The small little digital devices that allow customers to scan a barcode and do their own price check before considering a trip to the check-out counter should be in every store.

That's especially true if employees in a retail store aren't cross-trained or, perhaps, too busy to offer a shopper assistance.

I wished I could have found one on a weekend earlier this month as I was scouting for children's coats at one department store as part of my holiday gift giving.

I've learned to watch sale signs and read the smaller print. The large bold type under a sale sign above one rack of coats was appealing -- 40% off. That, and using a $15 off coupon would lead to good savings.

But then, the challenge: the smaller type said "Boys' Reebok outerwear, and yet the coats were black with a mauve lining and fleece hood in the same frequently female-gender shade.

I asked a young employee who seemed to come out of nowhere: Are these coats 40% off, too, because the sign says boys, but these look like they're for a girl.

I'm not sure, the employee -- in her early 20s at best -- replied. Then she suggested I could find out at the checkout line and pointed in that direction.

The checkout line? That would mean I would have to stand in line behind several other customers waiting for a price check, but depending on the result I may not be interested in the coat. What a potential waste of time.

The employee disappeared as quickly as she appeared. A couple minutes later, I noticed her bringing items out from a back area -- perhaps items that had yet to reach the racks for the first time or that had been returned and were going back out.

It would have been nice if the employee would have offered to take the item up and make a quick price check, but maybe the employees at that store are told to stick to their job.

The holiday shopping season, when stores covet not only one-time purchases but repeat buyers, is critical. It seems that some cross-training of employees or coaching them to at least extend basic courtesies, such as a price-check offer, could go a long way.

Managing Editor

Managing Editor Lisa Green has more than 35 years of experience at newspapers in Illinois and Indiana. She has worked at The Journal Gazette since 2000, initially as business editor. She has a biweekly leadership column/blog called "Lead On."