Shopping advice from an ex-employee

“How are you? How are you doing? How’s it going? How’s your day been?” Turning sixteen last spring meant I’d finally be eligible to participate in the scramble to find a summer job. After sending my resume out to two or three businesses, I ended up at a retail store at Washington Square Mall, where I internalized each and every variation of how to greet a customer. But besides my expertise in this priceless skill, I’ve become enlightened to the ins and outs of how best to shop in retail. Here’s my list of tips on how to win Black Friday this year.

1. Be kind to employees. Surprisingly, working in retail is stressful, especially as lines get long. Having to scan in large purchases means removing boatloads of hangers and fishing out buckets of security tags. Even after everything is scanned in, associates have to deal with coupons and promotion codes, a significant amount of which are expired or do not apply to the items in the transaction anyway. Each employee deals with multiple issues all at once, and it can be hard to keep track of everything when a customer becomes upset. Besides, being nice to us means we’ll be nicer to you, and only good things can come from that.

2. Be patient. Many associates are required to ask customers if they’re interested in certain company promotions. Although you might be 100 percent sure you won’t take part in these programs, don’t cut your cashier off mid-pitch. The customer-cashier relationship is a two-way street: just as associates listen to the requests of the customer, give the cashier the opportunity to say what she needs to say.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask. It’s a good idea to inquire about ongoing discounts on that particular day. If there exists a coupon, they’ll pretty much always be willing to give it to you — just ask. If you need any help finding anything, spare yourself from walking in circles. Most associates have a solid understanding of where specific brands or types of items are. On the other hand, seeing that almost all stores have an online presence now, searching for a particular item in the online store can be an easy way to verify if a product is available if employees are otherwise occupied.

4. Be prepared. Bring a water bottle. Bring snacks. Pack a small cooler with other sustenance. Shopping is hard work! Trying on jeans in the fitting rooms, lugging around overflowing bags of Bath and Body Works, attempting to lift a large set of dinnerware — shopping is truly a test of physical endurance.

5. Shop where your friends work. Two words: employee discount.