Observations of a Black Friday retail worker: are you a courteous shopper?

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

I don’t always feel the need to point out that I work in retail, but there are many times the experiences and perspectives of this aspect of the seller/consumer relationship provide insight into events such as Black Friday and the launch of the holiday shopping season. One of the major things I noticed yesterday was the various attitudes and personas of the shoppers I encountered. I had substantial opportunity to simply observe people in the shopping environment, in addition to my interactions with them directly. Here are a few of the insights I had, and how they apply to your end of the spectrum as a consumer and shopper, especially during the biggest shopping season of the year.

The Strategic Shopper
I was quietly amused by my observations of people’s Black Friday ‘shopping game plan.’  While many people dashed around haphazardly with no apparent plan or real strategy for saving time, energy, or money, there were many whose calculated and deliberate actions were akin to a military effort. Divide and conquer techniques were a popular strategy for those who had brought reinforcements of family members (even children). While sales started at 6pm, many of these shoppers were in the stores many hours before, scoping out the layout and making a mental (or even literal, I imagine) map of the items they wanted to snag. These shoppers carried sales ads with them and were not afraid to stop and ask questions of where lines started, what times sales prices activated, and whether their logistical plans were valid. These shoppers carried a look of determination, but because they had a plan, were considerably less rushed and flustered than the people who didn’t. I think this type of shopper is to be both admired and emulated. Getting the best deals in the most efficient manner is a skill that takes patience and planning. As long as strategic shoppers maintain courtesy towards other shoppers, this is the best approach.

The Tentative Shopper
It could be argued that tentative shoppers aren’t that concerned with getting the best deals, but as one of these myself, I would counter that the fear of becoming obnoxious is greater than the desire to snag a deal. At the end of the day, we’ll get what we want and go home. I we don’t, it’s not the end of the world! The tentative shopper is not necessarily lacking in a strategy (although not as developed in strategy as the true strategic shopper), just not as rigidly committed to it if delayed or counteracted in some way. I saw tentative shoppers looming a few steps away from displays, calmly observing the crazy people who nearly laid their entire bodies over the desired merchandise before the sales started. These, by far, were the most pleasant people to deal with, and the ones I was most willing and interested in helping. Although they are the most pleasant type of customer for retailers to encounter, their lack of tenacity and ability to speak up for themselves often means the sacrifice of the best deals or the desired items. The final type, the aggressive shopper, is usually the obstacle between the tentative shopper and shopping success.

The Aggressive Shopper
The most notorious type of shopper on Black Friday is the aggressive shopper. These types figuratively and literally walk over other customers to get what they want. They may or may not also be strategic shoppers. You can be both haphazard and aggressive! These are the nightmare of retail workers — arguing, pushing, causing fights, and doing whatever they can to get what they want, whether or not they are entitled to it. While these shoppers do many times snag the best deals and end up with the most financial savings, you have to ask the question…at what cost? I would advise anyone who feels themselves getting too keyed up about shopping to reevaluate what’s really important in life — treating people courteously, or getting stuff?

The concluding question is simple: which type of holiday shopper are you? Regardless of your strategy or style, are you courteous? Next time you shop, consider these observations from someone on the other side of the counter.

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