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Oh, Come All Ye Sweaters

This one isn’t awful enough for Holiday Hell, but if you’d like to open a sub-category called Holiday Heck, this would fit right in. Christmas is my favorite time of year, not least because it affords me so many opportunities to shop with my daughter, a busy young mother whose career doesn’t often leave a lot of time for socializing. We took a whole day last weekend, had breakfast together, and started our rounds.

We ended up just before lunch in a wonderful gift shop and nursery where you can purchase everything from woolen scarves to wooden dwarves and every whimsical thing in between. Their outdoor nursery area featured Christmas trees, garland, bows and baubles, and a genuine jolly St. Nick. They were making a marvelous production of the whole thing, and we were enjoying watching the children as they danced up and down waiting for their turns to talk to Santa.

As we were watching, I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around. One of the seasonal sales assistants beamed at me.
“Come on!” she trilled. “You’re just in time for the Ugly Christmas Sweater contest!”

I looked down. I was wearing my most handsome Christmas sweater, red fleece with several green gingham trees appliqued across the front, neither sequined nor gaudy, and hand made by the very busy daughter standing beside me.

“I don’t think so”, I replied. “I wait all year to wear this sweater. It’s my favorite, and I think it’s beautiful.”

“Oh, come on! Don’t you want to be immortalized on Facebook?!”

“Thank you, no.” I said, and turned to leave. Horror of horrors, she put her hands on my shoulders, turned me sideways, and attempted to steer me into the nursery.

“Come on!” she insisted. “It’ll just take a few minutes!”

“No thank you!”, I said, possibly a little louder than strictly required. “We were just leaving!”

“Well, you’re no fun!” she pouted, and as we turned to go out the door I could see her gazing around, looking for another draftee. You know those “Please Do Not Touch The Merchandise” signs you see in gift stores? This shop needed one that said “Please Do Not Touch The Customers”! 1206-12

{ 70 comments… add one }
  • Stepmomster December 12, 2012, 3:58 pm

    I would have leaned over to your daughter and brightly said “sweetheart, she thinks the sweater you made me is ugly… let’s go shop somewhere else” and walk away… leaving her stewing in her own embarrassment.

  • Lacey December 12, 2012, 4:07 pm

    WOW. I can see if she innocently messed up once, by assuming you were there for the ugly sweater event, but after you said no, she should have backed off immediately (and been embarrassed). Persisting makes her rude – and why is someone that socially clueless working with the public. Also agree with everyone who said no touching strangers!

  • Drawberry December 12, 2012, 4:24 pm

    I am a very un-touchy person. I freeze up when FAMILY members try to touch me in even the most pleasant of ways. If a stranger tried to grab me? I’d probably have a panic attack and possibly end up hurting someone in a frantic scene trying to get away. That is not an exaggeration. I cannot and do not like to be touched and a stranger TAKING HOLD OF ME to lead me away would most certainly cause an intense panic attack.

    The manager of the store needs to be notified as to this employees completely inappropriate behavior. She could end up getting hurt and hurting someone else because of her rudeness.

  • Kate December 12, 2012, 4:45 pm

    This is the very definition of “if you assume, you make an ass of u and me”. The sales assistant should not have mentioned the ugly sweater contest unless someone actually approached her and said “Excuse me, I am here for the ugly sweater contest”.
    The touching issue is just horrible. I am one of those people with a phobia about being touched by strangers (I have obsessive-compulsive disorder) and I generally go out of my way to avoid it. Being grabbed, not once but twice, by a random sales assistant would have really upset me.

  • babs December 12, 2012, 4:55 pm

    I was going to say exactly what Angel said. Ugly Christmas Sweater contests can be a whole lot of fun, but people are invited to them and often scour thrift stores for the tackiest sweaters they can find, and then embellish them to make them even more hideous. For an employee in a retail store to approach a customer this way would be the same as saying “You look like a great candidate for our ‘whacked up hairdo contest’ or our ‘ Tacky Pants Party’ “! And… “We’re going to put you on Facebook so that all of our fans can laugh and make fun of you!” There are so many things wrong with this scenario, I wonder who thought up such a dumb idea!

  • waitress wonderwoman December 12, 2012, 5:20 pm

    I’m from the South, where we LOVE our Christmas sweaters. But, I think (and my circle of friends agree) they are kinda tacky and funny (even if made with love).
    Yes, of course, it was wrong of the sales person to grab you. If that’s the main issue for the OP, then I completely understand. But I am the only one here that would have just had a pretty good laugh about the whole thing and a funny story to tell at parties about it. (I mean, come on, you go out in public wearing something you find fashionable, and someone assumes you’re there for an Ugly Sweater Contest- if you have a sense of humor about yourself, which I do, how can you not see that as a little funny). Maybe, I’m wrong, especially if someone’s feelings were hurt, but I figure, that’s life. Sometimes you just have to laugh!

