Welcome, shoppers, to the most frenzied time of the year, when most of what used to be called ‘spare time’ is taken up by shopping, planning your shopping list, scanning online for bargains, or simply driving around the mall parking lot looking for a spot.

Christmas (or, if you prefer, the ‘holiday’ day) is a month away, which seems like a lot of time. But according to the retailers of the world, a month is barely enough time to get everything done. That’s why Christm — sorry, ‘holiday’ — shopping advertising began before you had the chance to throw out your Halloween pumpkin.

Here in Edmonton, shopping is not just a pastime and occasional necessity, but a way of life. Thanks in large part to the existence of The Mall, shopping has become the thing to do. (For non-Edmonton readers, when you say The Mall in Edmonton, it can only mean West Edmonton Mall, the 800-lb. gorilla of shopping and entertainment experiences. We have plenty of other malls in Edmonton, but when you say you’re going to the mall, you’re going to THE MALL.)

I work part-time at a store in The Mall so I can make enough money to spend on items at The Mall (it’s a vicious circle). Last week, my shift started in late afternoon on a Saturday. I gave myself plenty of time to find a parking spot, but I still had to park outside The Mall’s parking lot and walk several blocks (remember, this isn’t just a mall, it’s the largest in North America) to get to work. So, on a Saturday afternoon, more than a month before Christmas, I couldn’t find a parking spot at THE LARGEST PARKING LOT IN THE WORLD! *

Now, it’s not as if The Mall isn’t open enough hours so people have no choice but to shop on Saturday. The Mall is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm, and from 11 am to 6 pm on Sunday. It is open 364 out of 365 days of the year. The only places open longer hours than retail in Edmonton are emergency services and hospitals. As if being open 73 hours a week isn’t enough, The Mall (like most of Canadian retailing) has jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon from the Excited States of America and has added additional hours on Nov. 28, opening from 8 am to 11 pm.  Not enough hours for ya? Well, in December, The Mall has added another late shopping night on Dec. 12, and from Dec. 13-23, it will be open from 9:30 to 10 pm Monday to Saturday, and 10 am to 7 pm on Sundays. After an ‘optional’ day of rest on Dec. 25, it’s right back at it on Boxing Day at 7 am.

It may be the most wonderful time of the year for the consumer, but for the lowly frontline staff, it is something less than wonderful. As C*****mas approaches, the pressure builds. You think you hate shopping? Just picture yourself having to be nice to hundreds of people who hate shopping as much as you do.

So, if I may, I’d like to offer a few pointers to the thundering herds of shoppers heading to the malls before C-Day arrives.

First, remember those extended hours I mentioned? Make use of them. If you can avoid shopping at the mall on a Saturday afternoon, do it. Try a Monday or Tuesday night. Lots more parking, less stressed-out staff.

Second, don’t take out your frustrations on the lowly staff member. If you don’t understand a store policy, don’t ask them to explain it. They don’t make the policy, and they probably don’t understand it any more than you do.

Third, if you’re trying on clothes, don’t just dump them on the change room floor. You might do that at home, but don’t do it in a store, with someone else’s clothes. That’s just poor manners.

Finally, remember that the person behind the counter is just that … a person. They might have been on their feet all day. Their day might have started at 8 a.m. instead of 10. They might have been face-to-face with angry, sweaty, impatient shoppers for hours. Sure, maybe you’re waiting in a lineup and getting impatient, but it’s not the clerk’s fault that you’re shopping on a Saturday afternoon instead of a Monday night.

With a little planning and a lot of patience, this can be, if not the most wonderful time of the year, at least the most tolerable.

* The Guiness Book of World Records says the WEM ‘car park’ is the largest in the world at 20,000 spaces. 


3 thoughts on “The least wonderful time of the year.

  1. Loved reading this, Maurice. Always a pleasure. Speaking of retail, though, I sold cameras for five years part-time at Woodwards, as you may recall, from our Red Deer days … and all I can remember about Christmas was that by the time all the midnight madnesses and extended hours had passed … I simply wanted to fall down and die on Christmas eve … fried to the nubs.

    But then came Boxing Day … o cruel fates!

    If you get really bored someday I’ll tell you about my night auditing on weekends in more recent years and all the drunks who, in their sagacity, reminded me of my avoirdupois and the need to go on a f***in’ diet 😦

    All the best, good scribe,


  2. Excellent read. I’m sure you could make an entire blog out of your experience. One that’s comedic and tragic at the same time.
    I truly feel sorry for you mall folks having to deal with all the “lovely” people that come in. Many shoppers have never worked retail and have no idea how hard it is. Same with the restaurant industry. It should be mandatory that everyone must spend 6 months working retail when the graduate from school and another 6 months working at a food place.
    Good luck this season. If you work on commission may your sales be big and strong and if not…may they stay at home and order off the internet.

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