Sales shopping horrors of Christmas past

Neela Debnath

shop 300x225 Sales shopping horrors of Christmas pastI’ve never understood the appeal of getting up at the crack of dawn and queuing up to bag that bargain. If anything, sale shopping seems to reduce people to a bestial level, it’s the ugly face of consumerism. So, during the festive sales season this year spare a thought for the shop assistants. While people blitz the shops in record-breaking numbers, these poor souls will be caught up in the frenzied chaos of it all. As someone who has worked in shops during this period for two different high street fashion retailers I can recount the shopping horrors of Christmas sales past.

One experience involved working for a prominent clothing chain whose sales are infamous throughout the land. I turned up to start my nine-hour shift at 4.30am. Despite the drizzle and the darkness, I could see a queue of shoppers snaking all the way down the length of the retail park. I knew then that this was not going to be a pleasant experience. Things simply deteriorated when the shop doors opened and a deluge of customers poured in.

As a humble shop worker during the Christmas sales, my job consisted of bringing stock from the back of the store and hanging it on the racks on the shop floor. This task was simple enough but given that the shop was jammed with people and there was barely enough room to breathe, this was nigh impossible. I was wedged in between customers clinging onto their armful of jeans or clutching several pairs of shoes. As I tried to make my way through the crowd, I became a human clothes rack when one woman casually started perusing through the jumpers I was laden down with. I wanted to protest but I am sure that my colleagues were suffering a similar indignity. It was chaos with hardly any room to move. Controlling the queues to the tills was just as much of a nightmare with people ignoring you, especially if you’re 5.1ft. My queue control prop – a sign on a 10ft wooden pole with the words ‘Please queue here’ along with a massive downward pointing arrow – seemed to have little effect.

Every sale seems to be an exercise in snatch and grab. Even a mugger is more selective. My other experience was a Boxing Day sale for another fashion chain, this time I had to sneak in through the secret back entrance so as not to attract the attention of the mob waiting outside the store. Once in the shop I took up my position, ready for the shopping onslaught. I could see other members of staff cowering in their respective sections of the shop. We could make out a gaggle of customers through the chinks in the metal curtain. There was an incredible amount of tension as we contemplated our shared impending doom. Slowly, the curtain in front of the shop’s entrance rose and the customers rushed in through the open doors. It felt like I was going into battle. I saw grown men vaulting up the stairs to the Menswear section while the women were slightly more civilized and began browsing in a crazed fervour. I later learned that one young man had launched himself at a table covered in jeans and grabbed about half of them before rushing to the check out…

The sales assistant is always on the receiving end of short tempers and frayed nerves which is never more so than at this time of year. You have to bear the brunt of abuse and deal with customers who get annoyed that the fitting rooms are shut or that you have run out of stock. (Consumers take note, most of the time everything that is on sale is already out on display.) They say that the full moon causes people to behave in bizarre and inexplicable ways but do the sales really count as an excuse for the irrational way many people act? Do full moons, for that matter, count as an excuse for general craziness? Maybe it’s time to enforce some sales shopping rules, some etiquette in the art of shopping.

  1. Don’t run into a shop or around the shop, those seen acting in a manner akin to headless chickens will be thrown out.
  2. Similarly, respect other shoppers, those seen barging past people or using their elbows to manoeuvre through the store may find themselves escorted out.
  3. Respect the shop’s staff, they are there to help you and yelling at them is not conducive to getting that aforementioned bargain.
  4. If two people are reaching for same item and you happen to miss at the last moment, accept defeat graciously.
  5. Do not treat sales staff like human clothes racks, this goes back to Rule 3.
  6. Finally, it’s probably best to stay at home and do your bargain hunting online, thus avoiding the trauma and stress of the sales all together.

These are not just for the benefit of the sales staff but to improve the purchasing experience for everyone involved. Happy shopping!

Image credit: Getty Images

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  • antigrazioso

    Reduce the prices and you get what the article describes.  Remove the prices altogether and you get the riots. Radix malorum est cupiditas.

  • hayneman

    Why the surprise? People are idiots.
    The really depressing aspect is that this benighted country has become so innured to mindless violence that shopping nutters are prepared to kill for a bargain. I despair at the land my little grandson has to grow up in…

  • Paul

    ‘Art’ of shopping? Are you serious or trying to be witty? I don’t get you.

  • JPMiddleton

    What frustrates me more than anything is the attitude of some shoppers on days such as these, they want everything and they want it quickly. They’re in a bad mood, but that’s only because every other shopper is in a bad mood. If we all simply smiled and wished the assistants a merry Christmas, the whole experience may be a little easier.

  • Guest

    ‘Give me what I want or I’ll kill you!!’

    Got to love our great western culture…

  • studio75

    I’ve always wondered how bad it must be for the folks who ahve to work dfuring those bestial sales rushes. My commisserations.
    I only buy stuff when I need it so ’sales’ dont make much impact on me.

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