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I Worked Retail on Black Friday…and Lived to Tell the Tale

Ahh, Black Friday. A day full of packed shopping malls, insane deals and mass mayhem. Customers stampede into stores, lines parade out the doors and fights break out over items from flat screen TVs to Victoria’s Secret hoodies. It is the one night a year where the mall stays open and people of all types to come together to shop ’til they drop. 

For those working retail, Black Friday is like a spectator sport. Getting to watch people brawl over merchandise and sprint into stores with their entire family clad in matching t-shirts is one of the major perks to working all night. The insane amount of energy in the air is unparalleled, and it is another thing that keeps me coming back to work on Black Friday.

Probably the worst thing about working on Black Friday is trying to find a parking space. I arrived on time to the mall, but spent half an hour scouring the parking lot, driving slowly up and down each aisle and following anyone in the parking lot carrying a bag, hoping that they would open up a spot. I also nearly engaged in several arguments with other drivers about who turned on their blinker first and was thus entitled to an open parking space. It was a long-fought battle to finally find a parking spot, and that was only the beginning.

I walked into my store, Express, to find it in complete disarray, with clothes strewn about everywhere and customers frantically searching for their sizes below mountains of clothes. As someone who likes things to be neat, this was my worst nightmare. I was assigned to work on folding and organizing a small section of the store, and I quickly set to work.

Image Courtesy of Joy Kim

Working retail can be pretty mundane for most of the year, especially when there aren’t many customers. This isn’t the case on Black Friday. During my 5-hour shift this year I was constantly busy, folding clothes, then watching them get destroyed, then folding them again, then watching them get destroyed, then folding them…. you get the idea.  

Image Courtesy of Leanna Rice

Working Black Friday is also a bonding experience for anyone who works in retail. After walking in to my shift 20 minutes late due to my parking fiasco, I was greeted with open arms by my manager, who said “parking was rough, wasn’t it?” Another hot topic of conversation was how tired we were, how messy the store looked, and how funny it was to observe shoppers. Maintaining the store’s presence and keeping the line down was a team effort, and we were all very happy to be working together. 

Image Courtesy of Leanna Rice

My favorite part about working Black Friday, no doubt, is all the people I get to meet and talk to. Helping frantic customers find just the right Christmas present for their loved one and finding a size in the back they were certain we were out of was a great feeling. Through all of the chaos, working retail is worth it, and it proves that to me time and time again. 

Leanna Rice

Northwestern '20

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