Black Friday has become a part of the American vernacular. It’s permeated into the very fabric of our social calendar. Now, it’s level footing with Christmas, mom’s birthday and the anniversary of when you lost your virginity. For retailers, the Christmas season starts on December 26th. For consumers, Black Friday is the start of the Christmas season. At least that part of Christmas where you lose all sense of decency and just buy! Buy! BUY! However, Black Friday, the day of deals and steals, has become more infamous than famous. For some ungodly reason, Americans think it excuses them from common decency, allowing them to throw out any manners they’ve acquired over the past decade. They can push, shove, throw, yell, and even use pepper spray in a sleep deprived effort to get the the new “Elmo’s Too Old For Tickling. He Just Wants to get his MBA and Be Done With This Silliness” Doll for 20% off.
Before today, I had never really been an active participant in Black Friday. I remember working at the Warner Brothers Studio Store my junior year of high school. The grand opening was on Black Friday and I recall the crowds. The massive, horrible crowds . . . Today, with my mind fine tuned to witness the carnage, I started my closing shift at The North Face. When all is said and done, I can say that humanity is lost. I’ve never seen such poor behavior. We weren’t even having a sale! Let me give you the rundown of the 5 reasons Black Friday spells doom for humanity.
5. Bargans over Family
Thanksgiving – you know – the day BEFORE Black Friday – is generally relaxing. In many ways it isn’t. If you’re just there to eat, well, there’s still some laden stress of entertaining. Even the food, alone, is enough to make you never want to live again. If you are the cook, it’s 3 times as stressful. In any case, Thanksgiving is a tiring holiday. So, why, in God’s good name, would you want to add another sleepless night to your schedule and stand in line for a “bargain?” That Friday should be spent sitting around and watching football – or in my family’s case, old episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Instead, these CRAZY moms and dads drag their family all over the magnificent mile, fighting crowds and equally crazy people. There’s 30 days left to shop for X-Mas, people. Spend some time with your family . . . .
Oh, you really need to buy that plasma TV today for the deal? Let me give you a piece of advice, crazy mom. Come in close. I need to whisper it so no one else finds out this magnificent secret . . . <it’s called the internet> Shhhhhhh. We don;t want everyone to know that there’s an <internet>. Yeah, genius. Here’s the deal. Two years ago, I was all ready to get up at 2 am. Go to Best Buy and stand in line for a 5 am opening so I could get a 46″ Samsung 1080p LCD TV. Best Buy was offering it up for 700.00 off. Then Megan said, “Why don’t you check the internet?” “The what?” What was an internet? Some spider-web of consumer deception? NO. It was where BEst Buy was offering the same deals in store with free shipping. YES, I understand that there are deals not advertised when you physically enter the door. But the ones that are online are worth the sleep and rest you will get if you don’t schlep around like a raving lunatic on a cold November morning.
4. Lack of Social Cues
Do we need to go back to kindergarten and learn what it means to be “polite?” Okay, 6 year-olds. If daddy is talking to Uncle Patrick, or Aunt Suzie or Mistress Jane and you want to talk two him as well, what do you do? . . . . yes, crazy shopping dad in the back who has too much disposable income . . . No, we do not tap their shoulders until they look at you. That’s called, “Being Rude.” Can we say this together. “BEING RUDE.” Very good. ******
As an employee of a retail store, I understand that people have questions. It’s especially understandable at The North Face where the clothing is very technical. With names like Primaloft, Gortex, Primaloft Eco, Windblocker, HyVent, HyVent Alpha, 650 to 900 Down, the Zipper – it can get confusing. So, I’m there to help answer those burring questions and I’m very happy to do so. However, does Black Friday give you, the pesky soccer mom with her 3 kids in toe, the right to peck at my shoulder like a deranged chicken and interrupt me while I am helping another customer? Oh, you’re not sure. Okay. Here’s a hint . . . NO. It’s not.
I can’t tell you how many times a person would just step right into a conversation or continually tap my shoulder while I was answering another customer’s question. I was never rude I was always polite, “Sorry, I can help you as soon as I’m done with this customer.” Actually, sometimes I would multi-task and help 3-4 customers at once. But, on a normal day, is it acceptable to do to interrupt anyone who’s busy with another customer? No, it’s not. Social cues are thrown out the window in place of the “Me me me me me” principal. A principal that somehow becomes commonplace on the last Friday of November.
Listen. No one likes huge crowds. If we could all live in the city and have it be like a pioneer prairie, we would. Complete with buffalos and dysentery. The fact is, I avoid downtown during the holiday season like the plague. The black plague. Black Friday? I treat it like an x-lover I gave a decease to. No way I want to be anywhere near that. There are just too many people around. I hate city crowds on Black Friday for one reason: most of the people are not city people. They are suburbanites, country or town visitors and foreign tourists. They move SLOW. The fact that every street corner, every window and every display is a cornucopia of signs, splendor and deals makes it somehow appropriate to stop. In. The. Middle. Of. The. Sidewalk. Or. Store. Throughway. And. Staaaaaare.
