Sunday, December 01, 2013

New Tales from Old Navy: The Blackest Friday

It's highly likely that a lot of what I write here will come off as a complaint. So I feel the need to start off by saying that I really enjoy my part time job. I'm grateful to have it. I've felt grateful for it ever since I was hired last year and, especially, since the manager opted to keep me on past the holidays. While I may not always love the necessity of having a second job, I enjoy the paycheck and I like the people I work with.

That being said, let's spend some time talking about Thanksgiving and the dreaded day after, Black Friday. What a crazy couple of days, am I right?

About a month ago, I got an email from one of the managers. It was actually a mass email looking for volunteers to work on Thanksgiving. That's right, the store was open on Thanksgiving. We were open last year too, but I didn't have to work until after we closed and were preparing for Black Friday. Anyway, when I was planning my Thanksgiving, I called mom to find out what we would be doing. The answer was pretty much nothing. So I volunteered to work the holiday.

Don't feel too bad for me. For working on Thanksgiving day, I got paid time and a half. Also, we were dead. There were very few customers in the store during my entire 5 hour shift. That didn't exactly make time go by quickly, but at least it wasn't a very long shift. I later found out that we only took in roughly a tenth of the projected income for that day. Optimistically, I'd like to believe that those numbers will send a message to corporate and we won't have to be open during the day on Thanksgiving. But we all know I'm not really an optimist.

Then came the madness of Black Friday, which actually began on Thursday night. We closed for a few hours during the day on Thanksgiving, only to reopen at 7pm. Like a lot of other stores, Black Friday began the night before. I'm sure by next year, Black Friday will be moved up to 9pm on Wednesday.

Again, I enjoy working for Old Navy. But I've never truly understood the necessity of opening up so early for Black Friday. And I've never understood why people wait in line to get into our store. Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target... sure, I get it. When you can get a great deal on a state of the art TV or washer/dryer set by being one of the first 20 people through the doors, by all means, wait in line for hours in the bitter cold. But to get a few shirts and a pair of jeans for 50% off? Really?

Thankfully, I didn't have to endure the mad rush of people as the doors opened on Thursday evening. In fact, I didn't have to be back at the store until 2pm on Friday afternoon. And as soon as I got there, I realized just how crazy things had been. The line of people waiting to be checked out stretched from the front of the store all the way back to the toddler section. If you've visited that particular store, you'll know that's a pretty long line.

I got there early, so I spent a few minutes relaxing in the break room. From there, I could hear the children screaming. So many children, forced to suffer through an insane shopping day. It's likely that many of them were pulled from one store to the next with no rest. You know how in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom the children were used as slaves to find Sankara stones in the caves beneath the temple? You know how they would randomly scream in agony? That's about what it sounded like for the kids in my store on Friday.

It was a long shift. I was at the cash register for the vast majority of my time there. Since we were so busy, the time went by fairly quickly. It wasn't until the end of the night that things became eventful.

There was a lot to do as we closed shop. As you can probably imagine, the store was a wreck. Clothes were unfolded and kind of all over the place. Then there were the piles of clothes that various customers decided at the last moment not to buy that needed to be returned to the sales floor. Ditto for the clothes in the fitting room. Also, we were expecting a shipment the next morning. That meant that the closing folks needed to make room at the back of the store for that shipment to arrive.

But things don't go smoothly when you want them to. Particularly when you've been on the clock for 10 hours. We were due to close at 11pm. Guess what happened at 10:58pm. If you said that a family of four walked in with no clue as to what they were searching for, you'd be right. They were there until nearly 11:30. For a while, I was afraid I was going to lose my job. Why would I have lost my job? Because I was nearly willing to go to these late arriving customers to make an impassioned speech about how ridiculous it was for them to wait until the last 2 minutes of our sale to come to the store when they had a full 28 hours to do so. I also would have thrown in a little something about how most of the employees who were going above and beyond to help them out had been there for 10 hours or more that day. We were tired and we were kind of sick of people. Cooler heads prevailed and I made no such speech. But I was thinking it. A lot.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of our late night troubles. Remember that shipment that was scheduled to arrive the next morning? It came early. The truck arrived approximately 2 minutes after that family of four left. Don't get me wrong, we were already planning to clear the back room to make way for the shipment. But the arrival at 11:30pm did nothing to help our manager on duty, who was desperately trying to count the cash drawers before our midnight deadline.

Midnight, by the way, was the time at which we were all scheduled to leave.

So, for many of us, our long shifts included an extra half hour. We were given the option to leave if we wanted. Sure, I wanted to. But I would have felt bad leaving anyone behind to do extra work. So I stayed. I folded more clothes. Those of us who stayed really didn't make a dent in the mess that had accumulated throughout the day. But we did the best we could.

All in all, it was an exciting weekend. I mean, I didn't get a lot out of it, other than a slightly larger paycheck, which I will greatly appreciate when it comes next Wednesday. But it really wasn't that bad. Here's to next Black Friday. And here's hoping that next Thanksgiving will be a non-workday.

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