This Christmas will mark my fourth year in a row working at the same clothing company, and sixth year in a row working retail. That means six years of experience with cranky, rushed, and angry last-minute shoppers combined with my own stressful end-of-semester school work. Therefore, I speak from a place of experience when I tell you how to approach this year’s seasonal shopping excursions.

It all begins in late November, with the now legendary Black Friday. Shoppers line up before the sun gets up just to get the biggest and best deal of the day, and yes, they do this for clothing, not just electronics.

Please, as a shopper, ask for help. It is what the 30 extra employees that have been hired for the holiday season are for and what the people in Christmas shirts busy folding and cleaning and hopefully still smiling, are for.

One particular instance stands out to me, and it happened last Boxing Day. I was folding an incredibly messy table of men’s t-shirts when a woman approached.  I asked her if there was anything I could help her find, and that she should feel free to ask me for any sizes or colours or anything else she may need. She proceeded to dig through every pile that I had folded, flipped shirts upside down and pulled them out from the bottom. Again, I asked if there was a particular size she needed, and again she said no and continued ruining what had been about two hours worth of work. It was in that moment I had to physically remove myself from the area and cool off.

In customer service it is imperative to remain polite, happy and helpful in all situations.

Clothing stores like the one I am employed at have also have spent the last month or so receiving twice as much product as usual over the course of three days a week instead of two.  This means even more early mornings for employees as well as late nights of restocking shelves and tables and clothing stands.

At this point in the year, stores have a majority of their stock out on the floor. There is nothing hiding in the back room. So, if someone tells you they don’t have any more, they do not. Also, it is not their fault if they don’t; employees do not determine product orders. Also, getting upset about something out of your (the shoppers’) control isn’t going to help the situation either. I know I’ve done my fair share of killing people with kindness.

An article from the Hamilton Spectator mentioned that in 2013 Stats Canada saw over $7.1 billion spent on gifts from large stores.  As well The Globe and Mail reported that Canadians spent 12 per cent more than in 2012, resulting in Canadians spending an average of $1,810 for the holidays.

Everyone works more than they should, especially the students who are balancing their shifts with their end-of year-exams and trying to afford presents for friends and family. The lack of sleep and overall rest contribute to their mood as well. As someone who has worked in customer service for many years I am aware of the importance of being kind, helpful and polite.

However, I am also human. So please, be kind to those in the stores this season, and trust me, they will be kind to you.