This past Friday, after spending a relaxing Thanksgiving Day with family, I woke up at 4 a.m. confused and upset. At first, I couldn’t remember why I had set an alarm, and I was one second away from returning to sleep when I was abruptly reminded why I was awake at such an obscene hour. It was Black Friday, and I had an eight-hour work shift ahead.
During the duration of my senior year in high school, I worked at a burger restaurant. While it got busy at times, usually during Friday and Saturday nights, it was never too unbearable. I always had time to chat with my co-workers, and never really had to deal with any out-of-this-world customers. After I got a job at a retail store this October, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had no experience in that field, but I needed to make some money during my first semester in college, so I was eager to learn.
When I arrived at Gulf Coast Town Center around 4:45 a.m., the parking lot was deserted. I waited until my manager unlocked the front doors, then my fellow co-worker and I clocked in, anticipating the annual Black Friday rush.
To my surprise, it wasn’t that busy at all. There was a total of four customers between 5 and 7 a.m., and they didn’t purchase any merchandise. Around 8 it started to pick up, but it wasn’t anything insane. The line didn’t wrap around the building, it didn’t even become long enough to reach near the door. My expectations were winding down, and after my break, I was ready to go home.
After about three hours of nothing but rearranging Christmas ornaments and twiddling my thumbs, I finally had real tasks to occupy my time. I spent a good amount of time behind the register ringing up customers, and I couldn’t help but notice that this unofficial holiday of shopping discounted items early in the morning seemed to make people greedier. Upon bringing up things to purchase, some customers would then ask if we had any more discounts that could be applied to their items.
After already finding majorly discounted items, you’d think that customers would be appreciative. During the season of giving, people should be doing just that — giving to their loved ones, while appreciating their family and friends. The entire idea of Black Friday is somewhat ironic. Thanksgiving is a holiday that serves as a time where families reunite, gathering to appreciate each other and everything that they are thankful for. The following morning, these same families venture out to several different stores to fight with other customers in the pursuit of the perfect deal, and the evils of greed take over. There’s nothing more American than stuffing your face before spending hours at the mall.
While I didn’t have to pull apart a fight over a half-priced throw blanket or restock five boxes of candles, I noticed several things about the average American consumer that I hadn’t before. Working on the busiest shopping day of the year opened my eyes to the darker side of retail — give the public a few coupons and they’ll demand more.
Now that Black Friday weekend is over, I’ll be focusing on finals and looking forward to spending time with my family and friends over winter break, without the stress of finding that one last discounted sweater at the mall.