The Christmas Counter Fit


If you are one of those people anxiously still waiting by the mail box for the gifts you ordered online yesterday to arrive before Christmas, I have got bad news. You are going to have get off your butt and join the rest of the Christmas celebrating world and go to the mall.

I get it- I get the whole thing. It’s not that you hate Christmas it’s just you hate shopping. You want to join in and you want the world to see what an awesome benevolent person you are. You want everyone to see your generous heart. It’s just you hate the shops. So let me guide you through this so you aren’t an arse and your act of giving doesn’t become an act of counter –fit. .

It’s going to be rough. The traffic is terrible and you will not find a park. You will have to stalk a pedestrian to their car. You will approach the shops and they will be busy. There will be queue but, here is where I stop you from transforming from the benevolent relative bestowing gifts to the ranting lunatic standing at the counter, having a fit at a sales assistant.

Before you enter the mall take a moment to reflect that retail sales assistants at most mall stores earn minimum pay. If they are at a unionized site they earn slightly more. They work long hours, generally short staffed and they don’t sit down.  At Christmas they do all of this, only they are expected to work 4 times harder; all day, every day, and extra shifts as well. They work right through the stats. Their job demands they be gracious and solicitous, even when the customers are not.

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When you get to the store and the item you want is not available, don’t yell at them. Even if you are holding a picture of the item, that you have circled in the mailer, from that store. Waiving it in a retail assistant’s face will not make it magically appear. Retail assistants are not responsible for ordering the stock. Nor are they, generally speaking, clairvoyant and anticipating your purchase so able to put one aside for you.

When you see lots of workers stacking shelves and you ask them where the thing you desperately and urgently require is and they have no idea, don’t judge them.  Don’t scold or abuse them.  Chances are they are a Xmas casual and  they have had no training. They may  know less than you. They may not have even seen the mailer.

When you have to queue for what seems like hours in a huge snake of humanity towards the self-service checkout don’t bitch, moan and for goodness sake don’t blog.  No good will come of your discontent. If you get to checkout and there isn’t even a checkout assistant to help you, but just a machine repeating “please place the item in the bag” do not yell back. It isn’t personal.

Yelling, belittling or being rude to the workers just makes you a bully. They can’t talk back and the issues you face are not their fault. Don’t be that cray cray person having a counter fit and yelling at people that  who don’t get to sit down until you are up to your elbows in turkey. If you want to vent your frustration about the issues that are primarily caused by understaffing get out your phone and let the management know.  Post it on FB or better still Tweet it. Understaffing, under training casual staff, or having no staff but instead a row of over sensitive snowflake self-check outs are choices made by shareholders and directors. Blame them. The people that are working to keep you happy have the same stresses and demands as you. They too have a Christmas to wrap.

Be patient, be gracious and thank retail assistants for their help because you know that when you finally find your car, it will have a ticket and that won’t be their fault either.


Bio: Kate Davis is. Retail organiser for First Union, the co- chair of Auckland Action Against Poverty and an activist and occasional writer.


  1. Hah, F**k Christmas, I boycott it, full stop!

    Or shall I say, I rather spend it in a humble manner, with some specially home cooked food, NO gifts, NO TV, NO stupid relatives going on my nerves, NO visits to the Mall beforehand, NO waste of money on crappy or trendy stuff that neither I nor most humans actually NEED.

    Nevertheless, I wish all a Merry Christmas, no matter how they choose to spend it, but save yourselves the wasted time in the mall, joining the brain washed, consumerism addicted ‘masses’, blinkered to such degree, they no longer see or understand what is really important in life.

    Do something more creative or fulfilling, once upon a time people MADE their own Christmas decorations and gifts, and played games, or read books or did many other things, on their own or in company.

    Not stressing yourselves out also has health benefits, by the way, and having some drinks in moderation may also be better than binging on food and booze.

  2. I always treat shop staff with respect, unless they are real dicks or jerks, and ill tempered, which some can be.

    The staff in some electronics and specialty shops also get pressured to sell as much as possible, to earn a commission. They try to talk you into stuff that you may not even want.

    The problem is the whole structure of business operations and the systems in place, the pecking order, the bosses get told to get so much out of their staff, and if they don’t they are down the road.

    So being on the shop floor is the crappiest of all jobs, always at the receiving end, from management and at times the customers.

    Bear that in mind, dear readers.

  3. Hi Kate

    I love NZ
    I was born here in 1944.

    Now we all have trouble buying NZ made products to suppotrt my Kiwi brothers and sisters.

    We all would benefiit from our list of NZ products.

    So can you arrange to make a list of them so that it is made easy for us consumers to buy Kiwi made products please.

  4. And if you are ordering from Amazon spare a thought for all the workers about to be carted off to hospital in there efforts to get you parcel delivered on time. (and if you are one of those people who buy from Book Depository because you don’t like Amazon…sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but its owned by Amazon)

  5. Kate, did you actually write that piece?
    I ask that as the language is more US than Kiwi and the only self service checkouts I know here are in Supermarkets.
    “don’t be that cray cray person” Not very Kiwi – had to look that one up.

  6. I once saw a grown man throw a 2 year old tantrum and empty out all his shopping bags all over the floor of the supermarket. I was outside in the parking lot, waiting for a friend that was about to finish for the day, and saw the whole thing through the windows. The reason for the tantrum? The huge load of shopping he had put through after closing time included alcohol, which the checkout computers will not allow to be sold after the dot of closing time, under any circumstances.

    This man was clearly either a raging alcoholic, or an incredibly short-tempered dickhead. He had his wife and kids in tow, but even that didn’t stop him acting like the most ridiculous bully. The checkout operator, a young woman in her teens or early 20s, was in tears. Don’t ever be that guy. Just don’t. Retail staff deserve so much better.

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