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How to deal with line cutters, parking space stealers

By Jacque Wilson, CNN
In the madness of holiday shopping, what's the best way to deal with people who break social etiquette rules?
In the madness of holiday shopping, what's the best way to deal with people who break social etiquette rules?
  • Line expert suggests making the person who cuts you off feel really bad
  • Act surprised and say "Oh! Are you in a hurry?" another expert suggests
  • Don't get into a confrontation if there's a possibility you could get hurt
  • Politeness can go a long way toward positive reception to your concern says another

Editor's note: Every Thursday during the holidays, we're asking our etiquette experts questions to help you navigate the perils of giving and receiving gifts. Check back next week for another dilemma.

(CNN) -- In a rush to get the best bargains on Black Friday, some consumers may forget their manners.

Those of us who spot rogue parking space stealers or line cutters might say nothing because we either worry about causing a scene or conclude that the confrontation isn't worth the trouble.

Yet no one wants to be taken advantage of so asked our etiqueete experts the best ways to deal with such rude behavior. Is it better to speak up, or simply walk away?

Dick Larson, expert in queuing theory, or the mathematical study of waiting in lines

My answer is motivated by one of my favorite stories of queueing from Denmark, the home of scientific queueing theory.

A Danish professor was driving his American visitor to the ferry when they hit standstill traffic. Worried his friend would miss the flight, the professor drove along the shoulder of the road, and they arrived at the dock on time.

The American said, "My goodness what's going? No one got mad, honked their horn or made hand gestures. Why?"

"This is Denmark -- they feel sorry for us," the Danish man said. "They know that I would not have done that unless it was an emergency."

So my suggestion? Make the person who cuts you off feel really bad. Say "I am so sorry to hear of your emergency. I hope it all turns out OK" or "I'm glad you cut in front of me because your time must be much more valuable than mine."

Anna Getty, author of "I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas"

I used to get REALLY, really upset. Not only did I let them know, but I usually insulted them somehow. And I was only met with anger in return.

I have since changed my ways. In a store I let the offender know kindly they are being rude and I am usually met with an apology. In a parking lot, I just let it go.

The holidays are stressful already -- if I can just let it go and laugh it off, I find my stress stays down.

Sherri Athay, author of "Present Perfect: Unforgettable Gifts for Every Occasion":

One might motion to the end of the line and -- with a helpful tone and smile -- say something to the effect, "Pardon me, but the line ends there."

I personally prefer something more along the lines of a surprised, "Oh! Are you in a hurry?"

It makes clear to the offender that her cut was not unobserved and gives her a chance to save face while begging your pardon and taking her place at the end of the line. If, on the other hand, she maintains her untenable position, it's probably best to just let it go. Why let another's lack of civility rob you of your holiday cheer?

As for the parking space bandit, the long walk from the satellite parking lot will help cool your temper (and burn off a few holiday calories to boot).

Jodi Newbern, author of "Regifting Revival: A Guide to Reusing Gifts Graciously":

My personal way to handle Black Friday is to stay home, drink responsibly and watch warm and fuzzy holiday movies. I'd rather refrain from dealing with the line cutters, "great deal" grabbers and other rude people!

However, if I were to (take a lot of medicine first, then maybe ...) venture out to the mall or wherever, I would have to get into a chi mind-set of peace and tranquility, park all the way in the back of the lot without circling around to find a closer space and just enjoy all of the ridiculous idiots acting as if this were the last shopping day before the day the Earth stood still.

Peggy Post, great-granddaughter-in-law of Emily Post:

You have to sum up the situation really quickly and decide whether you want to speak up. And you should only speak up if you 1) are not going to endanger yourself and 2) can do it in a kind way.

Give them the benefit of the doubt. Don't take it personally. Offer them some empathy -- maybe they didn't see you or maybe they have a child who's not really happy; say "I know you've got your hands full but ..." Encourage a positive response, and you might just get one.

If you don't feel comfortable saying something to the person, you may speak to someone in management. Say, I'm a "frustrated customer because ..." and explain specifically how his/her employees didn't react properly. Then let it drop.

And make sure you're being courteous, too. Don't hold up lines while you're talking on the phone, texting or searching through a massive purse. Remember there are other people out there who are just as stressed out as you.

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