  • White Lotus December 12, 2012, 9:27 pm

    Yep, yup, right. No touching strangers! They might not like it, and they might BITE! And if they do, it is all your fault, because you have no business touching strangers! Ugly is in the eye of the beholder — a Christmas or Seasonal Sweater contest that included a prize for Ugliest (Maybe “Most Festive”?) Sweater might be fun. Dragooning people wearing seasonal sweaters into an Ugly Sweater Contest is just…ugly.

  • Elsie December 12, 2012, 9:54 pm

    Not to blow things out of proportion, but I probably would have asked to see the manager. It is NOT okay to touch people, let alone grab them or try to push them off to someplace unless it’s an emergency situation. It’s unsafe for both the customer and the employee. Small things can escalate and before you know it, there’s a lawsuit. The manager should have been notified of this employee’s behaviour, even if it’s just a “X-employee was rude and I do not appreciate her touching me without my consent”.

  • Melalucci December 13, 2012, 2:24 am

    I would have immediately asked for the manager after the “you’re no fun” comment.

  • NostalgicGal December 13, 2012, 3:19 am

    I can have a very carrying voice, and when she grabbed me to turn me around and propel me I would have been screaming with all the lungpower I had “TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF ME THIS INSTANT! I DEMAND TO SEE YOUR MANAGER AT ONCE!” One refusal means NO, and I’m sorry, after that you’re way past the bounds you already trod over. I had not taken anything, I had not broken anything, I had not done anything that was shameful. And I wanted it STOPPED (what the clerk was doing). I also would not have ranted when I did get the manager, but carefully explain what this person was doing and she was way out of bounds. Then took my business elsewhere. OP made it clear by the sounds of it, she was NOT interested, and at that point (hands should not have been used anyway) those belonging to the clerk should have been reeled back in!

  • Green123 December 13, 2012, 8:03 am

    I would have done exactly the same as Stepmonster suggests! And probably said it very loudly to embarrass the sale assistant!

  • sv December 13, 2012, 8:38 am

    That’s unreal. I’ve worked with the public for 20 years and I shudder at the thought of this insensitive boor out there!

  • GleanerGirl December 13, 2012, 9:26 am

    I love Gavin de Becker, and his clear permission to make a scene, when we feel threatened. We have been programmed to be polite, even in the face of danger. Sometimes the best thing is to make a scene.

    Now, I don’t think this was a dangerous situation. However, I do think it would have been all right to say, immediately and loudly, “Take your hands off me!” That would have stopped her cold, unless she actually did mean you harm, and you probably would have prevented her from doing the same to another nearby customer.

  • GleanerGirl December 13, 2012, 9:33 am

    If you want to get someone’s attention, first you say, “Excuse me.” If that does not work, you say it again, louder. If that does not work, then you may TAP, with the tip of one finger, and very lightly, them on the shoulder.

    A tap is non-threatening, and does not involve the potential immobilization that a whole hand on a body could connote.

    And the FIRST No should have been enough.

    Further, instead of having an “ugly Christmas sweater” contest, they could avoid a whole lot of hurt feelings by simply having a “Christmas sweater” contest. Ugly, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Jones December 13, 2012, 9:47 am

    A good loud “I don’t know you! What are you doing? Let me go! ” would have been embarrassing for the clerk but not rude.

  • Wren December 13, 2012, 4:21 pm

    I am picturing the sales person was young and lacked the experience and wisdom to recognize the clear social cues the OP was giving her, as well as the sense to know you don’t touch any stranger that way. I am seeing her bouncing around, talking to customers, getting happy responses, etc, so she assumes everyone is pretty much going to be that way. If no one at the business gives her some training, she will eventually get wised up by someone like the OP and it could be a difficult, embarrassing lesson — well learned, I hope. She was out of line.

  • Marozia December 13, 2012, 8:39 pm

    I would’ve gone up on stage for the contest and then said “My daughter made this sweater for me, and that lady (pointing towards salesperson) made me come up and enter this contest. I’m glad she thinks it is ugly”. Gauche and vulgar, I know, but it lets people know what happens when you are forced into these things.

  • caitlin1214 December 14, 2012, 12:02 am

    The sales associate should not have touched the customer. There is no question about that.

    In regards to the Ugly Sweater Contest, I don’t see anything wrong with that and I don’t see the harm in the sales associate mentioning it.

    What she should have done, however, is to mention the contest as an option for the customer to watch (or vote, or something): “Just so you know, we do have an Ugly Sweater Contest coming up. You’re welcome to stay and check that out.”

  • Enna December 14, 2012, 7:05 am

    I would complain to the manager. No one has the right to invade your personal space and put their hands on you. The only exception to this is if it is to move you out of harms way. I would be inclined to say “get your hands off me” along with the words “harrasement”.

  • abcd December 15, 2012, 11:18 pm

    I would love to see the sweater and judge it myself. But I really think the touching part was inappropriate.

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