Tips From Your Friendly Neighborhood Shopgirl

For most of the time I’ve lived in Boston, about two years, I’ve worked at a shop that sells artisanal chocolates from around the world. For a time, this was exactly as fun as it sounds- I got to be surrounded by a luscious chocolate aroma and vivid, colorful candy all day long. I got to learn about and discuss the nuances of chocolate production and bon bon making. And most people were friendly, the way only people shopping for candies in a lovely shop could be. I distinctly remember thinking that, and being excited to go into work. After less than a year though, those few rude or even nasty customers could sour an entire day. Certainly working at any one job, in any one position for a length of time can take on notes of the monotonous and tedious, but I’ve found that in retail, in chocolate retail in particular, there are certain things that customers do and say that are like nails on a chalkboard. And so I offer you, 7 Things a Customer Should Never Do:1. Do not ask, “Is that good?” Yes. It is good. If we sell it, it’s good, or at least I am going to tell you that it is. Taste is extremely subjective, so asking me what is good is not even going to be much help. I personally think that bacon and chocolate are two great foods whose greatness is not improved by combining them, but there are many people who disagree. And that is if I’ve even tasted the piece in question. We have over 1,000 constantly rotating products which I can’t afford to sample, and the owner can’t afford to let me. Which brings me to;

2. Do not say, “How do you work here?” “I could never work here.” “I would be so fat if I worked here.” “How do you not eat everything?” I hear variations on these all day long. And I am never quite sure what to say. “With difficulty.” “I could never work here either. Oh, wait.” “Ma’am, do you honestly think we can go around eating all the chocolates?” are some of the responses that I choke back. Every job in the world has that question or humorous statement that they’ve heard a million times and that everyone thinks they are so clever to come up with for the first time. The masons building the first cathedral must have heard, “How do you get it to stay up?” In the end, when hearing the same thing for the billionth time, all I can do is smile and nod.

3. Do not leave your sunglasses on in the store. This is a tricky one because, I know, it is easy to forget you have them on. Or maybe you just got Botox, I don’t know your life.  But with your sunglasses on I can’t tell that you are looking at me, and thus talking to me, which makes for an awkward exchange where you think I’m being rude, and I do a terrible De Niro “Are you talking to me?” It’s one of those things that maybe doesn’t seem rude, but is pretty rude. Unlike the following:

4. Do not talk on your phone while in any kind of transaction. This doesn’t just seem rude. It is. And yet I see people do it anyway. All the time. Talk on your phone all you like while you are in the store, if you don’t mind everyone all up in your business. I don’t care. But if you answer the phone while I am ringing you up I am tempted to send you to the back of the line. I’m a human being and you’re a human being and we are having a human transaction wherein I may have to impart some important information. And don’t even think about approaching the counter while already on the phone, hoping to bark out some instructions in the middle of your important conversation. Just no, OK. And even though I work at a more high-end store, in a fancy neighborhood and therefore am confused why people don’t have manners, I’m pretty sure a transaction at the bank, or the drugstore or the grocery requires phone-free time as well. I know you’re busy, but you are not so busy that you can’t smile for three minutes while you make a transaction. As Stephanie Tanner of Full House fame would say, “How rude.”

5. Either I pick them, or you pick them. I know we have a lot of chocolates. I know it’s overwhelming. And I can put together a box of chocolates that is beautiful, delicious and fits your criteria in four minutes. But if you decide to select your pieces can we not do the thing where I describe every chocolate and you say yes or no? We have A LOT of chocolates and by the time we’re halfway through we will both want to kill ourselves. I don’t know what this lady would like, I don’t know her from Adam, and again, taste is subjective. It is a busy time, and I am happy to help you. But doing it this way helps no one.

6. Do not lean on the glass cases. When did we all get so tired? Not only do we have to clean it, but it is glass, and breakable and expensive, blah, blah, blah. When children do it, I am not surprised. When their parents say nothing, I am a little surprised, but it is shocking to me when a grown up lady who should know better drapes herself over the gelato case, head in hand, elbow and torso leaning on the glass, her hair brushing over everything, like a high school student who is so over a math class. Are you kidding me with this?

7. Do not put your belongings on the product. If there is no where to put your purse that isn’t covered, then don’t put your (enormous) (Coach) purse down on top of everything. This seems obvious to me, but I guess it is not. I actually saw someone writing something down on top of a bar of chocolate. If you need to write something down, and there is no where to write, a bar of chocolate is not a substitute. It is flat, but nothing else about it is a good writing surface.

Working in retail is hard. Working in retail at Christmas is surely one of the circles of hell. We are all doing our best, and I would love for everyone coming into the store to have a wonderful experience. But it is a two way street and the season would be so, so much more joyful if everyone remembered common sense, human decency and manners. And if you do, I will not only return the favor but give you as many separate bags (with tissue paper!) as you want!

May your Holidays be merry and bright and full of the people and foods you love!