Monday, November 28, 2011

Manners Monday – “Taking the Stress out of Holiday Shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday & Beyond”

Now that the last bit of turkey leftovers has finally settled in our bellies and the guilt of the extra five pounds that we gained from that second helping of stuffing and sweet potatoes has set in, we are more than ready to take our minds off of ourselves and all of the food we have consumed and channel our energies into others by tackling our holiday gift list. 

Back in the day, before the invention of smartphones and the web, life was a bit slower and the shopping experience was certainly more civilized as patrons took to the streets with their handwritten lists and mapped out their routes to make the best use of their time.  With a multitude of shopping bags in hand, they retired to their homes exhausted and content at a day well-spent.  Things have changed over the years and not necessarily for the better.  Nowadays, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where shoppers everywhere are stressed to the gills and fighting one another for the latest Xbox like it was the last morsel left on earth.  

Personally, I love the idea of holiday shopping.  The hustle and bustle of the crowds doesn’t deter me.  I thrive on the holiday music and the smell of spiced cider in the air.  I’m invigorated by the cooler weather and the shorter days of winter.  I also enjoy the in-person shopping ritual.  I like to use all of my senses as I make my purchases.  For me there is something about being able to see and feel the items that I am buying that heightens the ceremony of it all and makes me feel more invested in the purchase.  

As I’m writing this, I know I am in the minority.  There are many that would rather cut off their right arm than deal with the throngs of people and be forced to wait patiently in line.  They may care less about seeing a product firsthand and more about crossing off the person on their list and that’s perfectly fine.  To each his own as the expression goes and thank goodness for Cyber Monday so that this group of purchasers may take advantage of the special savings online without having to fight off the masses.  For the rest of us who’ve made it through Black Friday unscathed and will continue to brave the shopping malls on foot through December, here are a few guidelines that will hopefully make it a little easier.

Fuel Your Body Before Heading Out.  Shopping on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster. If you are hungry, you cannot possibly be patient about anything.  Before leaving the house, eat something substantial or at least pack a few satisfying snacks that will keep you satiated until you can take an official break for a proper meal.  Remember to also keep hydrated. Keep a large bottle of water handy to swig through the aisles so you avoid getting parched.

Allow Ample Time for Parking.  How many times have we spotted the perfect parking space, only to be swooped upon by another driver who acted like they own the parking lot and claimed the space first!  Knowing that the stores will be quite busy this time of year, make sure you allow ample time for parking and never fight over a space.  If you meet a parking hog, just move along and find another parking spot.  It is not worth the mental and physical energy you will have to expend to convince the irrational driver otherwise.  At all costs, never park in a handicap space. Not only is it a federal offense and you will pay a hefty fine, but I would be more worried about the karma!

Keep a Close Eye on Cart Items.  We’re all used to watching our purses and wallets while shopping, but at this time of year, we have to keep a close watch on the items we put into our cart as well.  Never turn your back on your cart or you might find yourself the victim of aisle theft with one less Xbox game console for your kiddies.
Avoid Confrontation at All Costs. Speaking of Xboxes, the mother in Los Angeles who pulled out the pepper spray on Black Friday to gain a lead on her competition at Walmart crossed lines that may actually result in criminal charges.  When you set out on your course to shop for the holidays, be mindful, stay focused and by all means stay as far away from those irrational shoppers who seem to be out with a vengeance.  Do not raise your voice in a verbal argument or lash out with physical retaliation and if you see a crazy person running down the aisles with pepper spray, part like the red sea and get the you-know-what outta there!

Wait Patiently in Line.  If you are not prepared to stand in line patiently, don’t bother heading to the stores during the holiday season.  No one enjoys waiting, but complaining, pushing and crowding a line certainly does not make the experience any easier.  Never try and force your way into the line ahead of others.  People find this particularly offensive and it is sure to set off a firestorm of rebellion amongst the crowd.  If you are holding a place for someone else, explain this to the people behind you.  If someone is holding a place for you, it is courteous to thank the people behind when you arrive. When you finally get to the front of the line, do not engage in a lengthy discussion as this is both burdensome to the attendant and inconsiderate of those waiting behind you.  Sometimes, it is a simple courtesy to let another patron go ahead of you especially if your cart is filled to the brim and they only have a few items to purchase.

In the Season of Giving, Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt.  With emotions already running on overdrive at this time of year, we are more inclined to accuse others of a wrong-doing.  There may be more than one occasion when another shopper will bump into you without notice or a cashier will shortchange you without paying attention or tend to another patron when you were their first.  Rather than respond defensively with disagreeable words or actions, take the high road and act as if the gesture was purely an accident.  If you are bothered in any way, you may always call attention to the incident by quietly making clear that you assumed it was unintentional.  Find restraint within and do everything in your power to avoid a full blown altercation. 

A Final Note for Shoppers.  The great news about Cyber Monday and online shopping is that you don’t have to be on your best behavior in the privacy of your own home.  There is no one looking over your shoulders minding your P’s & Q’s. You can wear your pajamas, stuff yourself with food and chain yourself to the computer screen all day if you wish.  Happy holiday shopping!

What’s the worst behavior you’ve encountered while holiday shopping? Share your stories.  We’d love to hear form you!!

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