Let’s treat retail workers like people this holiday season

Photo Credit: Freestocks on Unsplash

Photo Credit: Freestocks on Unsplash

Regardless of the holiday you celebrate or even if you don’t celebrate any one at all, a major part of the winter holiday season for most people is shopping.

This shopping season adds billions to the economy and creates millions of jobs every year. There’s no denying that the retail industry and our society as a whole relies on this shopping season.

However, despite the value of this shopping season, economically speaking, we shouldn’t forget etiquette and common decency.

Having worked in retail for three holiday shopping seasons, I have seen the worst of it. People can be brutal in the stores during this time, not just to each other over the last shirt in the size that they need, but also to the employees. Luckily I didn’t face this personally, but I saw it happen a lot. I saw friends and co-workers who were incredibly nice and accommodating get publicly chewed out, screamed at and even called racist, sexist and homophobic slurs.

I’m not sure what it is about this time of the year, maybe it’s the pressure of making sure you get the right gifts for all your family and friends or maybe it’s the increased crowds that racks up the tension. Regardless, none of this behaviour is excusable, whether you are the one picking fights with retail employees or whether you are just a bystander.

Nobody should ever passively watch stuff like this happen. While it’s a bit different to stand up as a fellow employee, simply watching a fight break out over the price of a pair of socks and doing nothing reflects poorly on you as a fellow customer and a human being for that matter.

Think about the families and experiences of these workers, who have to work longer hours and more days in a row with fewer breaks during this time of the year just to make your shopping experience better. To allow them to be publicly humiliated and dehumanized by some monster tells me that you lack a certain amount of empathy. As long as nothing gets in your perfect bubble everything will be okay. It takes more to be a good person than to just keep to yourself, you need to stand up when things like this happen, no matter the circumstance.

Speaking of keeping to yourself, why is it that I see more and more people refusing to speak to or even look at their cashiers anymore? Why do people feel that they can just go on the phone, or yell at their family members across the store or just simply ignore them because they can’t be bothered to engage in mere pleasantries. Saying hello, thank you and even happy holidays goes a lot farther than you might think.

So while you’re out doing your shopping this year, wherever you may be, never forget the humanity of the people around you, be it other shoppers or the workers themselves. Everyone has a lived experience; they have families, they have their own lives, they are people. Hopefully, if you keep that in mind, whether you’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of working in retail or not, you might be more inclined to treat them like humans.

Please note that none of this will take away from your shopping or your broader holiday experience. In fact, it might even help you cope with the stress and get into the holiday spirit. While it might take you a few more breaths and cost you some words to interact with the workers (the horror!), the value of having empathy for somebody you don’t know and treating others with dignity and respect is truly priceless.

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