I absolutely cannot stand holiday shopping. Trust me, I love giving gifts (and spending money in general), but I just try to make the shopping part much more suitable to me. I pretty much flat-out refuse to shop at the mall during the holiday season. If I must, I must, but I will whine about it. I’ll shop online and even in small shops, like those around our corner of Connecticut, but I am definitely a grinch about big store shopping.

The issue is the crowds. It’s not that I dislike people, it’s that I am just burnt out of holiday shopping crowds.

I’ve always had a job, ever since I was probably 14. When I was old enough, my sister talked me into retail. She was a department manager at a large retail store and got me a position as a seasonal rep for Fossil. The gig was great and when I wasn’t working for them, I took jobs in other retail environments.

Working retail taught me a lot about people, lots of good things and lots of not-so-good things. Unfortunately, it seems to be the bad encounters that are more memorable.

After college, I took what would be my final retail stint. I was asked to manage the Christmas Shoppe at a Bloomingdale’s location in New York. It was fun, at first. We had a bread machine in the department to constantly smell very homy. We had Christmas music playing around the clock from the moment the department opened (Halloween). And it was the year that the THIS was the hottest item of the Christmas season:

Believe it or not, hearing “Jingle Bell Rock” over and over again for 8+ hours a day for 2 months while people demanded that their name be “at the top” of the waiting list for the next shipment of Dancing Santas….well, it got old.

And if I had a nickel for every time someone looked at my name tag and said “Holly? That’s cute, is that your real name or your holiday shop name?”….

As for music, it’s taken me several years to find Christmas music “festive” again and I’m still in the recovery phase. I’ve been able to listen to some Rat Pack and a cappella  holiday songs but I still cringe when I hear “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey.

As for people, lI have lots and lots of stories about the bad customers. And honestly, I think it taught me a lot about negotiations, respect, patience, understanding, responding to meanness and plain old how I wanted to treat people. But for every impatient, demanding, condescending customer, there were probably 5x-10x as many sweet, giving, respectful people who appreciated the process and the real reason they were out shopping in the first place:

Giving

So, while I am working on rediscovering the joy in being around my fellow human beings in the stores this holiday season, I’m asking all of you to remember that the people working in the stores, behind the counters, in the stock rooms, etc. are people as well and deserve some dignity and respect just like everyone else. Holiday shopping is stressful but it doesn’t have to be angsty, angry and just plain miserable.

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