Let’s take the stress out of holiday shopping!

by STUART APPELBAUM President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

November 17, 2022

The holiday shopping season is already underway, with sales starting earlier than ever, and shoppers are coming back to stores and are ready to hunt for values. But it’s important that shoppers and retailers recognize one of the greatest values they’ll find in these stores: the value brought by retail workers to the holiday shopping experience. Retail workers are the face of the stores they represent and they’ll help shoppers find the perfect gifts, let them know where to find the best deals, and aid with returns and exchanges. The value they provide for both retailers and shoppers should be recognized by all of us as they help make our holiday season a great one for our families. 

It’s a challenging time and season for retail workers. They aren’t seeing their wages keep up with the increased cost of living amid higher grocery bills and increasing rents and utility costs. Staffing issues persist at many stores, stretching workers thin and adding to their responsibilities at the worst possible time. Supply chain issues continue to affect the availability of high-demand items, adding to customer frustration. 

Big crowds, irritable customers, busy days, and the need for workers themselves to take care of their own holiday obligations can all weigh heavily on workers’ shoulders. Too many shoppers and employers don’t appreciate the pressure that retail workers are under this time of year.

And, especially for retail workers in non-union stores, the stress of the holidays is stacked on top of the daily obstacles they face every day of the year: insufficient hours, insufficient wages, and unpredictable scheduling that makes it difficult to work another job, plan childcare, or attend school. Non-union retail workers may have no control over when they work, regardless of their own holiday plans, and they likely won’t be compensated fairly for working during the holidays. For these workers, it can be a struggle just to survive—to say nothing of providing their families with a joyous season.

Workers are not to blame for shoppers’ frustrations and the challenges of the post-pandemic economy and supply chain, and they need support from shoppers and their employers. Stores should provide security, safety protocols and training to handle agitated shoppers this season as well as safe staffing levels to meet the longer demand period. And shoppers need to remember what this season is supposed to be all about—kindness.

When we are doing our holiday shopping this season, let’s take some time to consider the stress the workers who are helping create holiday memories are under. Lend a smile, and some patience to workers and your fellow shoppers. It’s the time of year we can all give a little back and do our best to spread good will. 

You can also read the column in New York Amsterdam News.