I worked Black Friday for years and people were animals

I worked Black Friday for years and people were animals
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  • Rajean Blomquist, 58, took a job in a retail store over the festive period after being a stay-at-home mom.
  • Blomquist had never worked in a retail store, and she quickly realized how labor intensive it was.
  • She said on Black Friday in particular, it felt like shoppers stopped showing any sort of label.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Rajean Blomquist, 58, a public relations professional who, after being a stay-at-home mom, took a job at a retail store over the holiday season. It has been edited for length and clarity.

In 2005, I interrupted my career as a public relations professional to become a stay-at-home mother. But in 2007, after having my fourth child, I wanted to interact with adults.

I wanted to go back to work, part-time, and heard about a vacancy over the holiday season at a local Eddie Bauer outlet.

When I started at Eddie Bauer, I had never worked in a retail store before.

I worked at a fast food restaurant, was an Avon salesperson for many years, and worked with different types of people throughout my career in public relations.

I went into the store to ask about vacancies and met the manager there. They hired me within 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 started I was making less than $10 an hour. The work was exhausting. I had to restock items and climb ladders in the back room to grab heavy stacks of 15-20 jeans. When I came home from those shifts, my whole body ached.

I worked at the store for years. Most of my experience working there was enjoyable because I enjoyed interacting with constant customers.

For 2 months before Black Friday, work at the store was uninterrupted

One thing that always bothered me about retail was having to work during the holiday season. Having to be there for work from before Black Friday until after New Years Day negated the ability to travel during the holiday season, and I missed spending time with my family.

We had boxes of new merchandise delivered daily, 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 the boxes, then from the pick up of the boxes at the back of the store. I was going through 10 to 15 boxes per hour.

This job took up most of my day and I didn’t get to interact with many clients, which was the #1 reason I was in this position.

In addition to handling the organization of the back office, Eddie Bauer was precise about the appearance of the stores, especially during the holiday season. They wanted everything to be clean, all the time, from windows to doors. I had to clean the door several times during the shift.

You deal with a range of customers on Black Friday

Often we had a line outside the store on Black Friday. It’s usually a family shopping party, which means the store saw a lot of kids that day, even though we didn’t sell clothes to them.

I am a mother of four children, so I have patience for young children. However, when you spend an hour folding shirts on a table and a child messes it up in seconds, it can be annoying having to go back and redo all the hard work you just finished.

Black Friday felt like some shoppers stopped showing any form of etiquette

For the most part, the buyers were in good spirits. However, there were always a select few who were just rude and acted like they’d rather be anywhere but shop in the store – despite being there, looking for the best deals.

For example, if there was a line at the checkout, you would hear them standing there, huffing and huffing, saying things like, “Is this line ever going to move? What are you do? Less chatter! Just call people.”

Some people just didn’t have the patience. It always made me wonder why they shop on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. When this happened, I looked away or just smiled. The store is no place to get into an altercation.

Sometimes an occasional customer would leave the locker room in a mess. But Black Friday was even worse. I was going to clean the locker rooms, and not only was there a pile of clothes on the floor, but people were leaving their fast food bags, dirty diapers, and because we were a dog-friendly store, sometimes even pee and poop.

Over the years, Black Friday has started earlier and earlier

My first year, the store opened at midnight. A few years later, it opened at 7 p.m.

I would be at home cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family. Then I would barely be able to sit down and enjoy a bite of it before I had to go to work in retail. It was something I never got used to or didn’t feel good about.

I’m not opposed to retailers opening 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’ve been offering some great deals on Black Friday, ranging from 50% off to buy two get one free deals. But even so, it may not be in your best interest to shop in stores during the holidays.

Not only do you have to deal with queues and shorter tempers from other shoppers, but you can often find similar deals online without having to navigate the chaos.

Although I’ve seen and done a lot after working for nearly a decade in retail on Black Friday, I can say with confidence that I never will again – unless, of course, I own the store.


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