It’s probably getting out of hand, honestly. I actually love shopping doorbusters, but being on the other side has soured me on all things retail, and while going to stores at 4 or 5 am is crazy but fun, midnight is taking things too far. That’s when the Freehold Raceway Mall opened this year, and at this rate it’s on its way to being Black Thursday. Let’s get things in perspective, people. Unfortunately, we retail slaves have to work this hallowed day, and with 24 straight business hours, you’re bound to come out with some stories…
The Banana paid to have a security guard specifically for our store, who was aces. When my friend Rachel and I arrived at 11:30 and knocked on the door, he mouthed “We’re not open.” WE WORK HERE. His wits were no more apparent later in the day, with his headphones in throughout and an unwillingness to walk across the room to check the beeping sensors at the other door. Working hard or hardly working, amirite?
Once we actually made it in to work, the adrenaline set in. With teenagers mulling the halls like some massive Applebee’s, you could tell this wasn’t going to be the sleepy opening we’d hoped for. Rachel, Nik, and I made a caffeine run for coffees and sodas and energy drinks. I chugged my first Red Bull tallboy before midnight, and must surely have seemed to those first customers as a meth addict or crackhead, albeit an extremely friendly one.
Speaking of caffeine, the hot topic of the morning turned out to be food and beverages. The company provides the cash for food to be brought in for us haggard employees, to spare us having to brave the crowds for a bite on this crazy day. It’s like the one nice thing they do, or at least that’s the idea. When we arrived for the midnight shift, all there was for us were a couple boxes of Entenmanns donuts. Fine. Whatever. Since the opening manager was the youngest and least experienced (in itself an awesome idea), I can forgive that he didn’t pass an open Dunkin’ on his way in. Most of us were unphased by the whole thing; I don’t even drink coffee so I didn’t really mind, and we were all just keeping our energy and spirits up, so none of that really mattered. It wasn’t until later in the morning, as the 5 and 6 and 7 am-ers started arriving, that emotions got riled up and we realized we got royally jipped. Longtime Gap-Inc-veteran Jenn was outraged and reemed out our General Manager, Jeff, who came in at 4. As recounted to me, it seems to have gone like this:
Jenn: That is not right; so there was no food or coffee for the kids who came in at midnight?
Jeff: I was going to bring in coffee, but the Dunkin’ Donuts was closed.
[sidenote: He lives in Princeton. There is no DD between Princeton and Freehold open 24 hours? Bull. Calling it.]
Jenn: That is ridiculous. Well it’s dead now, why don’t you send someone out for it?
Jeff: Well I can’t leave the store now!
Jenn: I didn’t say you. Send one of the kids!
Jeff: Kim is going to bring in coffee when she comes in at 10.
[all of the midnighters’ shifts ended at 9. FML.]
As you can guess, that story ended with nobody getting us anything. The other half of this situation was that there were going to be subs for everyone… but they were getting delivered at 11, which none of us learned until we showed up to work. So, the food that was guaranteed would be there well after we left, and none of us were given notice of that to bring our own food. By the time everyone else started flooding in and asking why there was no coffee for them, all of this plus the exhaustion equalled a few irate employees. Sample exchange:
6 am shift chick: There’s no coffee? [yaaaaawn]
Midnight shift chick: No. We had to get our own. [deathglare]
By the time we all left, Rachel, who stayed until noon, was declaring that if she saw Kim bring in coffee at 10 am she was going to lose her shit. However, I think Robin summed it up best when we walked out together at 9 am: “I hope they choke on their free sandwiches.”
Since no one provided any food for me, I had to hunt and gather some Wendy’s for myself. While in line (at 5 am!) I chatted with my coworker Nik and a random employee from American Eagle. Some things to keep in mind here: I had been up for 19 hours already; I had chugged a Red Bull and was currently crashing; Nik is like 7 feet tall, and this girl seemed to be 4 foot nothing, so I felt oddly off-kilter, like I was talking to the World’s Tallest Man and World’s Shortest Woman in a sideshow; I was very hungry. All that in mind, when the cashier said “next,” I stopped mid-sentence and lunged at her, barking my order for nuggets and fries before Nik could say, “You just totally cut her!” Oh. My. God. I totally cut this poor girl, and profusely apologized, but at this point I had already ordered and could not undo the damage. I felt like a massive jerk, but she took it in stride, and whatever. If the roles had been reversed, she would have KNOWN she was cutting me, and it wouldn’t have flown, so as I see it she learned a valuable lesson that day. And as far as Black Friday goes, I’m sure it’s not the worst thing anyone did to her all day.
Back in the Banana Republic break room chowing down on my hard-earned Wendy’s, me and Nik were like zombies when Brandon wandered in and started chattering at us. He made the idle chitchat, and then abruptly turned to me with this nonsequitur: “Oh, and my girlfriend and I worked it out. I went up there and talked to her, and it’s all good now.” He had regaled me with the tale of his girlfriend troubles, unbidden, days before. I responded the same way I would if any of my friends said this to me in the middle of a different conversation: “Oh, COOL, ’cause I was really worried about that.” As Nik observed, I was really on a bitch roll. Oops.
Later, as that break wound down and I was watching Boy Meets World alone, everyone decided to have a five-person conversation three feet from me about the amount of business we wanted to do that day, and how many credit card apps we had in, and “what we’re up against,” to which I declared somewhat loudly, “You guys are kind of ruining my break. Does this conversation have to be here?” But otherwise, I swear, I was shockingly friendly this day!
I still think that at our holiday meeting we should have had a Festivus-style “Airing of Grievances,” but if we want to do it now I would point out that the group that closed the store Wednesday, led by our fearless leader, prepared our midnight crew for Black Friday by leaving hangers under all the register, junk strewn across the cashwrap, almost-empty paper in multiple registers, and unfolded piles of clothes everywhere. This is how we prepare for the biggest shopping day of the year. Bitchin’.
Despite these issues, Black Friday was mostly a blast. The crew that opened was hands down the best people that work there, and it showed. Around 12:30, Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” came on, was quickly turned up, and promted spontaneous cashier-dancing, which I believe the customers enjoyed from people who were working straight through the night. I know we did.
Around 3ish, as things slowed down between the late-night shoppers and early-morning shoppers, Rachel and I were cleaning up a bit. As we folded sweaters, she nonchalantly noted, “There’s a shirtless guy in room 3.” I turned around to see it was true: the store had gone full-on Abercrombie, and this guy was just trying on shirts half-naked in the back. She bid me to go offer him a fitting room, but there was no way I was getting involved in that. He went on stripping.
Somebody asked Nik if there were any additional coupons. “On top of the 40% off everything? NO.” He mentioned this numerous times throughout the day, in awe of the gall/stupidity, but I can only laugh. It’s never enough!
Around 6 we saw the sun rise through the windows. After working six hours already. Weird. At 7 I told a customer to have a great night. Oops. We all started unraveling around then. The rest is a blur. I swear, despite the diatribe on the food debacle, it was a good time. Shocking but true, working through the night with a mob of shoppers might have been the best time I’ve ever had at the Banana.