Around 3 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving, some of you will be sound asleep with satisfying stomachaches. Others will be crouched in front of an open refrigerator door in their pajamas for a post-midnight snack. Many will be setting up camp outside a Best Buy, anxiously waiting to blow half a paycheck on an over-sized flat screen TV.
But many – too many – will angrily shut off alarm clocks, suck down a pot of coffee and stumble out the door to their jobs at their respective retail stores.
Ask anyone who has worked in retail, and they’ll tell you the day after Thanksgiving can only be described as “Hell on Earth.” It is a superficial, nearly dehumanizing tradition that turns customers into ravenous animals and employees into bitter shadows of who they once were.
Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year and the official start of holiday season shopping, named for a company’s dramatic shift from losing money (“in the red”) to making a profit (“in the black”). Customers go wild over huge sale prices and can save thousands of dollars on holiday gifts.
But the best deals come with a price higher than what you’re saving monetarily: your dignity.
The holidays have become more about presents – and buying those presents for the best possible prices – than anything else. People do not line up in front of stores at 4 o’clock in the morning out of love – they do it for money.
Even if you are doing it in the name of love – shivering outside of a mall, droopy-eyed and still stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner – can’t it wait? You may want to spend your holiday weekend picking through heaps of graphic T-shirts and performance fleece – but the employees do not want to watch you do it, nor do they want to help you find skinny khakis in size 4 short.
“It’s insanity,” said Lori Martin, an Old Navy sales associate in Center City Philadelphia. “Black Friday is going to be hell, but I’m used to [working] it.”
Martin is unable to visit family for Thanksgiving this year. Most of her family lives about three and a half hours from Philadelphia in Towanda, Pa., and she said the trek home isn’t worth it make when she’ll have to report to work the next day.
“I hope [the customers] find exactly what they’re looking for because I don’t get to see my family this Thanksgiving,” Martin said.
Regardless of which holiday one celebrates, it’s bound to be overshadowed by the constant pressure to buy the perfect gift.
Black Friday brings out the worst in all of us. Any excitement about the holidays we used to have as children is long gone, reducing us to fretful bargain-hunters, desperate to purchase as many gifts as possible while spending less cash and less time.
On Black Friday in 2008, a 34-year-old Walmart employee in Valley Stream, N.Y., Jdimytai Damour, died of asphyxiation after being trampled by a stampede of customers that crashed through the glass doors before the store opened at 5 a.m.
There is something very wrong when “door-busters” become literal. The first few hours the day after Thanksgiving should be spent watching Home Alone with a plate of leftovers – not bare-knuckle brawling for $15 denim while associates watch in horror.
Leah Mafrica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.