An Open Letter to a Grouchy Holiday Shopper

Friday, December 11, 2015

This post is going to be a little off topic, but it's part of my grief experience, and it's important, so it's here. 

Bear with me. 

Dear holiday shopper,

I am one of the {probably numerous} retail store employees you came into contact with this week. I have been employed by my company for almost a decade and am very good at my job. So when you came into my store with your request I was more than capable of fulfilling it.

However, my efforts did not produce the desired results and you became annoyed. Your annoyance manifested in your insistence that I perform a task which was against my company policy. After my apology and acquiescence (because the customer is always right, even when going against company policy) to your request, you berated me for causing such a fuss. You addressed my "incompetence" by expressing your desire to be "helped by someone who can do their job", if I couldn't. 

There were profanities involved.

So, here's a note. From me, your retail store worker. 

It will not contain profanities.

I am a human being. It's shocking, but really -- I am a person with the same type of biological stuff inside which you have. Similarly to most people, including you -- I assume, I feel cold and heat, rough and soft, and an entire range of emotions based on my personal life experience. 

When I came into contact with you, the emotion which was manifesting itself was primarily sadness. This weekend will be my dead daughter's fifth birthday. When you and I crossed paths, it was my last shift before taking the weekend off to mourn her loss. It's difficult to help Christmas shoppers whose greatest problem is whether they find the right merchandise, when my mind is centered on those precious last moments, a few days off around the anniversary of her birth and death is helpful. I held my daughter in my arms as she silently slipped out of this world, and ever since then this season of lights and merry song has been a dark one for me. 

That being said; when helping you, I was {still} doing the very best I could for you. I amended the problem multiple times without a hint of my inner heartache, smiling and trying to make sure you left my store satisfied with your purchase. This was an impossibility, and when you left I must admit I felt relief. 

I don't know what troubles you have had to make you so surly. It may have been an event which happened recently or long ago. 

Maybe you lost a child too.

I do know treating people the way you treated me was wrong. 

In all of my grief over my lost daughter, my loss would never have been an acceptable reason to treat anyone the way you treated me. I have never felt the need to question someone's intelligence or to curse at someone because they can't deliver the appropriate response to my query.

People who behave like you seem to confuse "service worker" with "servant". Not that anyone should treat a servant the way you treated me, but there is a marked difference in those job descriptions which implies that one person is being paid to personally cater to the whims of another, while one person is being paid to sell something. 

I am no one's servant, and neither is any other service worker you may come into contact with this holiday season. We are paid to courteously sell you goods, period. We are not here to take your abuse. 

We all need to remember that each of us has struggled. Each of us is only human. We don't know what someone is dealing with when we are walking out into the world, and deciding their inability to perform according to our unreasonable desires is a mark of ignorance is wrong. 

They may have had a bad day. 

Their electric bill may have come in, and it's just more than they can afford to pay. 

Maybe they just fought with their significant other and they are worried about the stability of their relationship. 

Maybe they don't have money to purchase the toys which their child asked Santa for.

Or maybe they are going home to a home that is uncharacteristically dreary this time of year because there is one sweet girl-child missing from it.

We all have an obligation to be kind to one another. We are all travelers on this planet together, and in the grand scheme of things -- are Christmas purchases really important? Are they worth tossing aside someone else's humanity for?

Before ending this I would like to address a common misconception about service workers which will most likely be brought up if anyone ever reads this:

I am fully aware that I am not a soldier in the military fighting for freedom. I am also aware I am not an emergency room nurse, a firefighter, or a policeman. Nor am I a veteran or a schoolteacher.

I am not claiming to have a strenuous job, or even that I can't deal with a customer being feisty. This isn't about asking for more money than I already earn {although my retail position is most definitely not a low-skill job, and I am proud to say I could run a business with what I have learned}. 

Kindness shouldn’t be doled out to people based upon our perception of their “station” in life.

We just need to treat one another with decency. Especially this time of year. 

People are hurting. 

We have the ability to make one another's lives better, be it with a smile or a thank you. 

Hopefully, holiday shopper, my smile makes your day better. I am so glad to use my skills to help you to find the perfect item for someone special and my knowledge of my product means you will be getting the best information available. I work hard to offer you a positive experience even in the most rushed of seasons. Thankfully you choose to shop in my retail establishment, as my job puts food on my table and a roof over my head. I will continue to offer service unparalleled in hopes that your visits to my store are remembered as a positive experience. 

My only reason for sharing this message: 

It would be great if your visits were also pleasant for me. I am mourning my lost daughter. Your kindness is like a life saver being tossed out on an open sea. You have the ability to make it a sink or swim day. 

Please help me to swim. 


A human being who happens to also be a retail employee 

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