Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Witness

I love the holidays.  Thanksgiving is only three days away, and I am already counting down to Christmas.  I have an attic full of already-wrapped Christmas presents, and the only reason my house isn't yet fully decorated is because my husband flatly refuses for us to have lights or a tree up before Thanksgiving.  (Or, as he put it, "Show Turkey Day some proper respect!")

However, there was a time in my life when I wasn't so enthusiastic about the month of December.  This was during those bleak years of my life that I worked in retail.

Now that I've returned from the front lines of store management, I have some hard news for my fellow Christians:  A lot of you are really terrible customers, and you're not bearing good witness.

As a service to those still trapped in the service industry, I'm going to explain some common problems and how you can avoid them so that you aren't damaging your faith.  (If you can't follow these basic rules, then I recommend taking the cross of your neck or the fish off your car before you go out for Black Friday.)

Scenario #1:  The item you want is out-of-stock.
Wrong way:  Scream at the nearest stockperson/cashier/unfortunate soul in a polo and khakis about how irresponsible they are for not making sure there were enough for you to get one.  It's not your fault for waiting till the last minute!  You've been busy with all your church activities!  It's there fault for running out of the item, no matter how close it is to Christmas.  You want to talk to a manager!  You want the number for their corporate office!  You want a $50 gift card!  Etc.
Right way:  Recognize that the person responsible for ordering the products is probably not on the floor or, possibly, not even in the store.  (A lot of stores operate on an auto-replenishment system, with order levels determined by corporate.)  Ask nicely if someone will check to see if there are any available in the back.  Be patient while you wait; it is virtually a guarantee that the store is both busy and understaffed.  (The recession has hit retailers harder than most.)  If no more are available in the store, you can ask when the next shipment will be in, and if you can leave your name and number for them to alert you when the product you want arrives.  If you do all this politely, there is a good chance they will go out of their way to special order or hold one for you.  Retail employees are not accustomed to being treated like humans, so if you are nice to them and then tell them, "Merry Christmas and God bless," when you leave, and you will have made a more impactful witness than a Tour de France's worth of bicycling Mormons.

Scenario #2:  A store employee wishes you, "Happy Holidays."
Wrong way:  Go on a tirade about how you are a CHRISTIAN so you celebrate CHRISTMAS.  CHRISTMAS is the one true holiday, and Jesus is the reason for the season, thank-you-very-much.  Blame the cashier for everything that's wrong with the country and make some unsupported statements about the Founding Fathers creating America as a Christian democracy.  Demand to speak to a manager.  Demand the number for the corporate office.  Threaten to involve your whole church in a boycott of the entire retail chain.
Right way:  Say, "Thank you, the same to you."  After all, the person speaking is probably missing holiday time with their family so you can shop for yours, and has probably heard in a dozen team meetings this week about the correct use of religion-neutral greetings.  Just an hour ago she probably got blasted by a Jewish or Muslim person when she accidentally told them, "Merry Christmas."  Also, recognize that, when someone tells you "Happy Holidays", they are not persecuting your faith, they are being inclusive of your faith.  Expecting every person to say and hear "Merry Christmas" is an example of Christians demanding special treatment, and makes us look like entitled, petty brats.  The "War on Christmas" is all in your head.

Scenario #3:  The store decorations offend you.
Wrong way:  Express shock and outrage that the store is glorifying "Satan Claus" and there isn't a manger scene in sight.  Scream to all within earshot about how Christmas trees are a holdover from pagan fertility celebrations.  Shield your children's eyes lest they cast sight of a dreidel or menorah.  Complain that candy canes are too phallic.  Etc.
Right way:  Get it through your head that "offended" does not equal "persecuted".  Also, get over yourself.  Santa Claus ain't going nowhere.

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