What it’s really like to work on Black Friday
Black Friday. You either love it or you hate it.
Some people look forward to this all year. Waiting in anticipation after the Thanksgiving meal and then staying up all night to hit the favorite retailers. You feel the rush of being one of the only few that got to savor the biggest sale of the year- after beating the crowds and standing in line for hours, you saved hundreds of dollars and may have completed all of your holiday shopping in a matter of hours.
Others despise it. You can't imagine waiting in line and missing part of your Thanksgiving holiday to save a few bucks. You don't like the crowds, the pushiness, the eagerness, the traffic. It seems like a ridiculous event that you would never imagine staying up all night for or waking up early for.
That's just the customer perspective.
It's a different world for us retailers. I imagined it would be horrible - the crowds, the lines, the angry customers you always heard rumors about, the sheer insanity and the long hours. Having heard about Black Friday my whole life and never having any desire to personally shop on that day it actually became my favorite day of the year at work. And to my surprise, it is my employee's favorite day to work as well.
I have managed two of the biggest retailers in America. One being a big box retailer and one being smaller niche store, I can tell you that both require the same amount of preparation. Months and months of work and planning and staffing and goal setting go into this special day. The biggest retail day of the year.
When I first started managing a retail store, I had a love/hate relationship with this ominous Black Friday. For starters, I dreaded the crowds. Anyone who works retail has to have an incredible amount of patience because you specialize in customer service – making the customer’s happiness your number one priority. Having heard rumors about how ridiculous the lines and crowds were on this day, how people were shoved around and stomped on, I started to fear it. On the other hand, I couldn’t wait to get this entire product out of my store and make some good profit. I knew that was the first day of the holiday season and money would start to flow in. The level of inventory in the store was outrageous and I was glad to see it disappear in a matter of a day.
What surprised me most was starting to see and hear the requests of employees to work the opening shift on Black Friday. If you work retail, you know it's a black out period. No one is allowed off. It's part of your application and a requirement. Working at a big box retailer, almost everyone wanted to work the midnight opening shift. I was in shock. I started to hear about how exciting it was – to see the crowds, to be here during the madness; the energy was electric. So I was intrigued. And to my surprise, everyone was right. It was no doubt a long day, but it was fun. Customers were incredibly kind and gracious of the ease of check out, the great deals and the assistance. The holiday season had kicked off and the mood was contagious. Everyone was excited. We were all incredibly grateful for the compliments and, of course, the big sales.
Black Friday is, in the retailers' eye and the customer's eye, the biggest shopping day of the year. Having worked at two very different retail stores, I have encountered the same experiences at both during this particular day. The months of preparation and staging finally kick into gear and it all culminates into one day. Which is exhilarating. It's go big or go home. Game time. And it's a second Thanksgiving with your retail family. Potlucks, parties, games, prizes- thanking everyone for coming to work and spending some of their holiday with you and making the customer feel important and appreciated.
So for those of you who haven't experienced working a Black Friday at retailer – take the plunge. Odds are you will enjoy it. And for those of you who shop it, thank you. We appreciate the business, we appreciate the good energy, and we hope you enjoyed your experience.