Holiday shopping, oftentimes, is not for the feint of heart. The stores are busier than ever and you might have to drag a few grabby and unhappy kids along for the trip. It's easy enough to get irritated and snappy with the staff at the stores, but one mom is reminding us to be kind to retail workers during the holidays. In a viral post, blogger Whitney Fleming called attention to how difficult it can be for retail workers during the busiest season of the year, especially the teenagers behind the cash register.
The mom of three teens and writer behind Playdates on Fridays shared an eye-opening story on her Facebook page recently about a trip to Target. Fleming wrote that she was at the store one evening stocking up on a few items for a holiday party and, as is almost always the case, ended up going on a bit of a spree. As she was leaving the store, she had an interesting conversation with the teen boy who was at the register.
After the two "bonded over their love of pups" and had a generally nice interaction, the young man apparently said to Fleming, "I can always tell who are the nice and easy customers even before they get to my line." He went on to tell her that his hardest customers tended to be moms, which took Fleming by surprise.
As she wrote on Facebook, the young man explained that he understood why moms struggle around the holidays as he was one of five children himself. And as a teenager, "it's just hard when you've never worked before and people start yelling at you. This is my third job already, and it's the same at all of them."
According to Fleming, the young cashier shared stories of mothers yelling at him if their coupons wouldn't work or because a Pokemon display was too close to the register. A mom who spoke to his manager because he couldn't find the toy her son wanted with his meal. Fleming realized at that moment that this "could be my daughter. It could be your son."
"I don't know when we went off the rails as parents," she wrote. "I don't know when we thought yelling or belittling or undermining young people just trying to do their jobs was okay. I don't know when we started screaming at 14-year-old soccer referees or 16-year-old grocery baggers or 18-year-old Target cashiers."
This is such an important reminder. When an adult takes her frustration out on a retail employee, there's a good chance they're venting to a teenager. In fact, according to PEW Research, 1.2 million teens work in retail jobs after school. And dealing with a frustrated adult can be especially intimidating for a kid.
"We should always be kind when we can — especially for those who have to work when all they want to do is be home with their families — but maybe this season we can offer a little more grace to our youngest workers," Fleming wrote. "They are just starting out in this world, and I don't think we need to make it any harder."
In Fleming's case, she took a moment to consider all of the times she might have been short-tempered with staff. She gave the young man a Starbucks gift card and told him to "have a frappuccino on me" in an effort to make up for all of the stressed-out moms he had seen over the holidays.
In reality, many of our kids are probably going to work a retail job at some point in the future. Perhaps we should consider the way we hope they are treated and act accordingly. We want our kids to go out into the world with a positive attitude about their work life, after all, and we all have to get through these holidays somehow. It's so much nicer if we are all in it together, right?