Holiday Shopping Etiquette

Before you head out to do battle at the mall this holiday season, make sure you know these 3 rules for civilized shopping.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #181

Tis’ the season for gift giving and holiday cheer!

Well, let’s be honest, this is one of the most stressful times of the year and we owe it all to the pressures of holiday shopping. Whether you prefer to do it online or on the battlefield known as the mall, holiday shopping is a sure test of your manners and your patience.

Proper Holiday Shopping Etiquette

I understand that stress can get the best of us, but why does everyone turn from a happy-go-lucky shopper into one of the American Gladiators fighting for ultimate domination? It’s like any minute someone is going to take the scarf they just knocked 4 people down to get, wrap it around their head, paint their face blue like Braveheart, and scream to the heavens. It’s enough, people! Holiday shopping is supposed to be fun!

So before you head out to the mall, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for proper holiday shopping:

Tip #1 – Plan Ahead

This one is obvious, I know, but still it never fails that we don’t plan nearly as well as we should. Even as I write this, I have 5 emails in my inbox from stores letting me know about last minute savings. There are constant reminders around telling me that I better hurry up and buy, buy, buy! If having to go to numerous holiday parties and dinners isn’t stressful enough, now we’re worried about how much time is left on the clock before Santa arrives.

When it comes to holiday shopping, I recommend starting as early as you can. All year long, I’ll notice things that I want to get for friends and family and months before December I’ll start to pick some up. Yes, you want to get those holiday savings—and you still can—but those small savings in the final days of December will be dwarfed by the huge levels of stress you will endure. The last thing I want to do is stand in line at the mall and fight off everyone. The early bird gets the worm and in this case, also doesn’t get the headache.

Tip #2 – Don’t Pick A Fight

How many times have you gone shopping and after seeing the herds of people, you say to yourself, “Why is it so crowded!?! What is everyone doing here?” Riiiiight—as if you’re the only one who should be shopping right now? As if the mall is supposed to open the doors wide and have people singing and dancing for you when you arrive like you’re Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz? Well let me tell you, there is no place like home and you’ll find out how badly you wish you were home and done with shopping when you have to wage battle on the floors of Macy’s this December 23rd.

That initial feeling of being totally overwhelmed when you walk into a super crowded shopping center puts everyone on edge and can turn even the most easygoing person into a giant ball of energy just waiting to explode. So when an unsuspecting fellow shopper decides to cut you in line or take the last item out of your hands, you do just that—explode!

Still, no matter how mad people make you or how flared your temper may get, it’s no reason to come to blows.  I vividly remember seeing two people fist fight over a pair of shoes on sale.  I felt absolute disgust for humanity at that very moment.

When someone confronts you with aggression over a possible gift, the best thing to do is walk away. Just like we learned growing up – fighting is never the answer. You can always ask the store clerk if there is another in the back. Or choose a different gift. For starters, fighting is tacky and highly unmannerly. Secondly, look at what you are fighting over—an object that isn’t really yours and probably isn’t that great anyway. But if you don’t want to listen to me, go ahead and punch out that person for taking your shirt and then let me know how the call from jail goes with your spouse or parent.

Tip #3 – Think With Your Heart

How many times have I discussed gift giving etiquette? For your boss, your coworker, your spouse, your friend—in every instance it’s all about the thought. Granted, when someone sees that little teal box from Tiffany’s, it’s assumed you only thought with your wallet, but holiday shopping should be about the meaning not the money. I know, I know, you want to shop for the best gift possible but hear me out: Even an expensive gift can be crappy. It’s the holiday season, not a contest, so don’t treat holiday shopping as the chance to “one up” family members.

When it comes to holiday shopping, I recommend thinking about what the person really wants, rather than what will wow them. Trust me, you can still impress them without making them feel guilty about how much you spent. For example, tickets to see Paul McCartney in concert could very well make me pass out, but that gift would cost a fortune! I could never expect someone to get me that. But if the gift-giver knows I like music, they also know that I would appreciate a gift that took my personality and preferences into consideration and didn’t empty out their bank account—like a great photo book about The Beatles or a CD of rare musical recordings. And the year the Beatles were available on iTunes, someone got me an album I didn’t have. It wasn’t a fortune by any means but I loved it!

So the moral of the story is: do your holiday shopping early, give people what they want, but don’t go into debt. If you think with your heart, you’ll be surprised at how wonderful holiday shopping can be.

Do you have a great story about how you witnessed poor manners while holiday shopping? Post all the details in Comments below.  As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Check out my Modern Manners Guy Facebook page, follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips. 

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About the Author

Richie Frieman