Sarcastic Saturday :: childhood manners for adult shoppers

18 Jul

Working retail is kind of like babysitting on a cosmic scale, except you’re not allowed to tell your charges to behave better.  Keeping that in mind, I found an apparently famous list of 25 Manners Every Kid Needs By Age 9 and am going to interpret it for adult shoppers (and also maybe apparently offer commentary along the way.

1. When asking for something, say “Please.”
This one is fairly straightforward.  Yes, sales associates at stores are there to help you get merchandise of your choosing.  No, sales associates are not automatons who don’t benefit from hearing niceties.

2. When receiving something, say “Thank you.”
Again.  This one is actually less common than please, though I do hear it fairly often, but sometimes customers seem to take it for granted when someone finds something and merely go on their merry when receiving, leaving the sales associate standing there like an ass.

3. Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless it is an emergency.  They will notice you and respond when they stop talking.
I think it’s interesting the original post said “grown-ups,” because I would think this is true too of one’s peers.  This is not usually true in retail, although sometimes two sales associates or managers are speaking about store-related things and maybe it’s best if you step back until they’re done moving large racks of clothes.

4. If you need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.
Again, straightforward.

5. When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first.  It can save you hours of grief later.
Getting into fitting rooms?  Ask permission first.  Setting something down?  For the love of the gods, ask permission first.  Etcetera.

6. The world is not interested in what you dislike.  Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of the earshot of adults.
Okay, in the original child-related sense I actually have a big problem with this one.  It’s not really effective to complain all the time about everything, but I also really strongly believe in letting kids develop and act on their own opinions, and in turn having adults respect that.  There are things that I generally think should be different for kids and adults, but respect is not one of them.  Everyone should respect each other, and if the kid disagrees with something or dislikes something they should be allowed to say so without fear of repercussion because otherwise you’re training the aforementioned automatons and it’s really not a good thing.  All of that said, this does apply in retail somewhat, namely – honestly, I don’t care what you think of our product, but keep your negative opinions about things like long wait times to yourselves.  The only reason there’s a long wait time is that there are other customers in the store doing exactly what you’re doing, because they have just as much right as you to be shopping and we like them to be shopping so we stay in business.

7. Do not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them, which is always welcome.
This is so damn true.  More than once customers have felt like they’re doing me a favor by offering me advice about my dermatological concerns, unsolicited, and this is the most awkward thing because of course I have to smile and thank them, but inside I wanted to scream and possibly consider doing violence.  If there’s something you see about a sales associate that you think you can offer unsolicited advice about, it’s almost definitely something they’re going to be self-conscious about and not want to discuss with strangers, so save us all the trouble and just don’t.

8. When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask how they are.
In retail this mostly extends to, don’t act annoyed when sales associates try to make friendly conversation.  We’re trained to do that and often criticized by our managers if we don’t, so don’t act like we’re just wasting your time.  We may be just as disinterested but we still have to go about it.

9. When you have spent time at your friend’s house, remember to thank his or her parents for having you over and for the good time you had.
Again, why not thank your friend, too?  They’re likely involved in entertaining you as much as their parents.  But that said, thank sales associates for their help.  Again.

10. Knock on closed doors – and wait to see if there’s a response – before entering.
With regard to fitting rooms?  Yup.  At our store the rooms automatically lock when they’re closed, so you have to knock; occasionally people won’t respond and there’s the awkward moment of you start to unlock the door and someone’s like “wait, I’m in here!” but that can’t be helped when there’s a long line of people waiting and you have to be snappy about it.  In that case apologizing is the thing to do.

11. When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.
Not particularly applicable, as that’s pretty standard in business-related calling anyway.

12. Be appreciative and say “thank you” for any gift you receive.  In the age of e-mail, a handwritten thank-you note can have a powerful effect.
Okay, no.  “Thank you” is nice, but handwritten thank-you notes are neither necessary in retail nor necessary in real life.  They’re nice, maybe, but they’re honestly more likely to be wastes of time, money, postage, and paper, and insincere bullshit.  This is one of the more privileged items on the list.

13. Never use foul language in front of adults.  Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.
What.  Again, maybe this is just proof that I would be a bad parent, but I don’t necessarily agree with this.  For one thing, I don’t know many people who find all “bad words” to be “boring and unpleasant” – there are some that are that, for sure, like racial/sexual/gendered/ableist/classist slurs, and those aren’t boring so much as unpleasant and severely that – and for another I don’t think it’s good to create a mystique around some words that someone arbitrarily decided a long time ago were naughty.  They’re just letters and sounds.  There is a time and a place to use them, i.e. probably don’t go shouting them in anger at people (and in retail don’t go saying them in anger to sales associates or fellow customers), but the only thing about foul language I do find “boring” is when people just throw them out for no reason.  Words like “fuck” are good for emphasis sometimes, in certain contexts, and it’s good to know when not to use them, but blanket-statement banning them is dangerous in my opinion.

14. Don’t call people mean names.
See above regarding slurs.  It’s a bad plan.  Don’t do it.

15. Do not make fun of anyone for any reason.  Teasing others shows you are weak, and ganging up on someone is cruel.
This is phrased really strangely to me.  I think it’s supposed to mean “shows you have a weak character” but it kind of sounds like “shows you are not strong” in such a way that it’s more about promoting personal strength than actually being good?  Anyway, though, teasing is not generally cool, don’t do it.

16 is wholly irrelevant.

17. If you bump into somebody, immediately say “Excuse me.”
You would be shocked how many people won’t say excuse me to sales associates if they bump into them on the floor.  Synonyms are also acceptable.

18. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, and don’t pick your nose in public.
Uh, duh?

19. As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.
Yes!  Also, as you’re looking for sizes, look to see if there’s anyone else doing the same in the same rack or stack.

20. If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help.  If they say “yes,” do so – you may learn something new.
This one comes across as weird to me, because – well, not all kids want to learn everything.  I’ve come across my dad gardening a thousand thousand times and never asked if I can help, because I don’t care, and he knows that, and it’s not bad manners, just differing interests.  If they’re working on something you find interesting or potentially interesting, or they look like they might need your help, ask, sure.  That said, this doesn’t much apply to retail.

21. When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile.
In retail, this one is pretty reasonable: help customers as a sales associate, and if sales associates ask you as a customer to do something like hand them a size you’re holding, go for it.  As a point on this list, though, the phrasing of this freaks me out.  Yes, politely do favors you’re capable of doing, and don’t be an asshole about it most like.  But again, I’m a terrible person and every time I see something telling kids they have to do what they’re told and like it, I cringe.  Not every favor you are ever asked is necessarily going to be a nice one, and teaching kids they have to be courteous no matter what is, again, sort of dangerous.

22. When someone helps you, say “Thank you.”  That person will likely want to help you again.  This is especially true with teachers!
Teachers should help you no matter what, because it is their job.  And sales associates are going to help you no matter how nice you are to them, because it is our job, but being nice is still good.

23-25 are irrelevant.

I would also add a simple Clean up after yourself.

–your fangirl heroine.


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