It’s that loving, warm and fuzzy festive time of the year where folks in the service industry prepare to have a new one torn by clients, customers and curiosity seekers.
For many normally polite shoppers, the level of vitriol they unleash on store staff for not having the right size, colour or quirky request available is directly linked to the length of the lineup in front of them.
While that person ahead of you who has no idea what they want to purchase for that annoying niece or nephew is often the cause of your ire, it’s the poor soul serving you who winds up getting both barrels in the face.
So, on behalf of every bleary-eyed clerk, sales associate and cashier in every mall or store tasked with serving John and Joanne Q. Public, here are a few suggestions for the paying customer that may make the experience more palatable for all parties.
While you’re going from a slow simmer to full boil cursing the sound system for inflicting Jingle Bells on you for the umpteenth time that day, remind yourself that the people who work there have to endure those nausea-inducing holiday favourites on an endless loop they can’t control for eight hours a day minimum.
Think about that for a moment before you go postal on someone because the online purchase you’re picking up got lost in the Amazon jungle shuffle, or wound up walking out the door with someone else.
Show a little courtesy to other shoppers as well, even if you’re wound up tighter than a 10-pound turkey trying to hold 12 pounds of stuffing.
And have that credit card or cash ready when you finally sidle up to the register instead of making those behind you wait while you conduct a full body search.
Sure, this sounds easier to suggest than actually put into practice during the holiday crush.
And I’ve had my share of memorable meltdowns when another example of why customer service is going the way of the dodo bird reared its ugly head in aisle three.
A personal favourite Christmas story has its origin in the time I spent doing follow-ups on mischief files for the West Shore RCMP.
Someone on a quiet cul de sac happened to look out their window at two in the morning just in time to see a pickup slam on the brakes outside a neighbour’s house.
The driver jumped out and proceeded to attack a giant inflatable Santa and two snowmen with a hammer until their lifeless forms lay limp across the lawn.
When you find yourself on the brink, try to remember that we’re all in this together.
Maybe if we extend a little compassion and grace to those around us, we just might manage to get through the shopping season intact and unscathed.
And perhaps, in the process, avoid the added burden of having to hire a lawyer for a court appearance. Like the one you could have avoided if you hadn’t autographed the hood of the car that cut you off in the parking lot with a U and an F, but not in that order.
Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired Island journalist.