I have never been big on shopping. Something about the stale air and confinement of shopping malls just makes me crazy. Which made working in retail an interesting choice for teenage me.
My first retail job was at Marshall Field’s, now, of course, known as Macy’s. I was 17-years- old and a senior in high school. I started in the men’s department and loved the slow nights where I was able to fold tables of soft cashmere sweaters – that I sometimes messed up just to have something to do – and quiz myself on my AP biology homework. But those busy times made me want to quietly implode. No day was worse than Black Friday.
All those “door buster” deals and families in stupid matching sweaters with megaphones – yes, megaphones – literally running from department to department based on their careful reconnaissance of the store layout and where the deals will be, all the while berating employees for the absence of shopping carts. As if that were our choice, or ever necessary except on this one day.
That first Black Friday I worked the opening shift, requiring me to be at the store at 4 a.m. In today’s crazy market this seems ridiculously late, but we didn’t open until 6 a.m. In the men’s department one of our “best deals” was a pair of cashmere lined, leather driving gloves which still cost close to $100 on sale. They were long gone by 7 a.m. so by noon – so close to the end of that exhausting shift – I had my spiel down about how unfortunately those were sold out but check out these similar pairs. Most people understood.
But one guy made me want to quit my job. As I was furiously refolding and repinning a table of dress shirts, he demanded that I take him to the gloves. I set down the shirt, smiled delightfully, and started to explain how we had run out.
He lost it.
He started screaming – quite literally screaming – in my face about how despicable it was that we had run out and how I had to give him the sale price on a more expensive pair. Smile pasted in place, I began to explain how I could not do that but was quickly cut off by another tirade of rage.
This lasted about three minutes before I walked away.
I know many of you took to the stores yesterday and maybe even on Thanksgiving Day to get the best deal ever. But the manic obsession with saving a few bucks to the point that customers will chew out a teenage employee or even straight up kill other people for the last pair of perfect deal number nine is ridiculous and frankly disgusting. This year, many stores opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day to provide shoppers with more deals. I know that my moral outrage will make no difference since the stores will undoubtedly make a profit, but I guarantee you I will not be shopping at them for my Christmas presents.
I don’t have a solution to this trend and I honestly don’t see it going away anytime soon. I could spew some cliches about putting the Christ back in Christmas and halting materialism, but we all know those.
I know Black Friday has passed but during the rest of your shopping season I have one request – just be nice.