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An Open Letter to Black Friday Shoppers From an Experienced Retail Employee

My first job being in retail was not a big shock to me. My mom has worked in retail for almost 20 years and counting. I used to visit her at work all the time and saw her interact with customers, so I had some previous exposure to the industry before I started working at the Aerie store that I still work at. I got hired and started working in September of my junior year in high school, so that meant I was going to be working Black Friday that year. Everyone knows the chaos of Black Friday as a shopper, me included, but I was going to experience it from a retail employee perspective, and I was deadly terrified.

I worked my first Black Friday…and then my second…then my third. Each year my nervousness minimized because I learned what to expect and how to handle stressful situations. I was a simple cashier my first Black Friday, but during the second and third Black Fridays, I was in charge of the fitting rooms, an area very popular in a clothing store year-round and especially on that specific day. I had moments where the lines for the fitting rooms stretched into the middle of the store and start to mesh with the line for the registers. I did not panic, and I was able to keep everything under control. Because as soon as the fitting rooms go under, the rest of the store is vulnerable.

With my experience in retail and about to tackle my fourth Black Friday, here are some things I want shoppers to know and understand: be patient with us, and we will want to help you more.

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Please Have Patience With Us

Making our lives a living hell is not going to help anyone. It makes us less inclined to help you, and trust me: we let all of the other workers know, so they are cautious. We do not do it to make things worse for you. We do it to help us out. With the pressure of Black Friday, stores run like a well-oiled machine, but mistakes are always bound to happen. So please leave the Karen attitude at home and be a little more forgiving before immediately wanting to talk to the manager and calling corporate. 

Our Feet Hurt and We Are Hungry

Working long shifts are no fun in general. Working them during Black Friday makes it even worse. We are standing for hours and hours on end, running around and doing a million things at once. Our brains become a jumble trying to help every customer and execute every command given by the leadership team. Since we exert so much energy, we get as hungry as high school football players during summer training. Stores often have a potluck type event where every person working during Black Friday brings in a food item or snack for the whole store, and it’s all loaded up onto a table in the break area in the back of the store. It’s truly torture when you have to run to the back and grab an item for a customer, and you have to walk past this huge table of food, but you cannot eat any of it until your break, which probably is not for another couple of hours. 

When The Store Closes That Does Not Mean We Get to Go Home

Stores get absolutely destroyed during Black Friday. As if a hurricane went through and ripped everything off of the walls and tables. When the doors close after the last customer leaves, we have to mentally prepare ourselves for putting the store back into one piece. Even with a full team of employees and managers, it still takes hours because not only are we putting things back in place, but we are also sizing and hanging or folding everything to standard. We know it’s our job and what we get paid to do, but please think twice before leaving an item in a random spot because you do not want it anymore. Give it to us, and we will take care of it. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is making things very unclear for Black Friday. Some stores already announced they will not be open on Thanksgiving. Others announced that their Black Friday deals will be a week-long promotion. No one knows how things will go this year with social distancing and proper cleaning practices being in place. Hopefully, we will still have the shopping experience we all want with the best deals we can find. 

Arba Choudhury is currently a sophomore at VCU, double majoring in Fashion Design and Marketing with a concentration in Product and Brand Management. She loves sewing up new clothes, browsing on Pinterest, and hanging out with her friends. She also loves reading about style and beauty while also keeping up with pop culture and current events. HCXO! <3
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