American Horror Story: Black Friday

I consider myself a shopaholic; my credit card statement would agree, and so would most employees at my favorite stores (they know me on a first name basis). I’m a frequent shopper, but a thrifty one at that. However, I refuse to participate in the commercialized “festivities” known as Black Friday.


Why, you might ask.

Image courtesy target

Now that I’ve worked in retail for a while I can speak from both sides of the spectrum.


As a consumer Black Friday can be exhilarating because of the lines, the adrenaline used to keep your body from turning into a popsicle, and the promise of 50% off the cardigan you’ve had your eye on all season. Yes, dealing with “tag-team” shoppers and generations of “professional” Black Friday deal grabbers can drain even the best of the fashionistas.


I have encountered irate and somewhat hostile shoppers. Circa 2012: Old Navy....dollar scarves, Tasers, horrible memories. The suffocating atmosphere and occasional whiff of body odor was enough for me; the deals weren’t worth it. Thanks to technology Cyber Monday and pop-up sales offer better deals.

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As a retail employee, the few days and hours (depending on your store management) leading up to one of the busiest days of the holiday season is pure hell.


Employees have to prep the store for destruction. We spend what feels like days in stock rooms checking signs, merchandise, and overstock to make sure our customers are happy.  We spend afternoons on conference calls with other stores in our districts giving artificial pep-talks to prepare us for battle. We make sure our store is pristine Wednesday night at closing so we can try to enjoy Thanksgiving day with our families before going in to the slaughter.

Image courtesy Stephanie Murray 

Yes, retail employees are aware of what they have signed up for on Black Friday. They understand that they must provide excellent service, a smiling face, and proper products all in a timely manner through surges of customers and shop lifters. They also understand that they are doubling their pay at the cost of family time and sometimes their sanity.

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I personally spent Black Friday trapped behind a cash register for four hours. The store I work in is understaffed and by the end of my shift the entire clearance section looked similar to the remains of a town after a mob. I can sympathize with the employees of the Nike outlet in Seattle, Washington.

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What customers fail to realize is that retail employees are simply doing their job. They are one person with multiple roles in a company that under appreciates their work ethic. In most cases the company makes the rules and policies on returns, exchanges, and sales. Screaming at your cashier and demanding your money back only creates a hostile environment for both employees and customers.

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For the sake of retail workers and service workers in general I beg of you to please consider that they are humans. They can only handle so much in addition to other stresses they have in their personal life. And for the sanity of everyone shopping during the holiday season, wait for the cashier to tell you if the chip reader works. As they say, assuming only makes an ass out of you and me.