As I’ve often sugarcoated in my Patch column, Mall Mania, people lose their humanity when they step inside the mall. They transform into illiterate, rude, sloppy, inconsiderate, selfish dipshits. WHY? I don’t know. For some reason people seem to take advantage of the mall as a place to feel like a princess for a day, forcing minimum wage-slaves to wait on them hand and foot because, well, because they can. Herewith, a guide that my coworker Will said I should call “How to Shop Not Like a Beast, by Kristi Berry.”
1. LEARN TO READ. I actually wrote a more politely worded Patch article about this recently, to be posted soon. The unbridled version is this. Every day people come up to me and ask stupid questions (Abe Lincoln was wrong, they do exist) that I answer not with innate or secret knowledge, but by reading. I know, I’m pretty impressive. “How much is this?” Read the tag. “What’s 40% off?” Read the signs. “It said these pants were $20.” It says polos, if you read the sign. One of my favorite ways to undermine the, ahem, intelligence of the customers is to sweetly read to them from the gospel according to the price tag.
2. SAY HELLO. When you walk into most stores, someone greets you. My standard is a basic “Hello” or “Hi, How are you?” which I designed specifically to insist upon an acknowledgment. It is rude to ignore these salutations, and if you dare to look me in the eye and not respond, then you are obviously even more of a stone cold bitch than I am, which is saying something. The worst offense by far is the customer that looks you in the eye, does not respond, then immediately walks up to you and throws a return on the register without a word. Oh, NOW we’re interacting? Which brings me to…
3. SPEAK UP. My mother always told me that God helps those who help themselves. More to the point, I cannot see through walls or the back of my head. If you are standing inside the fitting rooms waiting for someone to help you, don’t hold your breath; you might consider walking the four steps to ask someone’s willing assistance. And if the cashier is doing something with their back turned to you, like hanging shirts or making the break schedule, kindly clear your throat or say “Excuse me” rather than wait passive-aggressively for them to turn around and feel bad for ignoring you. Certainly do not lurk in the general vicinity of the shoes waiting for someone to ask if you need a size, because unless you are in a shoe store, you will be unnoticed.
4. SAY WHAT YOU WANT. Retail workers are not mind readers. Don’t come up to the register and throw a bag at me. What do you want me to do with it? If it’s up to me I’ll throw it back, or better yet in the trash, so it pays to be specific. Would you like to do a return? Get off your goddam cell phone and say as much.
5. ADDRESS EMPLOYEES AS HUMANS; SLAVERY ENDED 200 YEARS AGO. Do not come up to me and bark, “Can somebody get me a fitting room?!” I will respond that I’m sure somebody can, then walk away. Just because the economy took a tumble and someone is stuck folding shirts to make some scrilla does not make them your inferior; they are quite possibly (in my case, I don’t feel conceited to say probably) far more intelligent than you, and most likely a better person by virtue of the way you are treating them and the fact that working this job means they never will. Do not throw things at them; hand them. Do not order them to do things; ask them.
6. PLEASE AND THANK YOU. They teach this in like, preschool. They’re called manners; I know it’s a foreign concept. No, the cashier across the counter isn’t doing you a favor by checking a price for you. It is their job, you are correct. But nonetheless, as I said, they are still human beings, and last I checked saying “please” doesn’t cost you anything.
7. GOLDEN RULE. Another childhood favorite. For those who forgot – and I know there are a lot of you – that’s “treat others as you want to be treated.” As far as pleasantries go, I give what I get. If someone is nice to me, I’m nice to them. If you won’t deign to speak to me, I’ll stay mum; I only speak when spoken to, your highness. If you dare to throw your credit card or myriad crumpled bills on the counter and make me lean across to scoop them up, then enjoy clawing your change off the counter.
8. PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF; WERE YOU RAISED IN A BARN? I don’t come to your house and throw things on the floor (but trust me, if I could I would.) If you are violently flipping through a rack and knock something down, pick it up. If you want a shirt from the bottom of a pile, consider picking up the pile and taking out the one you want instead of upending the whole lot for a shirt you’ll probably leave sprawled on the floor in another room anyway. When utilizing a fitting room, I won’t insist you bring your items out, but don’t you dare leave them scattered across the floor like Katrina wreckage. I don’t expect anyone to pull out a folding board and put a shirt back together perfectly, or to button and zip all the pants they tried, but don’t do the employees the disrespect of making them crawl on their knees to pick up after you. And for that matter, inside out your clothes! I don’t want to be pulling pants inside out after you just had your taint up against them.
9. SENSE THE TONE. All this said, I am a realist (cynic) and know that people will still make a mess. At the very least, don’t do it in front of the person who will have to clean it up. I would never have cheated on a test while the teacher was staring straight at me; like, how dumb are you? If I am staring at you, at least make an effort of not causing a disaster. By this token, if an employee is folding a pile or an entire table and asks you if you need help finding a size, it is not out of the goodness of their hearts. The hardly-veiled subtext is “Don’t mess up that fucking pile I just folded three seconds ago.” The correct response to this is never the combination of “No, I’ve got it” and overturning an entire pile. Never.
10. KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO. I don’t mean that I want you to check the Match.com profile of your cashier; hell, I don’t even wear my nametag because it’s too much personal information for customers to know about me. But have some perspective on who you are speaking to. Complaining about policies to the part-time college grad who makes $9 an hour is a waste of your breath and time. Do I look like the fucking CEO? What do you want me to do about it? Take those complaints to customer service, because the cashier ain’t going to be able to do anything about it, and you’re just getting yourself all worked up and ruining someone’s afternoon. In the same vein, do not admonish me that “that’s a bad way to do business” because it ain’t my business; don’t say “I spend a lot of money here” because I ain’t impressed; don’t threaten that you won’t buy anything today or ever again, because I’d prefer it that way. The twenty-three-year-old across the counter makes the same $9 an hour no matter what you do, say, or buy, so save it. If you just need someone to yell at, take that shit to your therapist, kids, or boyfriend, because it will only fall on deaf ears.
This is merely an abridged collection of ways to act like a decent human being while shopping. Make it your own. I beg you.