A Journey into Black Friday with an Actual Retail Worker

Most people have an opinion about Black Friday, either seeing it as a post-apocalyptical, capitalistic blight on humanity or as a wild shopping bid capable of saving you hundreds of dollars while insuring your family has a Merry, Merry Christmas.  This year, there have been thousands of articles written about it (including a couple by yours truly), but it’s rare to get an insider’s view on the whole thing.  How do actual retail workers feel about this unofficial holiday?  Is it really as bad as we all think it is?  Is working on Thanksgiving actually a big deal?

To find out, I contacted my friend Alex (not their real name).  We’ve known each other for years, and I respect his intelligence, perspective, and honesty.  He’s also been working in a large retailer for several years, slowly rising in the ranks and doing just about every job imaginable.  I reached out to Alex on Black Friday and asked if he’d answer a few questions.  The following are his answers.

POM: Where do you work, what is your title, and how long have you worked there?

A: I work at a moderately busy Target store as an hourly assistant manager to the front end of the store.  I’ve worked for Target since 2011.  I’m trained to work the cash lanes, sales floor, service desk, carts, Starbucks, and cafe.

POM: What’s your schedule like on Black Friday/Thanksgiving weekend this year?

A: Wednesday, I worked 3:00pm to 11:30pm… except that I stayed to help prep, so I clocked out at 2:30am.  On Thursday, I worked 5:30pm to 1:45 am.  Then I worked Friday, 3:00pm to 12:30am.

POM: Are you given a choice to work Thanksgiving and Black Friday?

A: We need to have a very good reason not to work BF.  Given that it’s retail, I’ve become accustomed to working it.  We’re given an extra dollar on top of time and a half for working really late, and we get time and half for working during the day of the holiday.

POM: How do you/your store prepare for Black Friday?

A: Essentially, a wave of employees are hired for seasonal, trained, then fed to the fire.  Wednesday night, add was set and product pushed out once the store closed.

POM: What’s your opinion on working Thanksgiving?

A: I really like the nonsecular meaning of Thanksgiving, and I really dislike working during it.  I’m cool with coming in on three AM on Friday.  I think it’s unfortunate that society places such an emphasis on materialism over the ideas of community. You don’t need to buy shit to show someone affection.  If you have to, then their priorities need to be reassessed — as does their role in your life.

POM: What’s working Black Friday like?  What can you expect?

A: As my manager said, “For many, this is their Christmas,” so I feel conflicted. There’s an organized calm to it all, like be caught in a large wave.  Yet, because people have grown to be uncivil in the pursuit of material possessions and status symbols, you’ll have conflicts arise that you have to put out.  You also see a lot of ugliness from people that will make you want to just walk away — though, I’ve had people (frequent customers) tell me that they admire me because I’m always smiling and calm.  I guess, working BF is like witnessing a cross section of humanity.

POM: Do you have any Black Friday horror stories?

A: My whole body is sore and I really doubt the nobility of man, yet I’m alive.  I’ve yet to fully process

POM: How does your job — whether on Black Friday or not — make you feel?

A: In general, I like my job.  I’m manic.  My job forces me to set aside that aspect of myself and be collected so that I can successfully guide front end operations.  I do interact with some good souls.  At the same time, among employees and customers, I encounter people who make me genuinely wonder where society failed (I do apologize for the following language, yet the terms are as apt as they vulgar) so as to produce such meth heads, white trash, welfare whores, ignorant talking heads, thieves, liars, and people of color or ethnicity who exemplify the very stereotypes that destroy their communities.  Black Lives Matter — not when you and your sisters are sitting on motorized scooters because you’re tired as your mother tries to argue against the store’s coupon limit to buy 12 personal care items for three dollars.  As I’ve said, my job lets me see the best and worst of people, in myself the most.

POM: Any words for consumers out there?

A: If you honestly can’t afford the item before the use of coupons, don’t purchase the item.  Most stores have timelines they follow for everything.  Keep your receipts for a year and make sure to ask about warranties for high dollar times.  Be polite and have some empathy.  My apologies, but you’re only as correct as the accuracy of your sources.

POM: Thank you, Alex, and I hope you can get some rest now.

* Photo taken from http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/morning_call/2013/11/20-of-americans-will-work-on-black.html

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