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As much as I hate to admit it, the Holiday shopping season is upon us.  Here are my expert tips on getting through everything in one piece.

  • Shop early, shop often.  I cannot stress this enough.  When I worked retail, shoppers got meaner and meaner the closer it got to Christmas.  If you really think you can head out after work on the 24th of December and get all of your shopping done in 3 hours, congratulations, you are officially the worst.  Everyone hates you.
  • Plan your trip ahead of time.  Don’t just drive to the mall with no clue who or what you are shopping for.  Don’t be that guy.  You will drive around for 20+ minutes looking for parking, walk half a mile to get into the mall from your parking spot, and encounter a sea of people milling around aimlessly before you even get to a store which may or may not have what you are looking for.  This will make you stressed out and cranky, and the long lines everywhere will only make things worse.  Figure out who you are shopping for, what sort of things you might get them, and where those things might be.
  • Grab a coffee or some sort of refreshment and a snack before you hit the mall.  The lines at Starbucks will be insane.
  • When you are trying to figure out what to give people (hopefully before you get to the mall), consider their lifestyle.  What do they enjoy doing, what do they like?  What do they need?  Have they been dropping any hints?  Resist the urge to buy tchotchkes.  Very few people will appreciate receiving something that has no purpose except taking up space.  Get them something they will use and enjoy using.  It’s not that hard, if you know them at all.  Pay attention.
  • Do not kill yourself getting up early for Black Friday.  The deals really aren’t that great, and people keep dying at Walmart each year.  So not worth it.
  • Get gift receipts.  You never know if something will be the wrong size, color, or just not their style.  In most stores, you have to ask for gift receipts, so ask before they start ringing you up.
  • Be patient!  There will be long lines if you leave everything to the last minute, or if you are shopping Friday-Sunday.  Many people in front of you will want things gift wrapped, and that all takes time.  Drink the coffee I advised you to get earlier, and chill out.
  • Shop online as much as you can.  It’s just easier for everyone involved.  If you have to see it in person, you can at least have some idea of what you want to buy and where to get it.  A lot of sites even allow you to see which stores in your area have the items you want in stock.  It’s not always 100% accurate, but it can be very helpful.
  • After you finish shopping for the day (especially if you got everything done) treat yourself!  I usually either buy myself a little something special, or go and get a giant drink, or both if the day has been particularly hard.  Give yourself a moment to decompress before you go home, it will be worth it.

A lot of these tips might seem pretty obvious, but if you’ve ever worked retail during the holidays, you know that a lot of people could benefit from this advice.  Hopefully this leads to everyone having an easier, less stressful shopping season.