Yelling at Retail Workers: Why it’s NEITHER Cute NOR Appropriate for this Holiday Season

Small disclaimer, yelling at retail workers is actually never appropriate, however I’m a firm believer in baby steps. Surely, you know at least someone who has worked in retail. You may currently work in retail or have worked in retail at some point in your life. I have personally spent over seven years in retail and I have several family and friends who continue to work in retail. Although retail will not be my primary scene for the first Christmas in eight years, my heart still goes out to retail workers at this time of year.

I do totally get it. I’m not immune to the pressing demands of the holiday season. The desire to find the perfect gift under less than ideal time constraints. I have been there friends! I get it! The holidays can make a monster out of the best of us. However, I have also been on the other side of the fence. I have been called countless names, most that I let roll off my back, several that made my teenage self cry in the stock room at the back of the store. I have been yelled at and dismissed, most of these events being an all year occurrence that particularly ramp up over the holidays.

I’m here to generally get one point across, and that point happens to be that this behaviour is inappropriate. Yes, please, repeat after me: Being rude to, threatening or yelling at retail workers is inappropriate.

I’m not here to defend the odd occasion where you have had a horrible retail experience where you were the victim, which I guarantee has absolutely happened. However, that is not what this post is about. I am here to draw light to the fact that as we enter the holiday season, stressors rise and tempers flare and often retail workers take the brunt of it.

Below you will find a list of common problems that often occur in retail, and some possible causes of the error. As you read, I encourage you to truly put yourself into the position of the retail worker. Whether you have had the pleasure of working in retail, or perhaps you may have not, attempt to put yourself into the position of these workers, young and old. They often end up working extended hours to stock shelves, ring through purchases, and assist you with your shopping needs. They are away from their families to be able to facilitate your shopping experience. These are all important things to consider while reading the list below.

This is a stressful time of year, not only for you

In addition to working the stressful retail environment, this is also a stressful time of year for the retail employees themselves. They also must find the time (outside of their hours, within regular retail hours) to shop for and purchase gifts for their friends and families. Some retail workers also have the added stress of being students, and participating in exam season in addition to working in retail environments and shopping themselves. It’s easy to have our blinders on and forget that we aren’t the only ones who are stressed, but this is important to remember.

9.5/10 times the cashier is not in charge of stock, or lack of stock

This is a big one. The cashier is not responsible for ordering stock. The employees stocking the shelves are often not responsible for ordering stock, the manager may not even be responsible for ordering stock! As more stores switch to automated ordering systems, there are kinks that need to be worked out. Ordering products is a closed loop system in the sense that once the order is sent out of the building, the order is then received and then delivered (the stock coming into the store as a shipment). Here are some possible reasons why there may not be enough stock at that particular moment:

  • The item is in high demand – this is a new product hitting the shelves and only finite numbers of product have been distributed. Chances are, the store you are shopping at received only a certain number of said product.
  • The item did not perform as well last year – ordering to fill shelves is a numbers game, and if an item did not perform well last year but suddenly gains popularity, there may not be enough to be distributed throughout all stores.
  • The store ordered the product, but there was an inventory issue at the warehouse – the order was sent for the item, but the warehouse did not receive the item to be able to ship it out to the stores.
  • The store ordered the product, but there was a manufacturing issue – the order was sent, however the manufacturer is unable to meet the demands of creating said item, meaning there is not enough product being sent out from the manufacturer.
  • The store did not anticipate the high demand for said item – it happens, supply and demand are a constantly changing dynamic.
  • The sale started Monday and there isn’t enough left by the end of it – if the item is highly anticipated, at a great price or there is a shortage of stock to go around, sale items will sell out fast.
  • Transport issue(s) – the item got lost in transit, the item got damaged in transit, there was a miscommunication and the item was sent elsewhere.
  • The store made an error – the person responsible for ordering the item did not appropriately plan for the demand of said item.

