It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday shopping experience is underway for most people. Having spent a good chunk of time as a retail professional, I’ve been on both sides of this simultaneously, several times. There’s those long grinding hours on your feet trying to make everyone’s holiday wishes come true, and then if you can possibly squeeze it in on break or after work, doing the same for your own family and friends. People get stressed out over the holidays. I’ve never really understood why. I think it has to do with unrealistic expectations being set either by yourself, or by others. I think high expectations can be a good thing because it makes you strive for success, but when those expectations are too specific, it can lead to disappointment. For example, I think it’s great to say “I want to find a great gift for my mom this year.” It’s a lofty expectation, but very achievable. When you start saying “I want to find a purple blouse with pink flowers that has a 60/40 cotton/polyester blend in just the right size that will go just perfectly with those pants she loves to wear and that new scarf I bought her last year, but it needs to be from that store that she loves, and can’t be dry-clean only for my mom this year”…….. you might be setting yourself up for a bit of disappointment.
Last year I wrote part one of this blog, and was putting the consumers on blast for treating retailers like shit over the holidays while we humbly aid you in trying to make this ‘the best Christmas ever!!’ This year I will take the side of the shopper, and take aim at a few of the stores, and sales people whose ineptitude does not help us track down our purple blouses any faster. I bring you Holiday Retail Pet Peeves, Part 2.
– First of all, you don’t need to play Christmas music in November. This has gotten about as out-of-control as I ever could have imagined. I love Christmas, and I enjoy hearing Christmas music as much as the next guy, for about 2 weeks MAXIMUM! As a retail professional, I understand the psychological reasoning behind playing it as early as possible. It gets that clock ticking in people’s heads. As soon as Gene Autry’s voice starts singing ‘Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes Santa Claus’, all the little Santa Claus’s out there start shifting into the holiday panic mode, and if you’re a retailer, why wouldn’t you want to stretch that out for as long as possible?? It makes perfect business sense. Here’s the problem….. It’s fuckin’ tasteless!!! There is absolutely NO NEED to play Christmas music before December 1st. Even that’s early for my liking, but it’s a compromise.
– As a retailer, if you’re going to run a promo for a limited time, you had better have that promo item in stock! For your customers, and for the poor bugger on the sales floor that’s going to spend his day getting yelled at. This should never happen, but I’ve seen it happen a number of times. The last time it happened to me, I was working at a major national department store in the seasonal department (aka the Christmas Tree department). They put out an ad in print and on their website which was email blasted to their database. It was a great promotion on a particular make and model of a Christmas Tree, but it was a one-day sale. I can’t remember what the discount was, but it was substantial. When I got into work that morning, it was the first I’d heard of it. I checked to see how many of those trees we had in stock. We had none. ZIP. ZILCH. ZERO. We had already sold out of them. Now, if you run an ad like that, you’re probably smart enough to put something on the bottom that says ‘while supplies last’, and that typically gets you out of most customer service situations….. but when it’s 10:05 in the morning, and you opened at 10:00, and you have 3 or 4 customers there already asking for this tree, you’re gonna have a tough time convincing them that you sold out this morning already. Maybe at 1 pm I can make this claim, but not at 10:05. So I spent my whole day explaining to customers that we were sold out for several days leading up to this event. You get the whole ‘why wouldn’t you save some for the event?’ (Because customers of course assume that the same poor slug who’s selling them the tree is also responsible for advertising and inventory levels of a national retail chain….. I mean, wouldn’t they be???) Anyways, I spent the whole day hearing stories of how far they drove, and how much it meant to them, and their opinions on our customer service and blah blah wah wah wah. Lovely.
– Every time I turn my head, the mall hours keep getting longer and longer. A few of us were chatting the other day about when they first introduced ‘Sunday Shopping’. Malls around here used to be closed on Sundays. Man, what a world! I think I like the option of shopping on a Sunday, but they just keep creeping the hours, earlier, later, longer. Why would a mall need to be open on a Saturday night? In December I get it, but all-year-round? Maybe if there’s a movie theater in the mall, and a bunch of hip restaurants, but I would say most malls should be closed at 6 pm on a Saturday. Let mall employees have a life for crying out loud. I don’t think it brings anybody new to the mall. I don’t think there is a sub-culture of Saturday night shoppers who wouldn’t do it any other time of the day/week that we’re finally capitalizing on. People will work within the parameters you give them. We always did before.
Well, I’ll save some for next year. All the best in your holiday shopping endeavors. Be safe out there.