The etiquette of Christmas shopping — it sounds like it might not even be a real thing! Yet it is, and knowing the manners of holiday shopping can help turn what is sometimes a hectic, stressful mess into a wonderful part of your Christmas!
By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor
Some folks don’t seem to get it, and it’s sad.
What is it they don’t realize?
1. Manners are, simply put, the best practices for handling any interaction — even Christmas shopping. There are Christmas shopping manners. And if everyone used them, it would make shopping more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone.
2. Shopping for gifts is part of the celebration of Christmas. Whether you’re at the big-box store, the mall, or a neighborhood boutique, the way we interact with our fellow shoppers and the store associates is no less a part of the celebrating than going to a Christmas party at your neighbor’s house, decorating your tree, visiting friends and family, or attending special church plays and services.
We need, perhaps, a new perspective on shopping.
Joy, cheer, fun, and reverence should fill our hearts and minds while we shop for gifts we’ll give others in remembrance of the birth of Jesus. The way we interact with strangers while shopping should be no less gracious than how we interact with them at a church service or a friend’s party.
We’re purchasing gifts to give to people we love or who impact our lives in a positive way, to symbolize the act of the three wise men giving gifts to young Jesus; yet people are crushed to the point of injury or even death, fights break out, and pandemonium ensues in mad dashes to get a great price on a gizmo or gadget.
Buying on sale is a wise use of our money. That’s good, but so is acting in a way that shows others that you know the reason for the season and that shopping for gifts you’ll give is one part of the way you celebrate December 25, the day set aside to remember that:
God sent a stable baby to save an unstable world.
When you open the door to the store, remember that this too is Christmas!
The Etiquette of Christmas Shopping — Five Manners to Make Your Gift Finding Merry and Bright
1. It starts at the door! Whether you’re a lady or gentleman, hold the door open for the person(s) behind you, and stand behind it to allow them plenty of room to enter. As they walk through the door: smile, make eye contact, and say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”
If people hold the door for you, say, “You’re so kind! Thank you!”
Saying “You’re so kind!” as well as “Thank you!” is adding a compliment. And every compliment is a gift. They will especially appreciate you, even though they won’t be able to put their fingers on exactly how you just put some extra Christmas magic in their day!
If the person(s) approaching the door ahead of you are pushing a baby stroller, in a wheelchair, on crutches, or have their arms full, say, “Allow me to get the door. I’m right behind you.” They’ll probably step a little to the side of the door so you can open it wide, and they can easily enter the store.
2. To the right please! With all the extra people in the aisles and walkways of the store or mall, make sure to walk to your right, just like the rules of the road. We walk on the same side that we drive on in the US. If there are more than two in your group, try to walk behind one another. When three or more people walk side-by-side, they block the walkway so that people can’t easily pass on their left. (Again, the same rules as for driving.)
On escalators that are wide enough to accommodate two people per step, stand to the right to allow those who are going to walk up the escalator to do so on your left. PS: Please don’t walk up the escalator. I hope you’re not in that much of a hurry. Escalators really are meant for riding.
As far as elevators, they can get really crowded. Here’s a post I wrote about elevator etiquette that will have you going up and down in style!
3. Oops, I’m sorry! If you accidentally bump into someone, say something that clarifies that you had no intention of doing so. “Oh no! Please excuse me. I’m sorry I bumped into you.” PS: For bonus points, say this even if they bumped into YOU and didn’t apologize. It shows them how to be gracious — a lesson I hope they will take to heart.
4. A Large Part of The Etiquette of Christmas Shopping is To Extend the Gift of Grace! Be patient with store associates. I worked in retail management for a national chain department store for twelve years. I know that less than one-half of one percent of the associates on the sales floor and at the cash register are rude on purpose. (The few who slipped in while the store was in a hiring frenzy are let go when their true nature is discovered.) The number of sales associates in a store increases by up to 35 percent from November 15 to January 10.
You remember what it’s like first starting a new job.
It’s scary, and no one is an expert in the first few weeks of work.
New workers have to do their job daily in front of hundreds of people. They don’t have time to learn all the details of the merchandise in the store or the how-tos of ringing the register before the rush of holiday shopping starts, so be patient. They really do want to help you and to ring your order up correctly and quickly. Sometimes, the newness of it all makes it difficult.
5. Wonder Words help spread the wonder of Christmas! In Manners That Matter for Moms, I wrote a chapter titled “Wonder Words and The Wonders They Work.” In it, I share how to teach your child the meaning and benefit of kind words in a way that makes kind words a natural part of their daily vocabulary.
I start the chapter by telling the story of an experiment I tried one Christmas to see what impact, if any, kind words I said had on the actions or attitudes of strangers.
In the stores where I was shopping, I noticed that even when the cashiers and clerks greeted a customer kindly, they often were ignored because the customer was talking on a cell phone. Even when not on the phone, the person often gave just a sterile “Hey” or a dismissive “Make sure all my sale prices ring up.”
What I did was enjoy a conversation with the cashier as my order was being rung. As the next customer approached, I said something to the clerk that the next customer would overhear, along the lines of: “You’ve been so kind! I appreciate you and your Christmas spirit. Thank you for making my shopping so pleasant. I hope everyone is as kind to you as you’ve been to me. Thanks again, and Merry Christmas!”
EVERY time I did this, no matter how tuned-out the next customers had been, they smiled and began a conversation with the cashier. People on their cell phones at least acknowledged the clerk pleasantly. Two cell-phone users even ended their conversations. “I’ll call you back. I’m at the register now.”
The appreciation shown to the cashier set the next customer up as eager to experience a similar positive interaction. I saw demeanors do a 180-degree turn. It was beautiful to watch. Attitudes, moods, and expectations are contagious, and if we speak kindness, we generate kindness. It’s one of the best gifts we can give at Christmas or any time.
Grace Note: If you bring everything out of the dressing room with you and leave it empty of clothes for the next person, you’re the best shopper ever!
Going to a Christmas party or event this season? Check out The Top 5 Party Conversation Do’s ! And if you want to strike up a conversation with someone anywhere, here’s How to Start a Great Conversation — The 7 Best Tips.
Until next time, keep doing what you were put on Earth to do — bless others by being authentically you…at your best! Oh, and happy shopping too!