Everyday, not just Black Friday, a city pedestrian should understand that walkways are just like interstate highways. Traffic stays on the right. Slow traffic in the far right lane. Fast traffic in the left lane. If you need to stop, pull over to the shoulder. Every city sidewalk should be treated as such. Why can’t people just abide by these simple rules? Would you stop in the middle of I-80 to look at cow? No! Don’t do it on the sidewalk or in front of the stairs. Or the escalator. Or the Elevator.
I am very aware that this problem has more to do with me than others. The fact is, when I lived in NYC, I acquired a pace that has never left me. Living in Chicago has only strengthened and maintained that speed. I walk faster than others which makes me ultra aware of pedestrian traffic. Heck, when I go back home to Omaha and I’m walking anywhere, it feels as if the whole damn city is in slow motion. Mosey, mosey, mosey. Well, mosey on down brother. But on Black Friday, on the Magnificent Mile, you better be prepared to follow the rules of the sidewalk or be taken down. Because there is a pace in all cities and it doesn’t change for you or me or God or even Oprah.
Really. This is never appropriate. But somehow, on Black Friday, all the petty thieves come out of the woodwork. All of them. They look at the above scenarios and just know that it’s gonna be easy to snatch up that pair of gloves, that scarf or that entire mannequin. The huge crowds, store employees running around with an over load of extra sensory input and the ability to bring any size shopping bag into any store without being suspicious is game time for thieves. This does not give you the right to steal. And so blatantly. I was cleaning up a display when three kids next to me were talking about their strategy to rip off coats. Out loud! No whispering. Just, “Yeah, man, what are they gonna do? I can just take that coat now, you block and I run. Easy.” Really? I’m right here, you moron. Good luck with that GED. I turned around and said in my most polite Timmy voice, “Hey, fellas, can I help you find anything?” They left.
Unfortunately, though, for every one of those kids, there had to be a dozen more at any given time. Unfortunately, with law suits and legal issues, it’s never smart to just outright accuse someone of stealing. You can offer to help then, follow them, ask if they’d like you to hold their merchandise while they shop or get security. Megan worked at a retail store for years where the shoplifting policy was backwards like that. I can’t tell you the name, but they had the same woman come in every week and steal merchandise. They could never confront her or ban her from the store. They had to be polite. Now, put that same woman in any store on Black Friday . . . yeah, ridiculous, right?
You may think theft would be number one on this list. You were wrong. In reality, the people who steal on Black Friday will steal anytime they want. Black Friday just makes it easier for them to do so. However, sloppiness is a universal trait that every consumer has on Black Friday. It’s disgusting. On any normal day – say, May 12th – would you take a coat off a hanger, look at it, decide it’s not for you and just toss it willy nilly onto the floor or on top of the rack or on a small child. NO! you wouldn’t. You’d return it to it’s rightful place and continue looking for an outfit that makes you look less fat.
I came into work at 2:30pm. By that time, the store was an utter disaster. Sweaters, coats, fleeces – nothing was hung up. Clothes were strewn around like a flea market super complex. This isn’t a “dig for your bargain” sale. Even worse, this wasn’t a secret, shifty behavior. I’ve done that once or twice in my life. You know, you get a box of Oreos at the grocery store and realize you really don’t need another pound of creamy goodness covering your manhood. So, you look around, make sure no one is watching, and politely place the box in the soda isle and quietly walk away. No, this was a “I don’t care, I’m an American, I can do what I like” behavior. Or, for the foreigners, it’s an, “I’m a confused foreigner, I don’t get your customs, so I’ll do what I like” behavior.
Consumers blatantly threw coats on the floor in front of me and my fellow employees. At one point, I spent 30 minutes cleaning up one small rack in the corner of the store. I came back 5 munites later – 2 coats where left on it. It wasn’t uncommon for a customer to throw a coat on top of a pile as I was cleaning.
You have to wonder what the thought process is for these people. “Oh, look, a really cool jacket. I like that. I want to put it on . . . wait, what’s this boomerang shaped thing attached to it? It has a hook on it. Is that part of the coat? I don’t like it – ohhhh. It detaches. Where do I put it? Well, the entire floor is shaped like the boomerang shaped thing. Like a square peg in a really large square hole, it must fit. Drop. There. Now to the coat. Oh, darn. I thought it was a black coat. It’s actually white. What do I do with it now? Ummmmm. Oh, there’s a space for it. On top of the rack. Like a small square peg in a large circle hole . . . . there. Now what? Oh, look, a really cool jacket . . . .”
Black Friday is like alcohol for consumers. It impairs reason and disengages the brakes on any social behavior. The difference – probably not getting laid.