I don’t participate in Black Friday.
Our family usually heads out to a movie that day and avoids the holiday retail experience. A few years ago, my sister and I did go to the mall in search of an advertised great deal on Uggs. Being new to the Black Friday experience, we waited until late afternoon and soon found out that the great deal had been sold out. And I still don’t own any Uggs. Luckily.
When I was hired for my part-time position at a Generic Women’s Apparel Outlet, I was told that I would be required to work Black Friday. I almost didn’t take the job because that’s the day my husband and I leave one family’s Thanksgiving celebration and head to the other’s. I was, however, looking for a job and figured that breaking up the holiday weekend for one day wouldn’t be too bad.
A week before Thanksgiving I asked the assistant manager why the Thanksgiving week shifts hadn’t been posted. She said the schedule had been worked out, but had to be approved and finalized. She showed me the schedule and I was only on for Black Friday. I was very relieved. Then I returned to work on Saturday and saw the official schedule had been posted. With a sigh I saw that I was working my scheduled Black Friday shift, but a 4-hour Saturday shift had been added. I quickly found the manager and told her I couldn’t work that day as I would be out of the state. She looked at me with surprise and said that it had been a requirement when I was hired. Apparently, when I was informed about working Black Friday, the manager had actually meant Black Friday Weekend.
The Generic Women’s Apparel Outlet is in a large shopping plaza with about 30 other outlet stores. The festivities would begin Thanksgiving evening at 10:00pm and last through the following night. Being a Black Friday novice, I had visions of parking lot madness, lines out the door to purchase clothes and the fitting room overflowing with merchandise to put back. I asked co-workers what the plaza was like and they recommended giving myself at least an extra half hour to hour to get into the lot and find parking. Hearing this, and knowing that my shift started at 6:30am, the last thing I wanted to do was start my shift with holiday parking rage. I began the hard task of convincing my husband to drive me to work. He finally gave in. When we approached the plaza, I let out a groan followed by numerous apologies. The parking lot was far from full. It was, in fact, half empty, which meant a lot of the cars were simply other retail employees.
I went into the store and looked around. There were no lines for anything - for purchases or for trying items on. I checked the day’s schedule and saw that I was the greeter. This meant that I got the very unenviable job of standing by the door to welcome new customers, inform them that today’s sale was 40 percent off of everything (including clearance!) and to offer them large tote bags to fill with possible steals and deals. I groaned, but luckily it was very quiet. So instead I focused on folding sweaters and camis and tops, strategically planted close to the door just in case any customers came in.
I returned from my scheduled lunch break at 9:00am and found a co-worker greeting customers. I quickly found the manager in hopes that I had a new task. Sweet relief! I was moved to the fitting room, my favorite retail spot! There is something a little soothing about putting clothes back where they belong and helping customers find the right size or a more flattering piece of apparel.
My return from break also coincided with an upsurge in customer activity. We even had periodic lines as customers waited for a fitting room to open up! In the end, the Black Friday madness was not madness at all. I think there were two waves of consumers: the late night shoppers who simply stayed up until about 1:00am to get their holiday deals and the second wave of folks who meandered out after a holiday breakfast. This later wave was comprised of friends and family who were just looking for something to do together outside of the house and women with boyfriends and husbands in tow who were getting in some valuable shopping for themselves. And while it certainly was far from bad, I’m hoping to be headed to see a movie at the same time next year.
R.B. Austen lives in New England and hopes that her retail gig is a short-term thing.
Previous Posts By This Author: Navigating the Unemployment Bureaucracy