Holiday shopping is already in full swing. It’s a stressful time on both sides of the cash register, so let’s not be rude to store workers.
There was a meme going around the internet the week of Thanksgiving and Black Friday that poked fun at the irony of the two juxtaposed events. It said, “Black Friday: because only in America people trample over one another the day after giving thanks for all they have.”
I’ve survived two Black Fridays as a Target sales floor team member and a good way to describe it is juggling fire while riding a unicycle. From the moment my shift began and I stepped on the sales floor I was busy: answering questions, getting items from the backroom and ringing up guests. There is no downtime in my shift. There’s always more than one thing that needs to be done because every customer has a request and to them, their request is more important than the others.
As a human being, I have to prioritize. Most of my co-workers and I spent our shifts like robots moving mindlessly from one task to the next. Couple this with the lack of sleep because of Black Friday preparation and helping cook Thanksgiving dinner, the day was tough. Luckily, Target provided meals and coffee for all its employees working Thursday to Saturday.
Not all retail employees dislike Black Friday or holiday shopping. My boss John Thevenot, an executive team leader at the Target in Newbury Park, enjoys the day.
“Black Friday is one of the biggest things that we do so yeah it’s one of the funniest days, it’s like retail on steroids. The guests that haven’t shopped on Black Friday before tend to be a little bit more ‘why don’t you have hundreds of these door buster?’ instead of understanding it’s a limited selection but then you have your guests that are having fun and shop every Black Friday and those people are fun to interact with,” Thevenot said.
He did admit that there are challenges to the day, mainly being away from family, but in the end the key to surviving the day for guests and employees is having a good plan.
“Team members don’t see but we’re planning for Black Friday months in advance because it’s not just about the guest it’s about the store and the team too,” Thevenot said.
Up at the checkout lanes however, Theodore Hernandez, the guest service team leader, has a more balanced look on Black Friday than myself or Thevenot.
“Even though everyone thinks the prices are wrong and the wait time at the registers is too long, the day is so high energy that I end up enjoying it,” Hernandez said.
Black Friday is not all gloom and doom. Despite my experience as a retailer, a lot of the shopping is done in the spirit of giving. In my two Black Friday experiences, I learned that most customers aren’t shopping for themselves but for family members or friends. There are also stores like Patagonia, that chose to donate all of its Black Friday profits this year which made the day more than just about blind consumerism.
Black Friday won’t always look like mobs of people waiting anxiously at the doors of Target or lines of tents wrapped around a Best Buy. Online deals are becoming more popular and with that comes a change in Black Friday attendance.
According to the National Retail Federation, 36 percent of consumers shopped completely online this year as compared to the 34 percent that shopped only online last year during Cyber Monday.
“We keep in mind that now we are competing with Amazon and places like that, not just other stores,” Hernandez said.
In the end, Black Friday is done differently for everyone. One employee may love it and the others may hate it. One shopper might prefer the in-store experience and another may prefer online.
I would also like to add to all the shoppers out there, please be nice to your cashiers and retail employees this holiday season. There are many of you and few of us, we’re not all good at juggling but we are really trying.
Being a good holiday shopper means being patient and understanding of the employee. If I’m helping another guest please be patient. If I’m stumbling to find something, realize that I may be running on little sleep. I am a human being and I have limitations.
Helping guests usually involves more than one employee and if that person is also busy their response time is out of my control. The shoppers that are patient and understanding make the process easier and faster for the guest and employee.