As happens fairly predictably, videos are circulating of hoards of Black Friday shoppers fighting over discounted consumer goods. CNET news is sharing footage of Wal-Mart customers rioting over smartphones.  The frenzy doesn’t seem like a very pleasant shopping experience – so we can only imagine that the poor staff members have to deal with some flustered and disgruntled clients.

Here are some tips for staying cool:

The holiday shopping season is upon us. Stores began sending out holiday gift ideas the day after Halloween, people have already hung lights outside their homes, and mall Santas are out in full force. There is no stopping holiday mayhem momentum.

With the holiday season comes less than joyeous holiday shoppers. Retail workers have to deal with these busy, stressed out, and often bitter consumers. Sure, not all holiday shoppers are difficult, but if you ask anyone on the customer service front line, holiday shoppers can be hard to handle.

I speak from experience. I have had the ‘pleasure’ of attempting to provide quality customer service to irate holiday patrons. It’s not easy. Providing good customer service with a smile over the holidays is a true test of patience.

For holiday retail workers (you brave souls), and anyone on the frontlines during the season, here are a few collective tips that may help prevent you from freezing up under the icy glare of a tired holiday shopper.

Be Merry: you know the saying ‘kill em’ with kindness’, well the holidays give you the perfect opportunity to demonstrate acts of kindness and remind pesky customers what the holidays are all about. That doesn’t mean being overly sweet and patronizing, but listening to their complaints with an understanding and kind ear will go a long way in dissolving any bitterness.

Naughty doesn’t get you nice:
Even though it’s helpful to stay merry and spread holiday cheer, a nasty customer doesn’t warrant niceties. While it’s important to remain respectful, don’t get bowled over by outrageous demands. It’s important to stand your ground. I once had a manager who took on any and all customer complaints and would try her best to resolve all issues. Despite her best efforts, there were times that a customer would push too far. In these cases her response was always “I’ve gone as far as I can go. I’m sorry but I am no longer able to meet your request.” I’ve always admired this response. It politely let the customer know that my manager, while remaining calm, had done everything she could but that she would not be pushed around.

Let it go, Let it go, Let it go:
When managing a difficult customer, try and remember not to take it personally. The holidays are a busy time of year. Shoppers are fighting the crowds, preparing to host family and friends, and trying to select the perfect gifts. There’s a lot of pressure. It can at times seem overwhelming even to the most Zen of shoppers. If a customer becomes difficult it could be the result of a series of frustrating holiday events. Let it go, be merry and try to stay nice.

To all retail workers, and to everyone, enjoy the season.

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