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

I  couldn’t resist sharing this. I wrote this a couple of years back when I worked in retail. Have fun, laugh at yourself, and share with your shopping-crazy friends and family members. Remember, retail workers are people too!

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

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!

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

Seriously. It just makes you look ignorant. When in question, don’t ask. Find someone else who works there.

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

I understand 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.

Yes, yes, I know you’re a customer, but still, the world does not revolve around you. 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 least pretend to be a grown up.

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 display 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 weak 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 after-school 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!

For gift recommendations for the bookworms in your life, click here.

[Image Credit]

Published by Andrew Toy

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

29 thoughts on “Customer Etiquette: 10 Tips on How to be a Good Customer

  1. Excellent post! I am all about offering extra kindness to those who work with the public! I did for most of my career and now both my sons work in retail. I find this list funny yet oh-so-true. I am so thankful for you to share it! Cheers and happy holidays 🙂


  2. Great post, I’ve worked in retail and it’s often like you’re a different species to the customers. I had all sorts of superfluous abuse; one of my major annoyances was people asking you (in a vast supermarket) where a particular item could be found. As if you’re going to have a pedantic knowledge of hundreds of thousands of items. And we all used to swap name tags for fun, so some day’s I’d be “Mike”, “Hayao”, “Narain”, and even “Susan”. ‘Twas fun!


  3. Some very good advice here. Too often we treat retail workers like our servants when they are not. I’m just sad that we can’t wish each other Merry Christmas anymore because it might offend others. We’ve been doing it for years. There is a furniture store when I live and every December the owner paints the windows with Jesus is the Reason for the Season. I asked him about that and he said it’s his store, and he has the right to put whatever he wants on the outside, so I say good for him! The great thing is that his store is right near the freeway so hundreds of cars see this message every December for at least three weeks!


  4. I was a retail worker way back in college. It was exhausting and fun at the same time, and the things you said are soooo true! Adventures happened when I had to assist foreigners who don’t speak English. Talk about hand gestures and words beyond my comprehension! We had pen and paper ready for this type of customers. We let them draw what they need… 🙂

    To avoid bothering the busy retail workers, I usually shop starting from the aisle near the entrance down to the last so I won’t miss a thing and won’t have a reason to ask. Most of the time, I shop in a single store I grow familiar with. if I need something in a rush, I know where to find the item, except when they change their display order which happens about once a year, if I’m not mistaken.

    But all the same, I enjoyed reading this and will reblog! Thanks much! ♥


  5. I spent a lot of years in the retail business and I hate to say it, but I think you’re wrong. Customers are the lifeblood of any business, even if the businesses have forgotten them. I blame Sam Walton. The stores got bigger and the ratio of salespeople to customers is at an all time low. He got shoppers to focus on price and when that happened the human part of the equation disappeared. I abhor these new apps that compare prices!

    Oh, there were customers I hated when I worked retail. Like the ones who wore dresses out clubbing and brought them back to the store reeking of smoke,claiming they didn’t fit. It doesn’t sound like you’re in the retail business anymore and that’s a good thing. I’ll be glad when all the other clerks, who wish they were somewhere else, also go away. Do you realize that those guys that you claim are trying to make things easier to find are actually trying to extend the time a shopper is in their store? If they know most of their grocery customers also go to the pharmacy, they put the departments on opposite sides of the facility so I’ll have to wander through electronics and stationary. So just for the record, things aren’t always easy to find.

    To all of you out there who will be on the cash register side of the counter – Bless your heart. Just try to remember that among all the pushy rude people demanding your attention, there are a few nice ones who deserve it. You’ll probably have to ignore them while you take care of the woman caterwauling that she can buy an item cheaper down the street, but when you get to me, I’ll thank you for your help and when I tell you that I hope you have a nice holiday, I’ll mean it. Oh, and one other thing, I won’t be there on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.


  6. Great post. It should be mandatory reading, maybe a class in high school. I work in a bookstore. When people don’t put things back where they go, it can lead to sad situations. I remember one customer coming in to get a certain book. Despite the computer saying we had a copy, it was not on the shelf. Of course, an hour later, long after she’d come and left disappointed, I found the book she was looking for a few columns down, carelessly thrown on top of the shelf. My number one rule: Make your shopping experience better by thinking about other people. One day you could be the customer looking for the book that has been moved.


  7. When I worked retail, it drove me nuts when people tried to call me by my name. It’s relatively common, but it’s a weird spelling, and people always pronounced it wrong then asked me if they were saying it right. After several times, when I told them the proper pronounciation and they repeated it back wrong again, I just started telling them they were saying it right. Easier 🙂


  8. Wow. This is the most accurate list of rage inducing annoyances a worker of the public experiences. I am printing this and showing it to my coworkers Monday. Thanks for understanding what makes some of us go home and be miserable every night.


    1. It’s true, we can become very tired and irksome of these types of people. Hopefully we challenge ourselves to rise to the occasion anyway and greet everyone with a smile and warm wishes regardless.


  9. When I moved back to TN after four years in Southwest Florida, I was amazed that people were actually taking their cart back to the building. Everyone – women in their 70’s, women with babies, busy professionals. It was so refreshing.

    Minding our manners when shopping is important.


  10. I agree with most of your list, but I think that a 10 tips to being a good retail employee would also be helpful.
    1) Don’t stand around and chat with coworkers about non work related topics when there are obviously customers that need helped.
    2) Don’t openly text or talk on your cell phone unless it’s somehow a part of your job.
    etc. etc.


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