Holiday Shopping

12 Steps to Shopping Civility

Generally speaking, everyone is both a buyer and a seller at various times.  We are all consumers of goods and services, and many of us also sell goods and services as part of our jobs. Thus, everyone must be sure that his or her manners are in good working order in both roles.

Certainly as a buyer, you are correct to assume that the products and services you purchase will be as advertised and come with no unpleasant surprises. You also should anticipate customer service to be courteous, prompt and helpful and for any questions problems to be resolved swiftly and pleasantly.

As a seller of products and services, you should expect that sometimes there will be problems that result in complaints from customers. Naturally, this can be disconcerting; especially when the customer is upset and you had nothing to do with the problem but are merely representing your retail store or company.

The holiday shopping season is especially stressful, and it behooves everyone on both sides of the sales counter to get enough rest, exercise regularly, eat well and laugh as much as possible! In addition, following are some etiquette tips to smooth the buying and selling process, and help both buyers and sellers catch the holiday spirit:

The Customer is Always Right, and Should Also Be Polite

  1. Courtesy – When interacting with store associates and sales clerks, be courteous and considerate.  They are representatives of the store, not your personal servants.
  2. Calm – If you are met with inattention, impatience or outright rudeness, remain calm and realize that returning in-kind behavior will only inflame the situation and cause a delay in resolving the problem. Don’t make a scene; instead, quietly seek out a store manager and explain the problem.
  3. Understanding – When experiencing a problem with a purchase you have already received, understand that the store associate with whom you are speaking most likely did not create the policy or personally cause the problem that has resulted in your distress.
  4. Listen – Explain an issue that requires resolution courteously and request a prompt resolution; listen to the associate’s response politely before responding; do not raise your voice.
  5. Persist – Kindly request escalation to a supervisor if you feel the associate is not able to assist appropriately, and repeat the previous steps.
  6. Say Thank You – Remember to thank the associate or supervisor for his or her help.

 The Seller Should Be Civil and Fair, Not Make the Buyer Beware

  1. The Customer is Always Right – When interacting with customers, understand that they are the reason you are employed and the happier you make them the better your job and career will progress.
  2. Smile and Focus – Smile at and make eye contact with customers; welcome them and show a real interest in their business and a desire to make them happy.
  3. Don’t Make The Problem Worse – Resolve problems by listening attentively, nodding and sympathizing. Don’t take complaints personally and don’t give anyone cause to complain about you. You represent your company and it’s your job to resolve the customer’s problem swiftly and pleasantly so that he or she will continue to do business with your store. You have an opportunity to turn something bad into something good.
  4. Don’t Interrupt or Argue – Don’t interrupt or argue with the customer. Instead, exude understanding.  If you cannot resolve the customer’s problem yourself, or the customer is unreasonable or rude, involve your supervisor or manager and turn the transaction over to him or her to resolve. This is not a cop out, it’s using good judgment.
  5. Apologize – Apologize for the customer’s inconvenience, but not excessively so – customers want action, not apologies and definitely not excuses.
  6. Say Thank You – Thank the customer for her business and patience, whether you are concluding a sale or the resolution to a problem.

Shoppers should also extend civility and courteous behavior to other shoppers while standing in line. There should, of course, be no cutting in front of others. However, if someone cuts in front of you, you might say something along the lines of, “excuse me, but I am in line,” with a smile; but also weigh whether allowing someone in line ahead of you will avoid unpleasantness and move the line along.

When shoppers and store sales associates alike observe civilized and dignified behavior, the shopping experience will be improved, both in the stores, online and over the phone.

Until next time,


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