Last updateWed, 15 Nov 2017 2pm


What it’s Really Like to Work Black Friday

Working On Black FirdayI wake up from my Thanksgiving food coma at 4 a.m. to the piercing sound of my alarm. With an extra large coffee in both hands, I head off to work to greet the holiday season and its anxious shoppers with a less than enthusiastic, “Hi, welcome in! Can I help you find anything today?”

Arriving at the outlet center, I pass a long line of shivering customers waiting to shop the great deals my store has to offer. Before even stepping foot into work however, I’m faced with my first of many peculiar encounters with these Black Friday shoppers.

“She’s cutting the line! Who does she think she is?” shouts a disgruntled mother of two at the security guard, wagging her manicured nails towards me. I share a laugh with the security guard as he lets me into the store, listening to him convince her that no, I’m not getting some type of early bird special on the handbag she tried to put on hold the night before.

 In the midst of the Christmas music and holiday discounts, many forget to acknowledge that people actually work during Black Friday.

Walking into the perfectly organized, untouched store I take a minute to appreciate the silence— the calm before the storm, and the ability to hear myself think because I know that all will vanish in a matter of moments.

Black Friday shopping isn’t for everyone. Some people love waking up at the crack of dawn with friends, grabbing an espresso and heading out to take advantage of deals others decided to sleep on. But many, especially those who work during the craze, believe that it’s a socially constructed, merchandiser driven ‘holiday’ that shoppers participate in for the less than exceptional deals.

While shopping on black Friday is a personal choice, working during the madness definitely is not. Working in retail, you are expected to be able to work for the holiday season, no questions asked. In fact, it’s a “black out period” for most stores, in which employees aren’t even allowed to request off.

A senior business student, Samantha Marella, explained her experience working on Black Friday. “I worked a retail job on Black Friday this past year from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it was absolutely chaotic. The customers that come out to shop get mad at you for everything. One time a women yelled at me because I had to give her change in nickels because my store ran out of quarters.”

Marella continued, “The people that come out to shop also don’t realize that the sales aren’t that special either, my store ran the same Black Friday sale the entire month of December as well.”

Swarms of savings-driven customers filled the store within a matter of minutes of unlocking the gates with the hopes off snagging the best bargain. I stood at the cash register with my co-workers ready to take on the lines we knew would shortly form. With items flying off the shelves, it didn’t take long for shoppers to begin asking us to “check the back” for handbags, jackets and watches that were clearly out of stock on the sales floor.

Someone who has never worked a retail job before probably envisions the back room to be miles long, stocked with all of the stores merchandise in every size and color imaginable. But in reality, the stock room on Black Friday is just as much of a mad house as the sales floor. It’s no surprise that shoppers aren’t pleased when they find out we don’t have an unlimited supply of our merchandise hiding in the back, just waiting for someone to ask us to go and fetch it.

Not only does working on Black Friday intensify everything that is normally done all year round, but it creates other responsibilities that employees must face during their eleven hour, or overnight shifts. With lines of customers waiting outside to shop, employees are required to take shifts to stand outside, thank customers for their patience and hand out flyers explaining the discounts. While the fresh air sounds ideal for someone stuck working overnight the day after Thanksgiving, it is most definitely not.

Standing outside in below freezing temperatures in a dress, handing out flyers and getting yelled at for not being able to give out an extra discount for the “inconvenience” is one of the worst parts of working during this holiday.

Hope Sonner, a senior math student, shared her experience working on Black Friday: “Working Black Friday weekend definitely has its ups and downs. The up side is that I made a lot of money and Christmas music was playing the whole time. The down side, however, was all of the crazy customers with sassy attitudes who demand your attention.”

With lines wrapped around the entire perimeter of the store, being a cashier on Black Friday is no easy job. Shoppers who have waited in line for hours become restless, and forget that employees have been there for the same amount of time, if not longer. Some of the most extreme customers I’ve faced at the cash-wrap blamed me for their card declining, gotten angry because I didn’t wrap their gift “with enough love” and said I was ruining their shopping experience because I ran out of tissue paper.

However, most shoppers on Black Friday are levelheaded, pleasant people to work with. Kristine Simoes, specialist professor of communication, shared her take on Black Friday shopping, and said, “I don’t shop on Black Friday so to speak, I shop on Thanksgiving. I’m that person. I shop at the outlets and I’ve never experienced any shoving or anything crazy. I do feel for the people who work in retail though; it’s a very high-stress environment, and I give them a lot of credit.”

Shopping on Black Friday can be a thrilling experience full of laughs with friends, extra cups of coffee and receipts as long as the lines you waited in. But, in this up and coming holiday season, remember to be kind to the employees working, because Black Friday wouldn’t be possible without them.

IMAGE TAKEN from Around Town Pasadena.

Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
Email: outlook@monmouth.edu