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Be Kind To Retail Workers On Black Friday

Updated on November 23, 2017

Be A Little More Thankful

Still drowsy from the Thanksgiving meal, many are already lining up at the nearest mall in hopes to save on door busters and other Black Friday specials in the shopping spectacular of the year.

I remember a time in my life when holiday shopping- just like Christmas itself actually stayed in December where it belongs, but by the time I reached working age, Black Friday had reared its ugly head in a nightmare for all retail workers.

As someone that already suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, the last place to have me on a sales floor was in direct opposition to crazy holiday shoppers that didn't understand why the Toy Of The Year was sold out at seven in the evening on Christmas Eve.

I truly believe that everyone should work in retail once in their lives to fully understand the hell the retail workers suffer over the Black Friday weekend, especially now as many stores have expanded their holiday hours into being open in the middle of dinners on Thursday.

The concept of holiday shopping never made sense to me as a non Christian. Of course I want to share a few gifts with the most important people in my life over the holidays, however the notion of being trampled at the mall for knickknacks just hours after I said my thanks for everything in my life around the dinner table with family and friends seemed silly.

Although, thankfully I have moved on to other types of employment in my life time, those years in retail especially during the arms race of the Big Box Stores to open early than the one next door is only contributing to the selfish nature of our culture.

Thankfully, with the rise of Small Business, Cyber Monday, and many stores just offering free shipping and great online deals preceding the Black Friday rush, the November Nightmare of retail workers is a bit lessened.


Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday coupled with great online sales throughout the season are lessening the burden of retail workers over Black Friday weekend.

November Nightmare

Working retail through high school, college, a bit after until I landed an office job with my college degree; I'd worked at two Big Box Stores, and a smaller company that sold art and crafting supplies.

In those years as Black Friday approached and the seasonal staff underwent training, as it got closer to the most unruly time of the year for customers; I've seen enough things to make your skin crawl.

I've had customers threaten to follow me into the parking lot, a coworker of mine was threatened that a man would rape her when she walked to her car later that night because customer service couldn't give him cash back for his gift card purchase he was trying to return.

A customer once jumped over the electronic counter around the time of the Wii U being released and threatened to break a manager's arm because we were sold out of the game console.

I've witnessed a bizarre incident in which a woman maced another with an aerosol can of bathroom cleaner over the victim grabbing something off a shelf the other costumer wanted. Thankfully, the woman sprayed in the face was attended to by the paramedics and was taken to the hospital and the assailant arrested.

I've seen security and police haul away entire families for shoplifting, people for fighting, or intentionally defacing product out of anger.

I've been sworn at, told I've ruined someone's kid's entire Christmas for not having what they were looking for in stock.

I did the Black Friday nightmare on various shifts at three different companies for nine Christmas, and believe me it is the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone.

Why then do shoppers feel the need to pass on that misery to others?

I once witnessed an incident where a woman maced another with bathroom cleaner because the victim had gotten the last of something on the shelf and refused to hand it over. The victim was taken by the paramedics, the assailant arrested, and half the staff interviewed by police officers.

Just Doing Our Job

Retail workers are just people doing a job.

In corporate stores, most management doesn't even set the sales prices so arguing and threatening the staff isn't going to change the sale prices or make more of the inventory appear in the "back room" that customers seem to think extends into Narnia and anything in the world can be found.

I frankly explained to a customer once, "If the store is in business to make a profit and I had one whatever they were looking for in back, why wouldn't I go get it for them?" The notion that the store has items just sitting back there they aren't willing to sell is ridiculous. Unless of course those items are slated to be inventory for the next days sale or door buster.

Give a little slack to the employee that missed their Thanksgiving holiday with their family so they could ring up a line of cranky customers. If there is an exception that two coupons can't be combined with the sales price, just accept it. Don't fight with someone just doing a job.

Don't yell at employees trying to restock the shelves, working as fast as they can between being nagged by customers and nearly run down by shopping carts. If you're a bit patient to let them go through their boxes they may actually have new product to hand to you.

If something is sold out, don't scream and swear and threaten the sales staff. Chances are the inventory for sales ad holiday products was determined by the corporate office and there is no way they can just "go in back and create more."


Don't being upset with store staff over inventory. Depending on the store chain, chances are it was ordered by the corporate office and the store staff has no control over how much of a product arrived at their location.

Hot Wheel Fight

If we like it or not, Americans can be extremely violent and each year the weekend after Black Friday is filled with horrible incidents of fights and deaths during Black Friday shopping.

I maintain there is nothing in the local mall I am willing to die for.

Once horrible Black Friday is a Big Box toy section, I witnessed two men that were arrested for beating each other to a bloody pulp over a selection of holiday packaged Hot Wheel cars.

Bystanders cheered on the nonsense, security rushing and worried employees hoped the police would arrive before this would turn into an outright riot and more would be hurt in the heated debate.

When officers arrived on the scene and arrested the pair, I couldn't help think of how they had ruined the holiday season for their families over something as trivial as a toy car for someone that would not only not get the gift, but have a family member that would spend the duration of Thanksgiving weekend in jail over a toy.

As the world becomes more chaotic, I don't want to take the chance the next person arguing with the sales person an aisle over pulls a gun or something.

Nothing on sale in a store is worth harming another person over.


Alternatives To Black Friday Shopping

Black Friday may be the favorite annual event for some, but those like myself that prefer not to step into a store whenever possible after working retail in the past find other ways around the hustle and bustle.

Online shopping often has lowered prices for a longer range of time for sales, many even beginning before the stores even open for their holiday hours. Free shipping, gift wrapping, gift tags, or bonus items for ordering online may be a valuable incentive to do such. Most will also ship directly the the recipient of the gift.

Some website like Amazon will send a notification of a lower price if you click on a few items and choose not to purchase at that time and return to the site. Some online stores also allow for price matching other retailers.

E gift cards can also be ordered on some websites rather than standing in line at the retailer.

If you have to be in a store, be courteous to those around you and show respect for the workers.

Often working long shifts over the holiday season, they aren't given the time to enjoy a nice dinner and time with family and friends as you were already that day. Say thank you. Tell store employees that you appreciate their assistance for the help they provide.

The few interactions I had in the past with nice people over Black Friday made all the difference in sometimes a ten plus hour shift with little to no breaks due to the amount of customers in the store. Just someone telling you to have a nice day and showing a little humanity may not erase the person that spit on me once year for not having a particular board game on the shelves but it got me though the last few hours on the shift when I had already been in the bathroom crying earlier that night.

Retail workers are just people. Treat them the way you want to be treated as well.


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    • wpcooper profile image

      Finnegan Williams 

      22 months ago from Cheyenne

      Well Black Friday never made any sense to me. I worked retail at a couple of places, but never during the Thanksgiving day weekend. I really think holidays are overrated and glad for the WWW and hope it puts a damper on shoppers.


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