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The gift of empathy

Amidst the holiday festivities, don't forget what's most important

Student Life | Student View

By Emma Troake

Shopping during the holidays can be stressful for both customers and employees.

From packed stores to huge lineups, shopping is a challenge for everyone. People become frustrated easily.

It sometimes seems like the season of joy gets left behind as soon as you walk through those automatic doors. 

Not their fault

Unfortunately, the people who receive the brunt of the unpleasantness are the employees. We typically fail to realize what workers have to put up with in the run of a day, and our problems aren’t likely their fault.

Anyone who has worked a minimum wage retail job knows what the holiday season brings. Extended hours and massive numbers of customers who may be impolite and aggressive.

Dealing with harsh customers is disheartening and anxiety inducing. No one enjoys an unpleasant experience with a shopper while working an eight or more hour shift. 

Overall, it’s an exhausting time of year for employees. 

“They’re spending less time with their loved ones during the holidays so they can earn enough to support them.”

 It’s important to realize that just because someone works at a store does not mean they control everything or have created your problem. They do not come up with store sales or prices and cannot change them or break store policy. 

As well, many workers have families of their own at home. They’re spending less time with their loved ones during the holidays so they can earn enough to support them.

A lot of the time, they’re asked to stay even later past their shift. It’s difficult to find child care with unpredictable hours and during the holiday season. Many people can’t even be with their family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. 

Be considerate

There are easy things we can do to help out employees this season.

If you’ve jostled around merchandise looking for something, tidy it up before you move on.

If you dropped something on the floor, pick it up or, if it’s something like produce, politely ask an employee if they can help you instead of just leaving it there.

If you’ve taken something and decide you don’t want it, put it back in its original spot.

“If you really want to spread holiday cheer, compliment them or tell them you appreciate their hard work.”

Bring your receipts when coming to return or exchange something. Don’t leave your shopping until the last minute that ends up making things more stressful for employees.

Don’t complain about clearly non-negotiable things like store hours or prices. Avoid coming into a store minutes before closing.

They technically can’t say it’s closed, but they’ll now have to clean up longer after you’re gone. 

Remember what’s really important

Lastly and most importantly, just have patience.

Be kind to who’s serving you, even if they’re moving slow or run into complications with your purchase.

If you really want to spread holiday cheer, compliment them or tell them you appreciate their hard work. It’s doubtful they are praised often; you very well might make their day. 

This holiday season, let’s put ourselves in retail worker’s shoes. At the very least we can be polite, patient and understanding.

We may have been waiting in line for half an hour, but those serving us most likely have been on their feet all day, undergoing worse interactions than we have.

The greatest gift you can give this season is empathy. 

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