The etiquette of Christmas shopping

It has become a tradition of mine to remind shoppers that even in the frenzy and passion of the final week before Christmas and the Boxing Day/New Year sales, shopper etiquette is still required.

I was once told to never work with anybody who is polite to you, but rude to a waiter or waitress. People who choose to work in service industries do so because they enjoy dealing with people who arrived with an expectation and leave with a smile.

Around the festive season things get a little compressed and intense. This is true whether shopping in mainstream grocery, specialist delicatessen, fishmongers or butcheries. It is true in small independent gift shops and clothing stores up into the national discount department stores and even luxury department stores.

So here is the retail equivalent of Debrett’s (the modern authority on etiquette) for shoppers during the festive season:

  • Always remember, you are a guest in the store. Your host and their family members are at home in the store.
  • Please address your hosts by the name on their name tag. Their mum and dad thought long and hard about their name, so please use it. Don’t use garçon or maaate! They are only ever acceptable in French restaurants and public houses after 9pm.
  • On entering a packed store you should always merge to the left or right and do not attempt to cross the traffic unless you have entered in the wrong lane. A polite wave and a mouthed thank you to other guests are expected should they allow you to cross.
  • In an early morning sales queue, before the store has opened, always introduce yourself to the guest in front of and behind you. Be sure to let them know what you are shopping for and ask politely what they are shopping for. It will assist all guests to know who they are in competition with for the host’s best produce.
  • As it is a busy time of the year, your hosts will have asked members of their very extended family in the store to assist in entertaining you. Some will struggle with knowing why they are there, let alone what is for sale in the store, where it is and what the price is. They may know where the bathrooms are, but in general should be politely treated the same way as recalcitrant teenage family members at a normal festive gathering.
  • The checkout is for paying for everything you have collected from around the store and now wish to buy. It isn’t a holding pen for the things you have remembered to buy while you run back around the store picking up stuff you have forgotten. Your host may be tolerant but other guests won’t be.
  • Choose a means of payment with sufficient funds before you reach the checkout. The considerable plastic contents of your purse or wallet are indeed a thing of rare beauty to you, but merely a source of frustration for your host and fellow guests alike.
  • Finally, regularly offer festive greetings and New Year wishes to host and guests alike throughout the visit.

A very Merry Christmas to all of you who work in and around stores, buying offices and distribution centres during Christmas and the New Year. You have made millions of shoppers happy throughout the year, so thank you for doing what you do.

Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy and more prosperous 2011.

In his role as CEO of CROSSMARK, Kevin Moore looks at the world of retailing from grocery to pharmacy, bottle shops to car dealers, corner store to department stores. In this insightful blog, Kevin covers retail news, ideas, companies and emerging opportunities in Australia, NZ, the US and Europe. His international career in sales and marketing has seen him responsible for business in over 40 countries, which has earned him grey hair and a wealth of expertise in international retailers and brands. CROSSMARK Asia Pacific is Australasia’s largest provider of retail marketing services, consulting to and servicing some of Australasia’s biggest retailers and manufacturers.


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