Have you ever noticed the slightly frightened look you sometimes get the moment you lock eyes with a department store staff member, especially when they appear to be in a hurry? It’s the, “Omigosh, this person’s going to ask me for help, and I have 20 other things I’m expected to do right now as well!” look.
If you really do need help, it can be slightly frustrating. On the other hand, when you hear stories from friends and relatives who work in department stores around Christmas, you know that look of fear is often justified. Staff are often stretched to the limits, and often the only time customers bother to say hello or interact is when they need assistance. From a behavioral psychology perspective, customers can become a negative stimulus to department store staff–especially when some customers can be a bit rowdy this time of year.
But you can mix things up a bit, while having fun: If you find yourself in a department store this time of year, pick a random staff member–preferably one who looks very stressed and rushed. Approach them as though you’re going to ask for help, but then surprise them with one of the following:
- give them a holiday greeting
- let them know you appreciate their working during this very busy and stressful time of year
- sing them holiday carol or other cheerful wintry song (if you’re feeling really bold, you might don some silly holiday hats or outfits with a few friends)
And then, if you really do need to know which aisle has the size 3XL reindeer sweaters or the 759-piece tool set for $9.99 that’s going to be returned in a week, you can politely ask.
The true “swarm” version requires a small group entering a store at the same time, either approaching employees one at a time (without scaring them!), or spreading out for maximum coverage.
Feel free to share this idea with others. If you give it a try, I’d love to hear what reactions you get!
Dave Wheitner is a certified life, career, and transition coach based in Pittsburgh, PA who welcomes phone-based clients from around the world.