Holiday crowds getting to you? What did you expect?

The stress of the holidays can lead to some very grumpy shoppers packing the stores this month. But retailers know what to expect and they employ strategies to keep their customers as happy as they can.

Expect to see lots of other people shopping this month, plan to be patient

Sure, there will be lots of people at the mall ahead of Christmas. But there will also be lots of people in stores on Boxing Day and in the days leading up to New Year's. (CBC)

There's very little time to go before Christmas is here, but that doesn't mean there's not still opportunities for stressed-out shoppers to put a damper on someone else's day.

Bad behaviour in malls or department stores can happen year-round, but under the gift-giving deadlines of the holidays, there seems to be a higher than average number of shopping jerks.

Like the people who honked at Hayley Lapierre while she was breastfeeding her baby in her car when she was parked at Mississauga's Square One Shopping Centre last week.

Cars began lining up for her spot and started honking. Lapierre's friend got out of the car to explain the space wouldn't be available for a while, but those cars drove away leaving them in peace. That was until more impatient parking spot-hungry motorists came along and the process began again within 30 seconds.

"This car didn't honk at us, but the cars waiting behind it honked at the first car," Lapierre told CBC News. "By this time, I figured I would just wrap it up and hope that I didn't have to pull over on the two-hour drive home to feed the baby again."

And that was outside the mall. It also happened with 10 days to go before gifts had to be under Christmas trees — and nearly three weeks before any New Year's parties would be taking place.

Patience is key

Whether shopping for gifts or party supplies this month, Toronto-based etiquette expert Karen Cleveland says Canadians should have two things on their shopping lists — patience and empathy.

Because that's what they will need when standing in line and dealing with grumps they encounter, likely before and after Christmas Day.

Figures posted to the Statistics Canada website indicate that Canadians spent more than $4 billion on food and drink at large retailers in December of last year. They also spent hundreds of millions of dollars on gifts in many different retail categories. (CBC)

According to Statistics Canada, consumers spent more than $4 billion on food and drink at big retailers last December, as well as hundreds of millions in various retail categories. The numbers suggest that consumers will find it busy whether they are seeking Boxing Day bargains at the mall, or simply trying to pick up groceries through Dec. 31.

Cleveland said another key is for shoppers to remember that "our time is no more valuable than anyone else's time."

And while they may gripe on social media, many shoppers realize what they are getting into, if they choose to head to the stores. As Cleveland puts it, when Christmas shopping rolls around, we all know "it's not our first rodeo."

On the retail side, the businesses selling merchandise to the public know what to expect when these shoppers pack the stores — and clearly, it's something they like to see.

But knowing that that these same people are feeling the stress of the holiday season, retailers employ strategies to help their customers to get what they need as quickly as possible.

'A marathon, not a sprint'

At Dollarama, shoppers will have seen more cashiers on hand and longer store hours this month. The discount chain also takes steps to ensure its shelves are well-stocked.

That's the "simple but successful formula to keeping customers happy (and not cranky!) during the holiday season," spokesperson Lyla Radmanovich told CBC News in an email.

Many stores have extra help on hand to deal with the many customers hitting the stores this month. (CBC)

Ditto for Sobeys Ontario, where spokesperson Monika Strzalkowska says the chain ensures there are "plenty of staff on hand" for the busy holiday period.

Having more hands on deck seems to be a standard approach across retail.

Michael LeBlanc of the Retail Council of Canada said many retailers will bring on temporary staff, to help deal with the increase demand from customers.

"Holiday sales are a marathon, not a sprint," LeBlanc said in a recent telephone interview, suggesting that it's not just the shoppers feeling the stress.

Retailers will also take steps to ensure post-Christmas shopping runs smoothly as well. LeBlanc said that's part of the reason there are restrictions on returns after Boxing Day — so that people seeking deals can do so unencumbered.

Just as Cleveland advises, LeBlanc said people heading to stores should bring some patience with them, whether they are picking up gifts or making returns.

"A little bit of patience goes a long way," he said.


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