For many people, Black Friday is the official start to the holiday shopping season, the most stressful time of year. Although Black Friday is behind us now, the shopping rush will continue through Christmas. Fighting the crowds and long lines to get that perfect gift has become a part of the holiday season that most people do not look forward to.  As someone who has been on both sides of the retail counter during the holiday shopping season and the resulting holiday blitz, I've come up with some things to keep in mind to help you survive holiday shopping.

1. Respect the Staff

This is the one piece that seems the easiest for people to overlook.  In the words of a great man, “If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”  I’m not saying store employees are your inferiors, but they are in a position to provide you with a service and see to your wishes.  They are not the enemy, but when something goes wrong, the clerks have a giant target painted on their backs.  No matter how stressful shopping around this time of year is for you, I can guarantee that the employee’s stress level beats yours tenfold.  You may spend a few hours going through the hustle and bustle; they spend 8 hours a day with it.  This doesn't mean they have any right to treat you with disdain   It is their job to assist you with every means in their power, and to do it with professionalism.  As long as the clerks are doing their jobs and treating you as the customer with respect, the least you could, and should, do is show that respect in return.  The already stressed clerks will be very appreciative of the courtesy, and you’re sure to get the best possible service they can deliver.

2. Respect the Other Customers

The idea of respect while shopping goes not only for the staff at the store, but the other customers in the foxhole with you.  People have been trampled to death by a greedy crowd trying to get the must-have item of the year.  I've yet to see a sale that is worth physically harming another human being to get.  This all goes back to the idea of the Golden Rule, where you should be treating others in a way you expect to be treated in return.  A joyful holiday shopping experience I witnessed was one of the years razor scooters were the hot item.  One store rolled out a full pallet of the scooters and the first woman to reach the pallet jumped onto the top of the stack of scooters and proceeded to kick at the other customers while screaming, “These are mine!”  When you get to the store and see a long line, your first thought shouldn't be how to get passed those people to the item you all want.  Those people have every right to their spot in line, having arrived before you and waited longer than you.  This is a mentality we teach our children so they can get along with other kids on the playground, so why don’t we do the same as adults?

3. Pay Attention.

Knowing what you are getting into will save you a lot of stress and frustration.  If you are planning to take part in a massive sale at a store, read the fine print!  Many stores will put limits on how many of each item will be available to the public and how many you will be allowed to purchase, and these limitations will be in the flier and posted at the store 99% of the time.  The store has done their job by posting the notice, now it is your job to read it and understand it.  You will be saving yourself a load of trouble by knowing in advance what limitations you’ll be subject to, and avoiding the certainty of being told you can’t buy something when you get up to the registers.  Also, make sure you are paying attention to other notices at the store, like what each line is for and which registers are and are not open, this way you know where you need to go and which associates are in a position to readily assist you.

4. Patience is Golden

You are going to have to wait, get over it.  You’re going to have to wait to find a parking spot, you’re going to have to wait for an employee to finish with one customer before they can help you, and you’re going to have to wait in line to check out.  There is no such thing as “express” when dealing with holiday shopping.  Like paying attention to notices around you, you’re going to save yourself a lot of frustration if you prepare for the waits you will encounter and have patience.  Standing there and complaining that you’re in a rush will not solve anything.  If you’re holiday shopping and in a rush, you made a mistake with your planning.

5. Expect Disappointment.

Understand one thing when you go into your local madhouse looking for holiday savings:  Odds are you won’t get everything you want. With limited supply and high holiday demand, someone is going to end up disappointed and you’ll be doing yourself a favor by expecting it to be you. If you go into your holiday shopping with that mentality, you’re preparing for and accepting the worst, and will be more appreciative when the best happens.

When you think about it, the best way to avoid the frustration of shopping is to shop online.  But that takes something away. For me and many others, though it is stressful, shopping around the holidays adds to the atmosphere of the season.  More than likely you are going to brave some stores this year, so keep this in mind when you go out and maybe it will help you keep your head about you and allow you to enjoy the experience.