Sunday, November 11

Meg's All-In-One Holiday Rant & Gift Guide

Apparently I missed the memo that said the biggest shopping day of the year is now the day after Halloween. But somewhere between the diapers and the doctor appointments, they changed the rules on me, and Christmas got bumped up another 4 weeks. I suppose I should have smelled a rat when the Halloween decor at Kohl's was marked 70% off by October 15.

But I digress.

This year, in the interest of bettering customer service for all, I am providing (free!) tips to all retailers and retail employees to improve the travesty that is November/December shopping. (You're on your own for the New Year's sales.)

Tip #1: Can the Music
It's such a fine line, catering to a diverse customer base: those who may be shopping for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Atheist Kids Get Presents Day*, Winter Solstice, or who simply lacked the foresight to hibernate between October 12th and December 26th. However, I think I speak for the overwhelming majority of shoppers, regardless of faith tradition, when I say that absolutely anything by Alvin & the Chipmunks is against our religion.

*I love Dave Barry.

Tip #2: Take Five Minutes To Train The Seasonal Employees
The holiday season is rich in tradition. The origins of some of these traditions are often steeped in folklore or lost entirely. My dad invites us all to take turns punching the (NB: defrosted) turkey before it's placed in the oven. Retailers have the similarly mystifying ritual of hiring 291 new employees, slapping hand-written name tags on their shirts, and placing them in strategic locations around the store so they are available to answer questions with a deer-in-headlights gaze and monotone, "Uh, I dunno."

In defense of the neophytes, it's not entirely their fault. You don't learn the inventory of the unmentionables department by osmosis. On the other hand, having worked retail myself, I say from experience it's simply not that hard to say: "Let me find out for you!" Having watched my mother spend five minutes explaining the concept of "cuff links" to an employee at the jewelry counter, I'd have to say that many retail employees aren't doing their part, either.

Tip #3: Less Is More
I am not a physics whiz, but I do know that the available space on a clothing rack is finite. For some reason, too many retailers fail to share this trade secret with their employees. Consequently, I routinely find myself engaged in battle with a hanger wedged too tightly among its fellows. The tag gets tangled on other tags. The hanger is stuck. Just as it starts to give, the plastic hanger breaks. The purse falls off my shoulder during the struggle. The clothing item falls halfway down and is lost in the abyss. As I reach into the mass of synthetic fiber to retrieve it, seven other hangers pop off the rack at my feet. (This is why women use the buddy system to go shopping. We must shout "Cover me!" as we dive into the fray.)

Tip #4: Lose the Endcaps
Remember those dumb analogy questions on the SAT? Despite what I said then, apparently I will use those in real life. To wit:

Spring:bunny rabbits::Christmas:endcaps

I can imagine the thought process now: "How best can we serve our customers this year? I know! Let's stack an inordinate amount of crap in the aisles so nobody can move!" Eureka, indeed.

Bah humbug.