The day before Halloween, a woman told me she was shopping for Christmas gifts and I almost fainted. “I’m not ready for this yet,” I told my colleague.
But ready or not, the holiday season is upon us. And when you work in hospitality and retail long enough, you really loathe this time of year. The added hours. The extra stocking, cashiering, bagging, cleaning. The stress and hassle. The headaches, backaches, footaches. Underpaid and underappreciated. Missing meals, missing spouses, missing social lives. And if you live in a winter climate like I do, the hours of extra time behind the wheel due to snow, lack of parking, and terrible drivers.
And for what? I miss almost every Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinner. My life is turned upside down. I can’t do my own holiday shopping because I’m working during normal shopping hours, and the last place I want to be during my time off is in a freaking store. I just want to hide under the covers. My family still doesn’t understand how difficult a time it is for me. I’m a bitchy zombie at home for a month straight. At work? My bosses work me to exhaustion and don’t give me a holiday bonus or a party. The sales expectations are ridiculous, although we exceed them every year. And the shoppers? Good grief. Most are hurried, stressed, crabby and haven’t done a lick of thinking ahead. “I don’t know if he/she drinks wine but I can’t think of anything else to give him/her.” Ugh. Maybe one in five customers is actually decent to me and grateful for my help. In over ten years in this business, one regular customer has actually given me a gift (a gorgeous $40 bottle of Aussie Shiraz that I’ll never forget.)
“There is nothing fun about any of this!” I want to shout, then punch the jolly smiles off shoppers’ faces. But instead I greet them cheerfully, help them choose the perfect bottle and send them on their merry way. My company does 23% of its business in the last six weeks of the year. And it sure as shit feels like it. Every single second of it.
I know I could have chosen a different profession. I could have holidays off, I could spend the time with my family, I could actually enjoy the month of December. But when it’s all said and done, there is at least one customer every year that inexplicably makes it all worthwhile. With a smile, or a handshake, or a genuine “Thanks Barb, Merry Christmas.” I hope this year is no exception, and I look forward to sharing that story.
At 6:01 PM on December 24th, when the last customer has paid and the doors are locked, I will say “Merry Christmas” and actually mean it. But until then, I’m just trying to get through the day without strangling anyone. Then I have six days of returns to deal with and mad NYE shoppers. So please understand if I’m a tad cranky this time of year. And don’t take it personally if I flip you off in traffic.
Happy holidays! Grumble grumble.