SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – As the clock ticked ever closer to Christmas morning, Bay Area shoppers were increasingly hurrying to malls in hopes of scoring the perfect – or any – gift for friends and loved ones.

For the people helping hurried and stressed out customers, it was becoming anything but the most wonderful time of the year.

KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports:

“Customer service sucks big time,” one clerk summed up working during the holiday season. “And let me tell you, the worst job of my life.”

It’s no secret, holiday shoppers are rushed. Plenty of gifts to buy and not a lot of time to do it. But, that doesn’t mean shoppers had to treat people behind the counter poorly.

“There’s a shortage of employees always at this time, that’s why they hire seasonal people,” a major department store employee explained.

Whether the clerk worked for a big chain or a smaller boutique, the comments were the same.

“I think with retail, you know, not a lot of people have patience to wait. You know, they want us to move faster. So they want to get in and get out of here as fast as they can.”

Clerks also felt caught in the middle, enforcing unpopular store policies.

“If someone comes to return something, okay, they don’t have a receipt, not tag, you know, they get upset when there’s nothing you can do,” lamented one woman.

“I don’t have the power to refund their money and I was extremely apologetic,” echoed a swimsuit store clerk.

“Your buttons are going to be pushed,” summed up another clerk. “People are going to expect stuff from you that you can’t do. They want you to wave a wand and just expect so much and some things are beyond your control.”

“Understand that we are trying to help you but we might not be able to spend as much time with you, like when it’s a lot slower,” she added.

Of course, there were plenty of lousy sales people working cash registers in Bay Area malls, too.

A good rule of thumb for customers and sales clerks alike: everyone is stressed, so “just remember that the sales associates have to get home by BART so they don’t get home until about 2 o’clock in the morning, so be nice to them,” said one helpful – and hopeful – retail clerk.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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