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The Gentleman’s Guide to Being a Good Customer on Black Friday

No day brings out the worst of humanity quite like Black Friday. On this notorious American tradition, customers get the chance to trample over one another for a shopping cart full of 60-inch TVs while reminding us that we’re all basically still just angry, territorial chimps (albeit chimps desperate to get the best deal on a brand new set of speakers, rather than a banana).

But maybe it doesn’t have to be this way. Maybe we could do better, if only we knew how to be better customers. To that end, we asked five department store sales people to share their tips on how not to be a total dick on Black Friday.

Carter, former Nordstrom employee: The best customers know what they want — or at the very least, have some idea of what they’re looking for. I’ve had customers come in who don’t, and once I start suggesting things, they say, “No!” with a tone that suggests I couldn’t have been more wrong for recommending a tie or a pair of sunglasses. I don’t mind if you don’t know what you’re looking for, but don’t get mad at me when I start making gift suggestions without anything to work off.

Jen, Target: Don’t forget that you’re dealing with a fellow human being: It sounds so simple when I say it, but I’ve had customers treat me like I’m lesser than them just because I’m there to help them. It’s my job to make sure their sales experience is the best that it can be. But since that’s the case, don’t you think I’m more likely to be helpful if you say “please” and “thank you”?

Leslie, formerly of Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s: I worked in retail for a little more than 10 years, so I’ve seen it all. But nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced a few years ago as a sales associate at Nordstrom. The policy there is basically that they’ll return anything, with or without a receipt, just as long as you can prove that it was purchased from Nordstrom. This woman who came in knew that, so she wanted to return three Nordstrom brand white shirts from at least 15 years ago.

The problem wasn’t the absurd fact that these shirts were more yellow than white. No, the problem was that she had brought with her a copy of the policy printed out on a sheet of paper. Again, I didn’t mind that she was trying to return 15-year-old shirts — it’s not like they were coming out of my paycheck — but her general demeanor: the way she tossed the shirts on the counter and waited for me to begin processing her return was so disrespectful.

Finally, once the returns had been completed, she picked out three more white button-down shirts and asked me if she could get the shirts for the same price as the ones she had just returned — you know, minus about two decades’ worth of inflation.

Rachel, Bed, Bath & Beyond: Most customers I’ve dealt with tend to be really nice and patient. It’s the ones I don’t deal with that are annoying — mainly, the ones who take items from one part of the store and leave them in an entirely different part of the store. I realize it’s my job to put things back where they belong, but if the customer could just drop off the item at the front of the store or even just hand it to me, it would be much easier to put it back where it belongs.

John, former Sears employee: Here’s the thing: I get it, you want to get the best deal possible, so you’re willing to fight tooth-and-nail to convince me that your coupon isn’t expired. But I promise you, I want you to get the best deal, too, which is why, if I’m telling you that your coupon is expired, it’s because it’s expired. Not because I’m part of some sort of conspiracy to make you pay top dollar for a blender.