Last month, a shop in York hit the headlines when it announced that it was banning cheesy Christmas music for the sake of its staff. Interviewed by the Guardian, shop owner Emma Godivala explained that ‘lots of other shop staff are already going stir crazy with the same Christmas hits being played on a loop.’

For anyone who has worked in retail, that rings painfully true. I remember one ex-girlfriend getting a Christmas job at New Look, where they had one hour-long Christmas CD, which they played on the hour, every hour, from late November until closing time on Christmas Eve. If she never heard those dozen Christmas songs ever again, it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.

There are lots of people to remember at Christmas, but this year, I wanted to give a particular shout out to those on the retail frontline, the shop assistants and delivery drivers working tirelessly up to the big day (well, apart from those working for Hermes, of course. Research has proved that the four worst words in the English language are Hermes saying, ‘We’ve got your parcel’).

When I was a bookseller, the received wisdom was that we sold as many books in November and December as we did for the rest of the year combined. That’s good for business, but also exhausting for those on the shop-floor. As Christmas nears, so the tension inexorably rises – those who have left their present buying too late venting anger that you’ve sold out of the particular item they’re looking for. Ordering stock at Christmas is a fine art – get it wrong and it is the shopworkers who get it in the neck. One year, a Michael Palin travel book was the big seller, or it would have been if enough copies had been printed. We apologised and apologised and waited and waited for the reprint to arrive … which it finally did about lunchtime on Christmas Eve. The book sat in a large, untouched pile well into the spring.

Christmas Eve was always an interesting shift to work – balancing getting the sale stock ready for Boxing Day and also dealing with the real last-minute merchants, who didn’t really care what they bought as long as they bought something. When I worked at Waterstones, we used to fill the front table with all the books that hadn’t sold and watched as they all went. I remember one year after we’d closed a man posting bank notes through the letterbox in the desperate hope of getting anything to give.

So as hassled as you might feel buying presents, do remember those on the other side of the till, soaking up all that collective stress. Happy Christmas!