You may or may not know this about me, but I am a retail veteran. Yes, friends, I cut my career teeth (metaphorically speaking, of course) on the floors of multiple high end bridal salons across the country and then moved on to spend a few years with the big dogs at Saks Fifth Avenue. I can’t even begin to count the many things I learned while gracing these floors, about people, life and, yes, even love. But one of the biggest lessons that I learned is an unfortunate one. It’s one that causes me to break out in a cold sweat at this time of year and forces me into total retail avoidance during the holidays. If I can’t get it online or during off-hours at Target, it’s dead to me and you’re not getting it for Christmas, kids. Sorry. Mommy has Holiday Retail Avoidance Disorder (HRAD for short)*; she can’t get you the #1 item on your list this year. It involves going to the mall.
*not an actual disorder*
Yes, dear readers, years after leaving the retail floor, I still suffer from the trauma of witnessing one too many Black Fridays from the other side of the cash register. And if you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not. You, too, may be suffering from HRAD and not even know it. Have you ever worked retail? During the holiday season? Please check carefully for the following symptoms:
- Are you unable to walk by a display of holiday sweaters in complete and utter disarray without compulsively refolding and restacking?
- Do you break out in a hives at the first sound of piped in holiday muzak?
- Does the sight of a bargain bin of purses and wallets strike fear rather than joy into your heart of hearts?
- Can you easily spot “undercover” store security personnel attempting to remain inconspicuous amongst piles and piles of discounted denim?
- Do you duck and cover the moment you hear an angry customer begin to argue and curse over the already discounted price of a pair of shoes? Trying to point out invisible defects to get a lower price?
See, friends, it’s more common than you think.
Seiously, though, the bottom line is this….during the holidays people (present company excluded, of course) can kind of be jerks. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, yes, but when you’re in retail, it’s also the hardest and most defeating. And that’s hard to reconcile. I’m not sure exactly why Black Friday ushers in the worst of shopping humanity, but it really does. And you know this if you’ve ever stood on the sales floor and watched a group of shoppers grab, pull, push and shove over a deeply discounted pair of Manolo Blahniks. Or watched the crush of bodies attempt to squeeze in through one entryway when the doors are unlocked first thing in the morning.
My father in law is the sweetest, most gentile and most Southern of all Southern gentlmen. He is known for his manners and courtesy and will always, ALWAYS, choose the right and mannerly thing to do in any given situation. And he was almost trampled one Black Friday because he wanted to do the right thing by holding the door open for the shoppers behind him. Family legend states that he stood there for one whole hour because he couldn’t find a safe out to let the door close without risking bodily harm.
And this family does not exaggerate so I believe them.
After a long day of holiday retailing, your body hurts, your back aches and you’re kind of sad for humanity. As holiday shoppers we need to ask ourselves: is it really that hard to be nice to the person who is checking you out at the register? Is it really worth lowering your moral standards to get a smidge more of a discount on a Michael Kors? Is it impossible for us to see that there is a real, living, breathing HUMAN BEING on the other end of the aisle?
Now, for the sake of argument I will say that the majority of us are kind, caring, compassionate and giving of our courtesy to those around us, even during the mad crush of the holiday season. During my time in retail I did witness many moments of humanity and beauty on the sales floor. But my overwhelming take away during this time of the year is that retail people need some extra love. This is a fabulous time of year for most of us, but a lot of the joy that we feel as “civilians’ during the holidays is not shared by people in the “biz.”
So I’m going to challenge us all….no matter what store, no matter how long the line, or how surly the guy at the check out….show LOVE. They deserve kindness. Maybe he’s surly because he just got screamed at by a customer livid over the fact that the store was sold out of Playstations. Or maybe he’s tired and his feet hurt. You don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. Show love. Show what the season is all about. With one simple smile and one kind remark you can change the outcome of someones day. This goes beyond retail, of course, but let’s just try to put it in the practice on the floor of Target or Best Buy or Saks or Neimans. It’s as good a place to start as any. And I can promise you this, that kind word during this time of the year is probably more needed than you’ll ever know for that weary sales person.
And for you retail vets….treat yourself this time of year. I know how tough this past weekend was on you. I know you’re tired. I know this Monday is probably your Saturday. Do something kind for yourself. Take a bath. Go workout. Sit in silence and cry. I don’t know…you do you. But when your day is winding down, make this wonderful treat for yourself. Nothing says self-love to me more than a decadent cup of homemade hot chocolate. And nothing says extra self-love like adding a nice smooth shot of Irish Cream to it. You’re an adult, after all, and you just survived the craziest shopping weekend of the year. You deserve some Boozy Hot Chocolate now more than ever! It’s Christmas, after all! Treat yo’self!
Boozy Hot Chocolate for One
- 2 cups almond milk (or milk of your choice)
- 4 tablespoons cocoa powder (I don't like to get all ingredient snobby on you, but the higher quality for this one the better)
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- dash of salt
- dash of cinnamon (optional but recommended)
- 1 generous shot of Irish Cream (Baileys, Saint Brendans)
- Step 1 In a small saucepan combine milk, cocoa powder, maple syrup, salt and cinnamon. Whisk over low heat until combined.
- Step 2 Heat through to desired temperature, but do not boil!
- Step 3 Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and Irish Cream.
- Step 4 Serve immediately with marshmallows or whipped cream.
- Step 5 RELAX.