The original version of this op-ed published in the Journal Inquirer Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012
by Kristen J. Tsetsi
I’ve participated in one Black Friday event, the shoppers’ frenzy often – and aptly – compared to Spain’s running of the bulls. It was years ago, when I was married to my former husband. His sister participated every year, and that year she wanted me to join in on the fun.
Even though it was more than a decade ago, I can still remember the suffocating pressure of simply waiting outside. The jostling and jolting. The unrelenting bodies in puffy coats pushing against me from every angle, squeezing and shoving slowly and deliberately toward the entrance.
Never mind that the store wouldn’t open for another 20 minutes.
The moment the large glass panels slid open and the store’s warm air washed over us, thawing our burning cheeks and frozen nose hairs (did I mention this was in North Dakota?), I realized using my feet to take me inside was almost unnecessary. The entire crowd rolled forward as one entity, like hundreds of baby wolf spiders on their mother’s back moving in unison and creating a single undulation. It was as enthralling as it was frightening.
Once inside, I heard my sister in-law shouting my name and calling, “Over here! Get a cart!”
From then until the time we left with our cart piled high with lots and lots of things, it was a series of wild dashes down the aisles and past store employees trying to direct customers and field questions, each of our dashes fueled by the hope that we weren’t the last of the frenzied sale-seekers to make it to X or Y item before none were left.
On the way to the car, when we could finally walk without looking left and right to avoid cart collisions, she said, “Wasn’t that fun?”
Because it was a holiday, and because she was my in-law, I said, “Sure!”
Now, I don’t doubt that Black Friday is equally fun for employees. Watching the eager stampede — so eager, in fact, that one of the 2008 throngs actually trampled and killed a store worker — has to be thrilling. So thrilling, in fact, that I’m willing to bet retail workers were overcome with joy when they learned they would get to experience it this year on Thanksgiving Day, and just hours after eating dinner.
Dear retail employees working on Thanksgiving Day Black Friday,
This year, instead of waiting around until 11 p.m. to go to work for the midnight Black Friday opening, which itself had to be a morale-boosting development when it was introduced last year, you only have to wait four hours, or so, before putting on your work clothes and heading in. I know how this must add to your job satisfaction, how much more dedicated to your work, your supervisors, and the company you’ll be as a result of their loud-and-clear expression of respect for you.
After all, going in earlier on Thanksgiving Day means far less time wasted on friends and relatives you probably haven’t seen, let’s face it, since last year. There’s only so much catching up and lounging around a person can stand, and we, the consumer public, are more than happy to provide you with an escape from a home that’s probably permeated with the unsavory odor of yams, dressing, and a slow-roasted turkey, and stuffed with people who will probably only be around for a few days.
A word of advice, though: make sure you tell your family and friends that no matter what time anyone is accustomed to eating (some people tend to to take their time, force down a few cocktails, suffer through the whole “catching up” thing), you must all eat fairly early. The earlier you eat, the more time you have to shower and change before work to get all the “Thanksgiving” off of you. You don’t want to be distracted from the attention you’re, I would guess, looking forward to devoting to hundreds of customers who want TVs and cameras, and who want them right now because little elves might steal them if the stores don’t open until midnight. (The shelves would most certainly be stripped bare if stores waited until early morning Friday, say 5 a.m., to open.)
Retail employees, I celebrate with you, in spirit, this new opportunity you’ve been given to serve not only your demanding public, but your empathetic employers. I trust that you look forward to many more years of being the face of a company that demonstrates such overwhelming holiday spirit.
Also worthy of celebration is this momentous new sale initiative that allows us to behave like a pack of frantic, wild bulls earlier than ever before. After all, if we want to take advantage of the low, low prices, we kind of have to go in on Thanksgiving Day, just like you.