Black Friday From the Front Line

A first-hand account of Black Friday chaos

Ronnie Yaacoub survived Black Friday as an employee. Photo courtesy of Zeke Estes

In addition to his job at The VanCougar, the reporter works at a large retail store in Vancouver. What follows is an account of events at the un-named business on Thanksgiving night.

4 p.m. – Thanksgiving Day

I stood outside the store, waiting for someone to come open the door for me. It was about 48 degrees outside;, the air was dry and there was a slight breeze. I looked to the right of me to see that there was a line forming. Four customers were eagerly waiting for the store to open at 6 o’clock. I asked the one in front how long he had been waiting. With a grin on his face he announced that he had been waiting since noon. I felt a bit uneasy about that. What could he be waiting for that requires him to wait in line three hours? I hope that we do not disappoint him, because I honestly feel like he is wasting his time.

After five minutes, my manager came to open the door for me. “Happy Thanksgiving!” he said. I realized that I felt at least ten pounds more than I was in the morning. We had Thanksgiving lunch and I had eaten like a hippopotamus. I felt like one too. As I walked into the store, my belly felt strangely out of place and I could feel every step I took. I really wanted to hibernate for a few hours, but unfortunately, I am in college, I am in debt and I need a fat paycheck for Christmas gifts. My manager walked me into the store office, where I signed in and he assigned me a bucket of signs to put up around the store—an easy job, for a human being. However, I was a hippo, so this would be difficult.

6 p.m. – Doors Open

I finished putting up the signs and felt less like a hippo and more like a bear—not like a real bear though—more like a lazy bear like Winnie the Pooh. I was still heavy and pretty lethargic. My manager was just finishing up a speech to us before we opened the doors. I looked over to my right and one of my coworkers nodded to me and said “You ready?”. To which I replied, “I think so…”

I worked the same shift last year, and it went smoothly, but I was a cashier taking care of the people leaving, not the people screaming.

My manager put all of the employees into two lines to create a narrow path for the customers. We opened the doors and began clapping and cheering for the customers. This tactic makes it awkward for the customers so they don’t run or make eye contact. In fact, they slowly walked in single file with their heads down, like prisoners.

My manager then yelled, “Electronics Team Go!” which was my team’s cue to make a hail mary to the back of the store in electronics. I began to jog to the back.

6:01 p.m. – My First Contact

As I began to walk past clothing, I saw a mother carrying her baby. She only looked about 5-feet 4 inches tall, but she still seemed potentially hostile. She looked over at me and screamed, “Where the F— are the carts!”

I replied, “Mam, they are behind you.” She did not respond, but turned around and headed towards the carts. As she was walking, I saw the baby’s face and chin resting on the mother’s shoulder.

Innocence.

I thought to myself, “Baby, I hope God has a good plan for you, because you are in the hands of a monster.”

6:05 p.m. – Arriving to base

I made it to electronics, no customers were in line, all were cluttered around our electronics desk making demands, and asking questions.

My coworker looked at me and said in a panicked tone, “We are going to need assistance! No one knows what’s going on!”

I replied, “I’ll call for help.” I took my walkie and in a demanding manner said, “We are going to need backup in electronics from a manager or team leader!”

No response.

I repeated, “We need assistance from a manager in electronics!”

At this point my manager responds. “I’m on my way.”

6:30 p.m. – Saying No

At this point most of our high priority doorbuster items were sold. The Studio Beats, the big Barbie packs and our Westinghouse tv’s were all out.

The worst part about is saying no to people. They had just finished eating Thanksgiving dinner, so they had to lug their heavy bodies over to the store, and jostle through the crowd. There they had to hear me to tell them with a smile, “Sorry sir, we ran out of that ten minutes ago, but here’s what we do have.” I’d then show them a bunch of lower tier brands that they are obviously not interested in whatsoever. Many took it well, but some would curse to themselves about it. Many would ask if it was in the back. For high priority items, like Beats, we keep none in the back so that we could sell them all in one night. However, many persisted. “Please can you just check.”

I had to make trips to the back just to see that there is STILL nothing there. Confirming the item wasn’t in the back usually led to frustration from the customer and sometimes even more cursing.

11 p.m. – The chaos lessens

The cursing ended around 11 at night. At that point most customers were buzzed or thought we did not open until midnight. We ran out of all of our doorbuster items, so the last hour was mostly explaining to people why our store didn’t carry them anymore. There was hardly any frustration, because people were either too tired or drunk to complain. We also began to prepare the store for the next day, even though we knew it wouldn’t be as profitable.  All of our Beats headphones were gone, the budget TVs were cleaned out and the store was a mess.

Next day – The calm after the storm

The next day, Black Friday, was actually much more mellow than the night before. We did not have the high priority items in stock, but not very many people were asking about them either. Many were asking about the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X, however our store was not even carrying those items. The day consisted of selling many of the low priority items, cleaning up from the night before and finding out which items were stolen or misplaced.

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