COMMENTARY: Tis the Season to be Jolly — Even While Shopping

People are not at their best in crowds. It’s as if every survival-of-the-fittest primordial instinct comes out to obliterate thousands of years of civilization. Pre-and post-holiday shopping, and the inevitable lines, test our character.

My wife’s a professional shopper. She has strategies on where to park and how to find the fastest moving line (which I’ve discovered is not always the shortest). But what I admire most is her resolve not to let it get her down. In fact, this is her “good attitude Olympics.”

She tests me. “Remember,” she says, “Some clerks will be slow, uninformed, uncaring, and sometimes, downright rude. What are you going to do?”

She gives me my options. “You could say nothing and sulk about what a jerk the person is. You could be equally rude, giving the person a taste of his own medicine. Or, you could complain to management. But don’t do any of that,” she says.

This is the time to be undaunted and positive. She instructs me to reach down into my goodwill bag and smile. Sympathize with the person behind the counter in a concerted effort to make his or her day better. A simple “This must be a crazy time” or “I bet you’ve had a long day!” will probably soften the clerk, if not brighten them visibly. Not only will you feel better by not getting angry, but you’ll cheer up the clerk and prevent other customers from encountering grumpy service.

Remember: You can choose your attitude—and attitudes are contagious. When you choose to be cheerful and kind, chances are it will rub off on those around you. ‘Tis the season to be jolly — even to grumpy store clerks.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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