you from fainting in a cash line, or maybe even prevent a child’s meltdown in aisle five. Remember, “hangry” looks good on no one.

Do remember the reason for the season.

It is easy to get swept up in the consumerism of holiday shopping. Instead of rolling your eyes at that Christmas music blaring everywhere, try to embrace the joy that comes with this special time of year.

What tips would you add to the list?

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Valerie McGee
Valerie was born in 1985, which means she identifies with both Gen X-er's and Millennial's depending on the time of day. She grew up on Florida's treasure coast, and graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in History and Literature. This is where her love for reading and writing blossomed. After working many years in Retail throughout the east coast as both a manager and district trainer, she and her husband, Rick, moved to northeast Columbia. There she took the opportunity to become a SAHM. Valerie has both a smarty-pants little girl, Mary Sue, and an overly mischievous baby boy, Connor. In her spare evenings she is a local Girl Scout Co-Leader for younger girls. Her interests also include expanding her talents in the kitchen, as shown by her participation in a local Baking Club and a general obsession with all things Food Network.


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