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5 Back-to-School Shopping Tips From a Stressed-Out Retail Employee

back to school shopping
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I’ve been working minimum-wage jobs since I was 16. I’ve worked in four-star restaurants, babysat for every neighbor and freelanced ever since I tricked people into paying me to write. But the worst job of all? Retail.

And not just any retail — children’s retail. That’s right: I spend countless hours selling clothes to stressed-out mothers and their bratty offspring. I’ve worked in two different kids’ stores in almost three years, so it’s safe to say I’ve seen it all — not to mention have vowed to never have a child I can’t hand off to the closest babysitter or stick in daycare.

I most often get asked if holiday season is my own personal h-e-double hockey stick. The truth is, Black Friday is a piece of cake compared to back-to-school shopping season. And if you care about the sanity of department store employees (read: my sanity) this fall, here’s my advice for when you’re shopping with your rugrats:

  1. The shirt at the bottom of the pile looks the same as the one at the top of the pile, I promise. Nothing makes me want to smash my head into a cash register more than walking up to a table that looks like its been hit by a hurricane. It takes you two seconds to dig through a pile; it takes me two hours to fold that table. Follow the rule my mother taught me as a child shopper: Keep your hands folded in front of you, and don’t touch.
  2. Don’t ask me if there are any coupons. I like saving money as much as the next person, but I’m not giving freebies away when the sale is already giving you 50 percent off. We’re in business for a reason. And don’t ask me which coupons are out; odds are, I just walked into work and have no idea. Getting mad at me over a $2 t-shirt isn’t worth it.
  3. There will be lines. There will be a lot of people. Back-to-school shopping time is busier than Christmas shopping time, and complaining loudly about how many people there are isn’t going to make them disappear. Be patient. And make sure your kids are patient, too. Kids throwing tantrums and screaming doesn’t make life better for anyone in your vicinity.
  4. We’re going to run out of your child’s size. Our stock room isn’t stocked by magic, and I can’t make clothes appear out of thin air. And if we don’t have it, other stores are probably out, too. Don’t wait until the last minute to shop.
  5. Sales associates are people, too. We don’t like to be yelled at or called names when we aren’t allowed to scream back. Although sometimes, I definitely wonder if jumping across the counter is worth it!

Back-to-school shopping isn’t fun for anyone involved. But it can be (kind of) quick and painless if you’re patient — and leave the kids at home.

Next: 20 Things That Suck More Than Going Back to School

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