How to Keep the Holidays From Making You Furious

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well, at least in theory it is.

In reality, if you’re like many of us, you may be seeing red.

SOASTA, a company that helps improve digital performance for Internet retailers, surveyed 2,018 adults and found 66 percent of Americans expect to lose their cool this holiday season. If you have kids, your temper may be even shorter, with 77 percent of parents anticipating a little holiday rage will be coming their way.

“Consumers nowadays are pressed for time and are so very impatient,” says Ann Ruckstuhl, chief marketing officer for SOASTA.

So it’s no surprise that the things that slow us down are the most likely to make us fume. Here’s are six of the top holiday annoyances, according to SOASTA, along with how to avoid them.

1. Traffic jams and parking hassles

Have you been to the mall during the holiday season? Too often it involves bumper-to-bumper traffic on the road followed by circling the lot a few times to find an open spot.

It’s not only aggravating but time consuming, too. No wonder it topped the list of annoyances cited in the SOASTA survey. Of the general population, 38 percent say they are frustrated with traffic and parking while 46 percent of parents say the same.

How to avoid the holiday rage: Plan your visits during off-peak times, whenever possible. Heading out early and visiting midweek might be your best bets. Or look for stores outside the mall and big shopping districts. The downtown of a smaller city may have plenty of parking along with unique shops offering up gifts for everyone. Win-win.

2. Crowded stores and long lines

Crowded stores and long lines at the register also tend to irk people with 36 and 37 percent, respectively, citing these as two factors contributing to holiday anger. Among parents, the percentages rise to 46 and 47 percent.

How to avoid the holiday rage: As with avoiding traffic jams, you could try shopping during off-peak hours. That may help avoid crowds, but the stores may not have the same level of staffing during the day, which means lines could be just as long. The answer for many people is to turn to online shopping instead.

“The bottom line is there was more online traffic than in-store traffic,” Ruckstuhl says of the recent Black Friday weekend. “People are going online and going online in droves.”

3. Mobile sites and apps that don’t work

Unfortunately, when people do go online, they may find themselves feeling frustrated and angry. Ruckstuhl notes nearly a third of online transactions happen on mobile devices. Nineteen percent of the general population and 27 percent of parents say they see red when a mobile website or app doesn’t work correctly.

How to avoid the holiday rage: The easiest to way to quell frustration with an app or mobile site is to put the phone down and use a desktop or laptop computer instead.

According to Ruckstuhl, that sends a message to retailers who may be hoping to drum up sales with their app: “Until you give me a great, frictionless experience, I won’t be voting with my wallet.” If enough people say “no thank you” to mobile purchases, retailers may be inclined to up their game.

4. Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving

At one time, Christmas music and decorations were reserved until after Thanksgiving. Or so I’ve heard. Quite frankly, it seems like it’s been decades that we’ve been hearing “Jingle Bells” before the Halloween candy is gone.

Doesn’t it just make your blood boil to have Christmas spirit shoved down your throat before you’ve even had a chance to taste your turkey? Apparently, a lot of others feel the same. SOASTA found 28 percent of people — both those with and without children — say early Christmas displays and music make them lose their temper.

How to avoid the holiday rage: Since it’s after Thanksgiving now, hopefully everyone’s tempers have cooled. However, for next year, you could try staying out of the stores until December or shop online instead.

Of course, that doesn’t help when you need to get groceries and “Silver Bells” is serenading you. In that case, you could try wearing ear buds or head phones and listen to your own tunes while shopping. (NPR says it’s OK).

5. Poorly designed websites

Websites that look like they are straight out of 1999, have clunky navigation tools or small graphics can be downright annoying. They may even make you mad. Unfortunately, Ruckstuhl says it’s not surprising some retail sites are difficult to use. “There are still sites out there today that go [live] without usability testing,” she says.

How to avoid the holiday rage: Rather than muddle your way through a difficult-to-navigate site, try finding your items elsewhere. Some stores actually sell their items on Amazon as well as on their own website, so that might be a good place to start.

6. Slow websites

Slow websites may make you mad, but they also cost businesses lots of money. An analysis done by SOASTA around Mother’s Day found that two seconds is the magic number. If you have to wait longer than that for a page to load, you’re likely to bail from the site.

“Twice as many people were frustrated by website performance than a poorly designed site,” Ruckstuhl says.

That may be one reason SOASTA clients such as Etsy and Target begin testing their site performance months before the holidays to ensure it can handle up to a million hits at a time.

How to avoid the holiday rage: As with poorly designed sites, the best way to avoid getting angry may be to take your business elsewhere.

Or you could use slow sites as an opportunity to practice your patience. Take a few deep breaths and think happy thoughts while the site considers whether to show you all the on-sale toasters. Use the waiting time to ponder the good things in your life. Don’t give in to anger; this is a magical time of the year after all.

Do you have strategies for keeping in the holiday spirit amid the crowds and commercialization? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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