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Black Friday Aftermath: Confessions of a Walking Dead Retailer After Black Friday

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We have survived Black Friday, barely. It’s debatable. My brain isn’t altogether functional but a couple of cups of java (or maybe an intravenous drip) will ream out the synapses and help them fire at their usual pace. My ankles are another story: they hurt viciously. My back hurts. My knees hurt. My hands and fingers hurt – and not from typing.

One customer – who arrived at the sensible time of 4:00 pm – remarked that when she passed the mall on her return from her mother’s home at 8:00 pm, Thanksgiving night – the line to get into our store at midnight reached all the way around the corner. She asked why – were the deals THAT good? I showed her the circular with the midnight “Early Bird” prices v. the prices I was setting for the rest of the weekend, and explained: “Early Birds” are Limited Time Offers – mostly our own brands – that we literally load into the store by the truckload. I know. I unload those trucks and unpack that stuff. Once they’re gone; they’re gone. The rest of the prices are the deep Thanksgiving/Christmas sale prices we’re offering anyway – some of them especially good. Those won’t go away.

She couldn’t believe anyone scrambles into a store at midnight just to grab 3 pairs of pajamas for the price of 1 when there are close to 20,000 pairs available. There had to be another incentive. There is: the first however-many customers in line get a Gift Card with some dollar amount on it. Our Gift Cards are especially great because they don’t expire and they are good in any of our outlets. But the Black Friday Giveaway is strictly a lottery, with lottery odds. We have outlets all over the Southeast and there is one $1000 card among the tens of thousands given away. The rest are the usual $5 or $10 variety. The customer rolled her eyes. Her comment to the effect that anyone who stood in line for over 4 hours in the hope of that big gift card was an idiot – was actually unprintable.

Somebody really ought to follow one of us around next year on Black Friday and live blog the event from the point-of-view of sales support. There wouldn’t have been time for me to do it and to do my job, as well. Here’s the rundown:

5:00 a.m: I arrive and am assigned to one of the roving “recovery” teams. We circle the store – putting merchandise back to rights after it looks like something with horns stampeded through and tossed it into the air. We decide there should be a prize for the strangest place we discover a customer has left a box of shoes.

7:00 a.m: I clock out to go home to let the dogs out and feed them. My husband also works for this organization – and drew the midnight shift, BTW. His store is a 45-minute commute. My commute is 7 minutes; I get dog duty by default.

8:00 a.m: I return to the store and continue the recovery rounds. We begin our second circle of the store. The shoe department more than earns its nickname: shoe hell. We have to remove our name tags to get anything accomplished because so many customers in shoe hell want us to find sizes for them and ring their purchases when we’re trying to re-box and re-pair stray boots.

11:00 a.m: We get our first break and stop for the store’s breakfast spread. I gulp down orange juice and a muffin. Our supervisor tells me and one other former sales associate that we are hereby pressed into cash register duty in Housewares because 2 associates have called in sick – yeah, I’ll just bet!

11:30 a.m: The line at the Housewares cash register (there are 2 registers, actually) is 10 deep. The 2 associates there are at the end of their 12-hour shift. I step in to take over. I do nothing but continually ring up sales and thank customers for their patience. Mind goes numb.

1:30 p.m: My manager rescues me. She sticks a pricing gun in my hand and relieves me at the register. I am to spend the rest of my time at the re-pricing task: removing the Early Bird signs, etc.

3:30 p.m: second break: ice water and a banana

5:00 p.m: I seem to have lost my sweater somewhere but I don’t care. I clock out and go home. I blither. I fall asleep after a glass of wine and a pizza.

People, this HAS to stop! OCCUPY THANKSGIVING!

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