The high cost of low prices

Retail employees weigh in on working Black Friday

Walkers, biters, lurkers, herds—though this may sound like a description of AMC’s The Walking Dead, it can be more accurately ascribed to Black Friday shoppers.

Retail employees weigh in on working Black Friday

Walkers, biters, lurkers, herds—though this may sound like a description of AMC’s The Walking Dead, it can be more accurately ascribed to Black Friday shoppers.

Miles sanguinetti/VANGUARD STAFf

Fistful of Deals: Every year, millions of shoppers invade retail stores on Black Friday, much to the chagrin—and physical detriment—of retail employees.

This year the retail apocalypse goes down on Friday, Nov. 23. This does not mark the end of the Mayan calendar, though it is a day that retail workers far and wide dread.

Weeks are spent in preparation, setup and advertising. Deals are waved in front of the faces of millions. Stores open earlier and earlier each Thanksgiving to accommodate the droves of shoppers. Though the deals keep consumers’ wallets everywhere a little heavier, there is a cost: the sanity of the people behind the scenes.

Katie Searls, a former employee at a popular clothing store in Clackamas Town Center and a current PSU employee, said that her favorite Black Friday experience was quitting on the day itself.

“I was hired a month before, approximately, and I knew it was for Black Friday,” Searls said. “It was so crazy—I just saw a grown woman and a teen girl fighting over a pair of jeans. So I took my pile of clothes that I had at the counter, rang myself up and left.”

Though it may seem that she left her coworkers high and dry, personal sanity was, in the long run, worth it.

“When my boss called me, I just told him the mall industry makes me uncomfortable and it wasn’t worth being employed by him,” Searls said.

Stacy Durland, a current retail employee at a popular clothing store in the Washington Square mall, has only worked one Black Friday thus far.

“In that 10-hour time span I was stepped on, shoved, almost punched, yelled at, cursed at and practically trampled on,” Durland said. “It’s difficult to explain what it’s like to stand in a crowd of Black Friday shoppers, but it’s almost as if you are standing in a crowd of dead, psychotic, killer zombies who are in a frenzy for bargains rather than human flesh. They will steal, hunt, shove, push small children, topple over handicapped people in wheelchairs and tug-of-war over any bargain they can get their hands on. It’s quite an unpleasant sight to [witness].”

Durland also bore witness to another disgusting display: two grown men fighting outside of the store prior to its opening at midnight on Thanksgiving.

“At my place of employment, on Black Friday, the first however-the-hell-many people in line were given scratch cards that valued anywhere from $10 to $300,” Durland said. “So, naturally, the obnoxious die-hards who would rather spend Thanksgiving camping outside mid-priced retailers than getting fat on turkey and stuffing were…waiting outside.

“Not two minutes before the gate opened, I witnessed two men get into a fistfight over what I thought at the time was…the stupid scratch cards. Security had to remove the men from line, and I later found out that it was a domestic dispute between a woman and two men who were supposedly fighting over her,” Durland said. “Apparently, being first in line at a major retailer on Black Friday just isn’t good enough for some people.”

Though Durland’s experience may not be in line with everybody else’s Black Friday experience, some former employees look forward to not having to work that day this year.

Amanda Rossman, formerly employed at the same establishment as Durland, is excited for Black Friday this year; she doesn’t work, and may shop instead.

“I might actually go shopping this year,” Rossman said. “I can come and go as I please and not have to deal with the shoppers like the last few years. It’s refreshing, you know? To just not have to deal with it.”

The season is rapidly approaching, and instilling a sense of foreboding in retail employees nationwide. Though this day is dreaded, Durland reflects on some “positive” aspects of the biggest shopping day of the year.

“I love being able to say ‘no’ and telling people we are sold out of something…to see the sad, depressed and anguished look[s] on the faces of people as they realize their idiocy [for] shopping on Black Friday and expecting things not to be sold out after the first 10 minutes,” Durland said.

Durland also notes that it’s important to respect the people working on Black Friday. Though shoppers have a choice to be there, the employees do not.

“Every time you harass an employee of any kind [while] shopping on Black Friday, Jesus kills a baby panda,” Durland said.