'Be prepared for the change rooms'. Just 10 things retail workers know to be true at Christmas time.

Christmas is meant to be the most wonderful time of the year, filled with celebrations, joy and giving.

But for retail workers, the holiday period is a unique kind of hell.

While your friends and family are off enjoying the festive season, you’re stuck working extra-long shifts and dealing with crabby customers who are permanently in a bad mood.

From never-ending queues to dealing with complaints about things we have absolutely no control over, retail workers have to put up with a lot during Christmas.

And while we understand Christmas shopping can be stressful for customers, retail workers are equally as stressed and exhausted – only we have to hide our frustration behind a fake smile and a cheery attitude.

Shop Assistants: Translated. Post continues after video. 

Video by Mamamia

All retail workers can agree, working at this time of year is a truly soul-crushing experience.

Here are nine things retail workers know to be true over the holidays.

1. The Christmas songs get stuck in your head and bury deep into your brain.

The first week of December is pretty fun. Stores begin playing Christmas songs and you start getting into the holiday spirit.

But then the second week rolls around and you realise you’ve subconsciously memorised just about every song on the Christmas playlist.

Slowly you start losing your sanity as the loop plays over and over and over again throughout your shift.

You don’t realise it’s a problem until you find yourself awake in bed at night, humming the lyrics to ‘Jingle Bell Rock’, which are now permanently engraved in your brain.


2. Christmas actually starts in October.

Around mid-October, Christmas stock will start making its way into the store. From Christmas decorations to wrapping paper and presents, everything will end up magically appearing on the shelves.

At this point, you and your fellow co-workers – who still have scars from surviving last Christmas – know exactly what’s coming and start preparing yourselves for the hell that awaits.



If you manage to somehow make it through the Christmas Day chaos, don’t get too excited because the war is far from over.

“You spend half of Xmas Day dreading the fresh hell that Boxing Day sales will bring,” says Jess who worked at a department store for two years.

3. Customers somehow get worse the closer you get to Christmas.

We all have those truly painful customers we try to avoid most of the year. But come Christmas time, it seems like almost every customer becomes rude, impatient and demanding.

And the closer you get to Christmas, the more unreasonable they become.

“It’s like a Christmas blood haze, shoppers get wild. I once saw a lady take the last carton of custard off a kid who had picked it up while saying ‘I’m sure you don’t need that,” says Shaun who made it through three Christmases at a grocery store.

4. Extra-long shifts and non-existent lunch breaks.

During this time of the year, a handful of lucky employees will go away on holidays and manage to escape the Christmas retail chaos. But that means the rest of us are stuck doing extra-long back to back shifts every day.

Lunch breaks also don’t really exist at this time of year. Especially when you’re understaffed and have droves of customers continuously entering the store.

To accommodate for the Christmas rush, most stores will extend their trading hours in the morning and night, but you always have customers who want to keep shopping for that little bit longer once the store closes.

“If the store shuts at 10 pm, then you shouldn’t come into the store at 9:55, go ‘I just need to pick up one little thing,’ and then grab a trolley,” says Jessica who worked for two years at a clothing store.


5. What even is a weekend?

As well as working extra-long shifts, you’ll find yourself getting rostered on pretty much every weekend from now until the end of the year.

Catching up with friends quickly becomes a near-impossible task. You’ll also miss out on family Christmas celebrations which is what this whole holiday season is meant to be about.

And if you’re one of the unlucky souls who has been rostered on back to back weekends, be prepared to hear regular customers drop amusing and original one-liners like “You’re working again? You must live here!” or “Don’t you ever go home?” And trust me Susan, WE WANT TO.

6. Having to wear Christmas shirts and accessories.

Christmas outfits seem like a good idea at first. You get to wear something other than your boring work uniform and it helps get you and your co-workers get into the Christmas spirit. It’s a fun time.


But then you get over it.

The Santa hat and reindeer antlers start getting in the way when you’re trying to serve customers. And you’ll have to go out and buy more Christmas shirts for work that you’ll definitely never wear again.

I now wear all my work Christmas shirts as pyjamas because I still don’t know what to do with them for the remaining 11 months of the year.

The first week vs the second week you wear a Christmas outfit to work. via GIPHY

7. The complaints.

Another joy of working Christmas is when customers start blaming you for things that you have absolutely no control over.

Particularly if you run out of Christmas stock in the last week of December.

“They say ‘it’s all your fault’ that the item is out of stock… when they should have just been more prepared,” says Jess.

8. The queues are never-ending.

There’s nothing more soul-crushing then when you finally finish serving a long line of customers, and another queue has already started forming around the corner.

And sometimes the queue starts before the store even opens.

“You get to work to open the store and there is already a line of people waiting to come in the store, and they think that if they stare at you for long enough through the window you will open early,” says Rebecca who worked at a makeup counter for five years.


9. There is always something to clean.

You may have just swept the floors, refolded the clothes or neatly stacked the stock back on the shelf but precisely 2.5 seconds later, an avalanche of people will storm through the aisles leaving a path of destruction behind them.

And, you of course, are the lucky person who has been tasked with cleaning up.

“Be prepared to deal with semen and faeces in fitting rooms,” says Emily, who worked as a sales assistant at a clothing store for two years.

“We once had a dude come into the store and throw his pubes that he had freshly cut all over the lipsticks … what a merry Christmas it was,” says Rebecca.

10. The gift wrapping requests.

We get it, no one likes wrapping. But customers really shouldn’t assume every store will be able to gift wrap your items.

“If there isn’t a sign that says ‘we gift wrap,’ or any other indication that the store gift wraps, then please do not ask me to gift wrap then complain when I attempt to do it with tissue paper,” says Jessica.

What annoys you the most about working in retail over the holidays? Let us know in the comments below.