Tales From Retail: Black Friday

I actually wanted to put this up last week, but I’m still traumatized 6 years later.

Listen. If you’ve never had to work a Black Friday before, count yourself lucky. It is some of the most dehumanizing foolery you can imagine. The customers turn to creatures possessed, and the workers end up snapping at each other out of frustration.

Let me tell you my story of the first Black Friday I had to work.

Picture it: day after Thanksgiving, 5am. I am up before Jesus and the sun and NOT happy about it. I’m working with one of the most horrible managers I have ever worked with in life (this holds 6 years afterwards. She was THAT bad, y’all.) I was volunteered for the early morning shift because, well, nobody else liked her.

I didn’t like her either, but I can get along with anybody.

The aggravation started early, as she was an hour late, so I was outside waiting for her to get there. Doors opened at 7 and we still had setup to do. And as I am that early in the morning, I’m not communicative. I am trying to get this store ready so that we can be as prepared as possible for the crowd. They had their faces pressed against the windows and doors as we worked. I might mention she never apologized for not telling me that I didn’t have to be in that early. So I’m already annoyed.

So. Doors open, and we’re swamped. It’s just two of us (why in heaven would you only schedule two people on Black Friday?! Why?!) and we’re running about like chickens with no heads. I leave the manager to run the register, and I’m helping on the floor. We have a customer who wanted a fragrance that was still in the cage. I needed the key, so I ask Snotty (name changed to protect the stupid) to hand me the key so I can get the product.

Snotty: “I can’t hear you; you’ll have to speak up!”

Ok. It’s loud in here, so I raise my voice a bit.

“Could you toss me the fragrance key?”

Snotty: “I really can’t understand you!”

She’s standing next to me now, so I don’t…*sigh* Ok.

“I need the fragrance key please!” I speak loudly this time.

Snotty: “Don’t you dare yell at me! You could ask nicely!”

Me: “…”

Snotty: “Act like you have some sense! You have some nerve…”

And it was here that I think I blacked out a little. Let paint this picture for y’all. I am on the sales floor. This foolishness is happening in front of a throng of customers and she’s getting in my face. Like, personal space bubble in. my. face! The customer I was helping didn’t know what to do, cause she saw me ball my hands into fists. I was trying to calm myself down, but it wasn’t working. Once she finished her tirade, the look I laid on her was something like this:

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Snotty gets quiet. The crowd even gets quiet. One woman in the line goes: “This poor girl is about to snap.”

Me: “I asked you three times for the key. All three times you claimed you couldn’t hear me, so when I get loud enough for you to hear me, I’m yelling? Let me tell you something…”

Snotty: “We will talk about this later—“

Me: “Oh, no ma’am. You yelled at me out here, so we’re gonna handle this here! I am here to help you because nobody else likes you, but please know I can clock out and go home RIGHT NOW. Is that what you want? Cause you don’t ring as fast as I do and you definitely don’t know the product like I do.”

Snotty: “No. But we’ll talk about this later.”

Me: ” No, we won’t, unless you’re firing me. Now, give me the key so I can get this customer what she’s asking me for. Thank you.”

After that, I don’t know that I have ever moved as fast as I did. I kept the key, got folks what they wanted, and virtually rang up 4 customers for every 1 she helped. By the time 2pm rolled around, the crowd had thinned, and it was time for me to go. The assistant manager was so impressed with how I was working, she asked if I would stay late. At this point Snotty pulls her to the side and tells her what happened.

AM: “OMG, you didn’t make her quit, did you?!”

Snotty: “Did you not hear me say she yelled at me?”

AM: “And you started it. I swear, if you made our best cashier quit–“

Snotty: “…”

Me: “I’m not quitting. But I’m not staying late either. I’m going home. Let me know if I still have a job tomorrow.”

AM: “You do. And I’m sorry about today.”

Gotta love how the assistant manager had more pull than the store manager! I stayed with that company until I packed up and moved to NYC, but the experience scarred me. Now that I’m a manager, I schedule myself off on Black Friday despite the fact that my company doesn’t even do Black Friday deals!

Sending love to my fellow workers in retail this month. I know it’s gonna be long, but you’ll make it through. I hope your customers are all kind and the unkind ones step on their children’s Lego with no shoes.

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