Be Unique, Not a Jerk/Customer Etiquette: 10 Tips on How to Be a Good Customer


I wrote this years back when I worked in retail. Remember, retail workers are people, too!

As you gear up for your holiday shopping spree, keep in mind that as soon as you step foot inside a store you cease to be an average law-abiding citizen and you instantly become a dreaded customer who is the cause of raised blood pressures amongst retail workers everywhere.

But you don’t have to be a loathsome customer. You can make the decision right now to be a customer who takes retail workers by surprise and actually walks in and out of the store with little or no lasting consequence to anyone. Below are ten tips to help you be that most coveted, invisible customer. Remember, it’s not because retail workers don’t like you as a person, they just don’t want to deal with you as a customer!

Customer Etiquette: 10 Tips on How to Be a Good Customer


1. If someone is wearing a nametag, don’t ask if they work there.

Do you ask Will Ferrell if he’s an actor? Do you ask a monkey if he’s an exhibit at the zoo?

2. Look for your product, not for a worker.

Sure, you might be in a hurry, but you’d be surprised how easy things are to find in many stores.  In fact, positions are held at corporate levels specifically designed to determine in-store placement of every product to help make your shopping experience as quick and easy as possible.

3. If you have to ask, at least know what you’re asking for.

Retail workers don’t want to shop with you and you shouldn’t expect them to. Don’t ask their opinion on what toy Johnny would like best. They’ve never seen Johnny, and they don’t care what you get him as long as you buy something. If you’re looking for a book, know the title and – equally important – the author. If you simply give the description of the cover, then know that when you’re laughing with somebody at your Christmas party, someone’s laughing at you at theirs.

Helpful hint: If you can’t read your child’s wish list, don’t expect anyone else to be able to. Confirm items in question with your child or just get them a spelling workbook for their stocking.

4. Don’t interrupt someone’s work to ask a question.

If a worker’s arms are full while balancing on the top step of a ladder, be considerate; don’t bother them with your question. Instead, if you find yourself approaching that dutiful worker, stop and ask yourself three things: 1) Will I look like a jerk for interrupting this person’s work? 2) Is there anyone else I can ask? 3) Have I exercised tip 3 on this list?

5. Be patient. Retail workers understand you have to shop. Please understand that they have to help everybody else.

Yes, yes, I know you’re a customer, but still, the world does not revolve around you, and despite that old slogan, you’re not always right. No one wants to see your impression of Scrooge. If you’re going to be pushy, impatient, or irreverent, then stay home and don’t come out until you can at show some Christmas cheer.

Helpful hint: If you’re showing signs of aggression or odious behavior, a cunning retail worker will recognize this and deliberately take their time with the customer ahead of you. Yes, just to tick you off even more.

6. Just because someone is wearing a nametag does not give you permission to call them by their name.

Retail workers do not choose to have their name displayed on their shirt; it’s company policy. Do not, I repeat, do not repeatedly use their name in a conversation or to get their attention lest they think you’re going to stalk them on Facebook. Despite what you’ve heard from so-called experts, it’s really the creepiest thing in the world and you will be resented for it. Only if the worker offers you their name are you permitted to address them by such.

7. Open your eyes. Read the signs. Follow the directions.

If you’re standing in the checkout line waiting to ask the cashier a customer service question, you are sorely misusing your time. But do the world of retail (and the customers behind you) a favor while you’re standing there. Look at all the large-print signs they put up just for you and consider for the next few minutes whether you should really yield to their directions. When the cashier doesn’t leave her register unattended to lead you to where you want to go, don’t throw a fit. Instead, reflect on the valuable lesson you learned about time management.

8. Cell phone usage… where do I start?

Other than advising customers to use their inside voice (no one wants to hear about your digestive disorders or how your boyfriend hates your cats), I’m just going to address one overlooked issue out of the plethora of misuses with this devise. You might be able to afford that fancy phone you’re showing off, but that retail worker you’re refusing to hang the phone up for is likely struggling through college or has been affected by the economy (hence, they’re working in retail). You don’t need to show your fancy gadgets off to them. Hang up the phone and speak to them as an equal human being.

