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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Holiday Shopping Tips from a Former Shopgirl

By Cassandra O'Leary

It's Thanksgiving in the US, and while we don't celebrate it here in Australia, I'm going holiday-themed with a festive shopping related post. For those who don't already know, one of my former careers was as a retail shopgirl. I worked for around five years at one of Australia's largest department stores, staffing the perfume and makeup counters. I also worked casual hours as a perfume promotions chick at a couple of other stores from time to time. Including Kmart. In a Russian cossack style marching uniform. Sigh. 

In those many years of standing in high heels, taking negative attitudes from customers (the customer is NOT always right, sorry!) and ringing up approximately eleventy billion lipsticks and perfume gift sets, I learned a thing or two about shopping during the holiday season. I know it's Black Friday this week online too, and I will be doing my fair share of product stalking...

Without further ado, here are my totally honest, take no prisoners, holiday shopping tips!

Hot holiday shopping tips

1. Buy online. 

I'm serious...the bricks and mortar retailers probably don't want me to say so but you can get a lot of stuff home delivered these days and even save money on retail prices. I want to buy a particular Lego set for a certain little boy and I'll be buggered if I will drive around to ten different toy shops to find it. Nope, eBay is my friend. On the extra plus side, when you get the deliveries it feels like you're getting heaps of presents, even if they are all for other people. No, scratch that, buy yourself something nice and completely unnecessary too! (Hello,  I'll be doing a combination of online and in store, because sometimes you have to touch and see an item in person.

2. Get there early!

I mean early bird, catching the worm, as soon as the stores open. Here in Australia some of the stores start opening at 8am in November, so it's best to get a coffee, snag your car parking space and march up to the store before the doors even open. Note: the shop girls will still be sleepy but not too snarky at this time of day, so you're more likely to get actual good service. Just say please, thank you and mind your p's and q's (i.e. don't curse at the floor staff). 

3. Wear your flat shoes.

The shopping centre (US translation - indoor mall) I used to work at was the size of a small university campus or gated community. I could easily walk 5km a day, just to get from one end of the place to the other, when both working and shopping. You don't want your ankles to swell, especially if there's a shoe sale happening. Try on the high heels, don't walk in them all day! Also, you don't want to get your heel snagged in the escalators.

4. Bring brochures.

Do you get a pile of junk mail before the big retail sales? Circle those deals and bring them with you to the department stores. Most stores will price match a deal in a competitor's brochure/catalogue, even if they don't want to. These days you can even use a price comparison search on your phone and show the (poor, long-suffering) shopgirl. 

5. Eat protein for long-haul shopping power.

You think I'm joking, but holiday shopping can be a physical and mental workout. Survival of the fittest. Grab a ham sandwich or a soy latte and get going again, but get that nutrition into you. 

Insider tip: head to the food hall or market zone of an indoor mall to sample all the free cheese and chocolate. They bring out all the good samples at Christmas time!

6. Call family.

When you get sucked into the vortex of shopping for hours on end without hope of ever checking off every person on your list, or you're giving your plastic such a workout you're close to tears, or just wandering aimlessly looking for a store map, it's okay to phone a friend. Call your family, ask for directions or a tip on a particularly hard to buy for relative. Calling my Mum once saved me hours of shopping time for my Dad, when she sagely suggested: "Buy wine." Done! 

In case of disaster...

Now, if all else fails, I suggest going home, putting Love Actually on Netflix and eating a giant seasonal Toblerone while drinking coffee or your preferred alcoholic beverage, and trying again another day. Or make a donation to charity and tell everyone you are buying them a goat in some far-off land. That'll show 'em!

Good luck, shoppers! And Happy Thanksgiving. 

P.S. My holiday romcom, HEART NOTE, set in an Australian department store around the perfume counter at Christmas, is now on sale for only 99 cents! You should totally buy it for yourself and all your friends...available from Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble and Google Play Books. 

About Cassandra O'Leary

Cassandra O'Leary is a romance and women's fiction author, communications specialist, avid reader, film and TV fangirl and admirer of pretty, shiny things. 

Cassandra won the global We Heart New Talent contest run by Avon Books/HarperCollins UK in 2015. Her debut novel, Girl on a Plane, was then published in July 2016. Cassandra was also a 2015 finalist in the Lone Star writing contest, Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America, and a 2014 finalist in the First Kiss contest, Romance Writers of Australia. In 2017, Heart Note: A Christmas Romcom Novella, became a top 50 bestselling holiday romance and humor fiction title on Amazon. 

Cassandra is also a mother of two gorgeous, high-energy mini ninjas and wife to a spunky superhero. Living in Melbourne, Australia, she's also travelled the world. If you want to send her to Italy or Spain on any food or wine tasting 'research' trips, that would be splendiferous. She's currently working on several books, or pretends to while buying shoes on the internet. 

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Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for the tips, Cassandra. I stayed up last night to buy an InstaPot from Costco on line. $35.00 discount!!! I've never done anything like that before so was a bit nervous but talked to the in store people last week, took their advice and set up an account. Freaked out a bit when I couldn't remember email or password for the account but logged in early enough to fix that. So, instead of being with the hoards when the doors open tomorrow, I'll be home writing and enjoying my tea.

Judith Ashley said...

My tip? I send a check or money in a card if I'm hand delivering. This year I'm putting $$ in my granddaughter's checking account so she can shop for my great grands! Not exactly "on line shopping" but since I'll be using on-line banking it sort of counts.

Cassandra O'Leary said...

Thanks Judith. I admire your persistence in getting the online bargain! I may be stalking a few toys (shhhh...don't tell my boys) and even some books. Yes, more books. My kids are getting into middle grade fantasy and I love it! Of course I probably need some books for me too... ;)