Erin Clotfelter

I am a Minneapolis mom to three boys under the age of 3, two recently diagnosed with autism. I blog about autism, motherhood and my life outnumbered by boys at The Slacker Mom.

Black Friday: A Retailer's Perspective

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter under Society Updated: November 23, 2011 - 1:02 PM

For the first time in a long time, I'm actually excited for Thanksgiving.   I'm also very thankful for one thing: this will be the very first big retail holiday that I will not be donning red and khaki in 15 years!

You see, up until January when I started staying home with my boys, I worked for Target.  I worked every Black Friday during my tenure, (minus the one where I was on maternity leave).  

For the last 4 years I was in an overnight position and my team was expected to be there by 8pm on Thanksgiving night.  Because we (most likely) worked the night before Thanksgiving- I'm sure you can do the math and see that there is really not a lot of time for sleeping after work and then enjoying the holiday before it was time to head back in.

This week I've seen a petition floating around asking Gregg Steinhafel to put a stop to the midnight Black Friday opening because employees were having to go in at (gasp!) 11pm!  I can see where people feel it's infringing on people's Thanksgiving, but it's really nothing new.  Opening at 4am or 6am still meant team members were cutting their celebrations short (or sleeping through them altogether) so they could get to work right as the tryptophan was starting to work it's magic on most people.

When you work retail, you give up your holidays.  Like it or lump it, it's part of the deal.  People can talk all they want about work/life balance, but when it comes down to, once you head into the 4th quarter, everything is out the window.  

I remember the first Thanksgiving after my parents separated- I lived in Columbia, Missouri at the time and I wanted to be home with my family for what was no doubt going to be a very difficult holiday.  I was told by my store manager that I was "obviously in the wrong industry" if I thought I could get that day off.  I had been with the company for 7 years at that point.  So, My husband and I made the 20 hour round trip after we got off work that Wednesday night and we were home in time for me to work on Black Friday.

All that said, Black Friday (for the most part) is a fun day to work.  There is a lot of energy- this is the BIG DAY!  This is the day that people with retail in their blood live for.  And frankly, if I have my choice, I'd  much rather be there to see that line wrapping around the store with people in their camp chairs with hot cocoa than coming in later that day to clean up the mess.  That first 10 minutes is like MAGIC!

I just have one request for anyone who plans to be out and about on Black Friday (and this doesn't just apply to those shopping at Target):

Treat the employees with kindness and patience- they are there to help you have a great experience.  

Some things to keep in mind:  There will be a lot of extra help that day so equipment (walkies-talkies etc.) might be spread thin.  I'm not sure if other companies do this, but Target has their HQ team volunteer in the stores on Black Friday.  They might be great at what they do downtown but they are usually a little out of their element in the store- they are still there to help!  And finally, please remember, when you were contemplating that 2nd piece of pie and a nap, many retail employees were kissing their families goodnight and heading out the door to work so that when the doors opened, everything was ready for YOU.

Good luck to all you brave souls!  Shop safe!  I will be enjoying a family Thanksgiving for the first time in ages, gorging on pie and going to sleep without any plans to set foot in a store.  Now, if you want to talk Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday- That's more my speed!

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