Helpful Hint: Bluetooths make you look like you’re talking to yourself. Sensible people will mock you.

9. Put things back where you found them!

Retail workers are not maids. They have enough to do without cleaning up your messes (really, they do). Throw your trash away. If you can’t remember where you found an item, return to the general area, stare at the shelf and match the picture of the item in your hand with the item on the shelf. Don’t place it next to, or on top of it. Instead, place the product directly in front of the matching item. If you don’t know how to match pictures and put things back where you found them, then find a time machine, go back in time and repeat kindergarten.

10. If someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, don’t take them to court.

No one celebrates every holiday observed in December, so “happy holidays” is not an applicable greeting for anyone (plus, it just sounds like some sappy Hallmark special). If someone wishes you a happy Hanukkah and you don’t observe Hanukkah, don’t take offense – just feel free to wish them merriment and joy in the name of the particular festivity you represent.

Merry Christmas!


Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

24 thoughts on “Be Unique, Not a Jerk/Customer Etiquette: 10 Tips on How to Be a Good Customer

  1. As a former retail worker, I thank you for this list and I agree with all the tips! lol One more I would add is if you call a store during a busy time, expect to be on hold for awhile so be patient.


  2. I don’t work in Retail, but I do work in customer service and so many of these still apply to me as well. Especially Number 4 and 5 … The amount of people who think that they are only ones who need help or the ones that are in a rush. It has made me a lot more appreciative of people who work heavily in the customer service industry.


  3. I worked retail when younger, it was pure torture – and that was when people had manners. I can’t imagine what it is like now. I won’t even go into a mall at this time of year, actually any time of the year.


  4. Good advice, but I have to say that number one is not always applicable. There were times when I would go to a store, especially a supermarket and there would be someone packing away stuff, and I will ask a question, only to be told they don’t work there. They are vendors restocking shelves. Yet the supermarket puts them in a uniform smock, so I never know who is an actual employee or a vendor. As for the do not disturb a busy employee, I understand the part where they are balancing on a ladder, but it seems that retail staff is always busy restocking, folding or doing something. So who do you ask? Isn’t their job double duty? Fold, restock, answer questions? I worked retail before and I know some customers can be jerks, but many retail employees can also be rude and unhelpful. Many times I would ask a question of an employee that is busy and they would stop what they are doing to help, pleasantly, because in reality, that’s part of their job. Other times, I ask a question of two employees that are conversing about their previous night’s excursions and get the “sigh”. It does go both ways.


    1. These are great points! That’s why I love stores that hire people solely for answering questions and seeking people out who need help. It’s becoming more common, but still there’s leagues of retail stores to go to get everyone to that point. I think that’s the win-win.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As a former bookstore-clerk, I think this is a good list, but I’d modify it slightly. Customer needs (at least at our chain) always outrank mundane stuff like stocking shelves, removing trash, etc.
    And much as we snickered at the “It had a red cover” requests, I was often able to help people who got partial titles, brief details (“It’s about aliens called Ichis.”) or cover descriptions. So long as the customer takes a lack of success with good grace, I was cool with it.


    1. I love that you point this out, and I think you’re right that there are people like yourself who can get to the bottom of what the customer needs/wants. Thank you so much for sharing this and pointing it out!


  6. As someone currently working in retail, yes to all of this! I’m on my 7th holiday season and people just get worse and worse each year.


  7. I adore this list! This is my second holiday season not in retail and and I don’t miss it.
    The only thing I would add is with number 9, if you really can’t find where you go the item bring it up front instead of abandoning it on some random shelf.
    The helpful hint with number five is so true, if someone is acting like a jerk I’m not going to rush over to help them. Great tips!


    1. Thanks for the comments! It’s just so sad that people have been conditioned to act like jerks because those are the people Corporate America tends to coddle the most.

      Liked by 1 person

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