Saving Your Shopgirl's Sanity

Don't let your retail buzz be the cause of your shopgirl's despair. (Both images in this post from

Alright, hands up: Who was as appalled as I was over the news story about the Walmart employee being trampled to death by Black Friday sale-goers? 'Tis the season to be jolly, but it's also the season to shop, shop, shop, and in the process I'm afraid some of us shoppers have--to put it bluntly--gone insane, forgetting that their friendly retail staff are human, too. I've been on both sides of the fence: I'm an avid shopper, but for the past 4 years I've also worked part-time in retail as a sales person at an independently owned local toy store. With my experiences as shopper and retail personnel in mind, I offer these basic points of etiquette for shoppers. Trust me, your retail staff will love you for this.

See your shopgirls as people and they'll thank you for it!

  1. Remember that retail people are, well, people. They have basic needs for food and bathroom breaks like you do, but unlike you shoppers, they might have to hold it in or hold out for nourishment until things are less busy. I work in a small store--sometimes all alone--and I always get annoyed when, after a rush of people, someone comes into an empty store to browse with no intention of buying just as I'm about to lock up and run to the bathroom.
  2. Say "please" and "thank you," and remember to smile!
  3. Don't go into a store just to browse or because you're bored if the store is 5 minutes away from closing time. The longer you stay, the longer the staff has to stay after closing hours. Just because the store closes doesn't mean that retail personnel can go home. They have to tidy up merchandise, straighten displays, do the deposit, count the float, etc. And I don't know about other retailers, but I certainly don't get paid for the time I spend doing these things after closing. I've been stuck in the store as much as an hour after closing because people overstay and browse even beyond closing time, despite the fact that other stores shut their gates a good 15 minutes ago.
  4. If you must browse close to closing time, try not to touch too many things. Anything you touch during your aimless browsing has to be straightened out. That haphazardly folded sweater you left on the pile, the dress slightly askew on the hanger--you may not notice, but retail staff do and they're the ones who clean up your trail.
Do you have other suggestions for shoppers' etiquette?


  1. Good points! I remember some people at my last retail job stayed an extra 15 mins after we'd shut the gates b/c they absolutely insisted on trying on those last few items, GRRR. However in shoppers' defense, one can't really help #1 since how are shoppers supposed to know that you need a pee break?

  2. MizzJ, if there's only one person in the store browsing, it's already 2pm, and my last trip to the bathroom was around 9:30 that morning, I'll explain the situation to the person point-blank with a sheepish grin. To the credit of the shoppers, they're usually really gracious in situations like that.

  3. haha i loved this post! there's proper etiquette for every time & every place :] i believe you covered it all!

    La C.

  4. I worked retail for one summer and it nearly killed me! People can be real animals. The things I found in the dressing rooms...I shudder just thinking about it!

  5. I have to say I almost never know when a store is closing. Sometimes the times aren't displayed and a lot of stores close at different times. I'd be totally fine if they told me it was closing and I had to leave. I think the onus is on the employees to do that though.

  6. Em, that's a fair point. I think what annoys me most is the people who don't leave even when you tell them you're closing. :P

  7. I worked at HMV, the ultimate browsing store and I totally understand what you mean. All of those cd's and dvd's have to be straightened up. Although I remember we always got paid for staying late to clean up shop. But valid points - thank you for writing about this!


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