There is a price error (that most likely can be fixed within a few minutes)

Again, the cashier you are taking it out on is not responsible for pricing. The employee stocking the shelf may not responsible either. Often, price inputs are done at a level of the company that does not take place within the store. Price changes are generated and activated at the time of sale. There may be errors during this process. If the item is featured in the flyer for said price, you will be able to get the item at that price. It can be frustrating to have to go and fix a price, however, errors exist and this is life. Each day we make errors in our day-to-day lives and we go about fixing them. An error in price can be rectified quite easily, and often the price error is then rectified for future shoppers.

Stores have reduced hours leading up to the holidays

Often on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, stores will close earlier and will close the day of the actual holiday. This is a common practice among retail outfits. I can still remember getting yelled at (my first year working Christmas Eve) because we closed at 6pm on Christmas Eve, and this man could not figure out for the life of him why we would be closing so early. It’s important to remember that after retail workers have served the last customer, there is still cleanup and closing duties that must be performed before they can head off to join their families for festivities. This is not a personal vendetta against customers, but due to mandatory retail closures that are pre-determined by your municipality/province/state.

Yelling because you are upset is inappropriate regardless of whether you feel it is warranted

At the end of the day, retail workers are humans deserving of respect. These employees go to work with the sole purpose of providing a service for customers. They do not have malicious intentions behind their actions. As the flow of customers increases during the holiday season, retail workers are attempting to mediate the traffic into the stores, ensure product availability and ensure checkout in a timely manner. This includes ALL retail workers, from new hires to seasoned veterans. They are all doing the best they can to ensure you are able to leave the store with what you came for. Yelling, using derogatory names or threatening retail workers because they do not have a product you desire, they are not moving fast enough for you, or they do not have an answer you like is inappropriate, to simply put it.

In order to further facilitate your shopping experience this holiday season, below there is a list of tips you may find useful to be able to navigate the retail setting a little easier:

Leave yourself ample time to shop

To ease the added stress of a time constraint, leave yourself enough time to complete your shopping trip with time to spare. This way, if a problem arises, you’ll have accounted for the time in the first place.

Have a backup plan

If you are seeking high demand products, be aware that they may sell out fast during the holiday season. Have a backup gift or food idea in place in case of unfavourable events.

Seek out sale items at the beginning of the sale

Items may sell out faster than expected or the store may have limited stock. Treat every sale as though it is a limited stock sale, and allow yourself to grab the deal when it first comes out. The further away you get from the start date of the sale, the less stock there will be for that sale item.

Research and or call ahead

If you fear a hot ticket item is going to sell out fast, research which stores have items in stock prior to going out and tearing up the town. Call ahead before leaving your house to verify the store has the product in stock before making the trip.

Stay clear of the stores if you are overwhelmed/not in the mood

The last place I personally want to be is out shopping when I know I’m in a bad mood. If you are overwhelmed and overly stressed, try steering clear of the stores. The over-stimulating environment coupled with the stress you are experiencing will not dissipate upon entering the store. Listen to your own limitations and consider rescheduling your shopping to a later time when you aren’t mentally taxed.


It is normal to feel stressed at this time of the year. Everyone wants the holidays to flow perfectly and smoothly, and sometimes that may not be the case. You are doing the best that you can with the tools and resources you have. The memories you make will be worth the frenzy needed to get into gear, but just remember to take it easy and take time for yourself.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes

Before you go to open your mouth and possibly yell as a stress release, try putting yourself in the other person’s position. They may not have the AUTHORITY to change what you are upset about. They most likely were NOT the cause of the problem you are experiencing. They will most likely be able to FIX what the issue is, but you do not need to yell, berate, or threaten them.



The holidays are stressful for everyone, including yourself and the retail workers you are interacting with. They are often trying their best to deliver a smooth interaction for customers throughout the store. Human error occurs, but it also occurs in our day-to-day lives. It is unacceptable to yell at and berate another human for something they have no control of. Misplaced stress and aggression is never appropriate. Remember, you can not simultaneously demand a service while degrading those providing it.


I hope this post was able to open your eyes to the world of retail over the holidays. Leave any comments you may have, I love hearing from you!