I worked Black Friday for years, and some people were animals. It's not always the best day for deals, either.
- Rajean Blomquist, 58, took a job working at a retail store during the holiday season after being a stay-at-home mom.
- Blomquist had never worked in a retail store, and she quickly learned how labor-intensive it was.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Rajean Blomquist, 58, a PR professional who, after being a stay-at-home mom, took a job working at a retail store during the holiday season. It has been edited for length and clarity.
In 2005, I paused my career as a public relations professional to be a stay-at-home mom. But in 2007, after having my fourth child, I found myself craving interactions with adults.
I wanted to go back to work again, part-time, and heard about an open position during the holiday season at a local Eddie Bauer retail outlet.
When I started at Eddie Bauer, I'd never worked at a retail store before
I had worked at a fast food restaurant, was an Avon salesperson for many years, and had experience working with all different types of people through my career in public relations.
I went into the store to ask about open positions, and I met with the manager on the spot. They hired me within a few days, and after a brief training period, I started working in the store as a retail associate. It was just a few weeks before the holiday rush.
I never realized how labor-intensive working in retail would be
My shifts were four to six hours, and when I first started, I was making less than $10 an hour. The job was exhausting. I had to restock items and shimmy up ladders in the backroom to grab heavy stacks of 15 to 20 jeans. When I got home from these shifts, my whole body hurt.
I worked at the store for years. Most of my experience working there was enjoyable because I loved interacting with constant customers.
For 2 months leading up to Black Friday, the work at the store was nonstop
One thing that always bothered me about retail was having to work during the holiday season. Having to be around to work from before Black Friday until after New Year's Day negated the ability to travel during the holiday season, and I missed out on spending time with my family.
We'd get daily boxes of new merchandise delivered, and I was responsible for unpacking the boxes, taking inventory in the back room, unpacking each item (which was wrapped in plastic), breaking down all of the boxes, and then taking the boxes out to the back of the store. I'd go through 10 to 15 boxes an hour.
This work took up most of my day, and I didn't get to interact with many customers, which was the No. 1 reason I was working this job.
In addition to dealing with keeping the back room organized, Eddie Bauer was specific about how the stores looked, especially during the holiday season. They wanted everything to be clean, at all times, from the windows to the doors. I'd have to clean the door multiple times during the shift.
You deal with a range of customers on Black Friday
Oftentimes, we had a line outside the store on Black Friday. It's usually a family shopping holiday, which meant the store saw a lot of kids that day, even though we didn't sell any clothes for them.
I'm a mom of four, so I have patience for young children. However, when you spend an hour folding shirts on a table, and a kid messes it all up in just a few seconds, it can get annoying to have to go back and redo all the hard work you just finished.
On Black Friday, it felt like some shoppers stopped showing any kind of etiquette
For the most part, shoppers were in a good mood. There were, however, always a select few who were just rude and acted like they would rather be anywhere but shopping in the store — despite being there, hunting for the best deals.
For example, if there was a line to check-out, you'd hear them standing there huffing and puffing, saying things like: "Is this line ever going to move? What are you doing? Less chit chat! Just ring people up."
Some people just didn't have patience. It always made me wonder why they were shopping on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. When this would happen, I'd look the other way or just smile. The store is no place to get into an altercation.
Sometimes, an occasional customer would leave the dressing room a mess. But on Black Friday, it was extra bad. I'd go clean out the dressing rooms, and not only would there be a pile of clothes on the floor, but people would leave their fast food bags, dirty soiled diapers, and because we were a dog-friendly store, sometimes even pee and poop.
Over the years, Black Friday started earlier and earlier
My first year, the store opened at midnight. A few years later, it opened at 7 p.m.
I'd be at home, preparing the Thanksgiving meal for my family. Then I'd barely be able to sit down and enjoy a bite of it before having to go work my retail job. This was something I never got used to or felt OK about.
I'm not opposed to retailers opening up at midnight on Black Friday, but I don't think it's appropriate, or even family friendly, for stores to open in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner.
Black Friday doesn't always have the best deals
We offered some pretty great deals on Black Friday, from 50% off to buy-two-get-one-free promotions. But even so, it might not be in your best interest to shop in-store on the holiday.
Not only do you have to deal with lines and shorter tempers from fellow shoppers, but you can often find similar deals online without having to navigate the chaos.
While I saw a lot, and did a lot, after working Black Friday in retail for almost a decade, I can confidently say I'd never do it again — unless, of course, I owned the store.
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