I'm Working Retail Black Friday — Here's Some Shopping Tips

Facade of Shoppers' Center The Gateway
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Last year, a stampede of crazy people killed a sales associate working on Long Island on Black Friday. This year, fractured foot and all, I’ll be safely stashed behind a heavy, fixed metal sales counter working the register at The North Face, in a fancy White Plains mall called The Westchester. Come say hi!

If you’re heading out this week on a mission, a few things to keep in mind:

1. Pre-shop on-line or using our catalogue first, if possible, to determine the name, size, color and prices on items you want to find fast within a busy and crowded bricks-and-mortar store. If you wander in, as many do, asking for “that jacket, the one with the belt”, we  can’t do much for you. The more detail you can offer, the more quickly and easily we can help.

2. Build in plenty of extra time for finding a parking spot and/or standing in line to pay. Please don’t roll your eyes or sigh or curse or threaten to call corporate if things don’t run perfectly smoothly. We’re dancing as fast as we can.

3. Please, please, please bundle your requests: if you want to see something in black, brown and blue, or two different sizes, ask us once. We’d rather bring them all at once than run and schlep to the stockroom over and over. It’s only once for you, but it’s dozens of times in our long day.

4. Don’t throw tantrums over items we don’t have, whether gift boxes or a certain object you crave. Almost every retailer this year is hedging their bets with much smaller, tighter inventories.

5. Eat, drink, pee. Bring water, energy bars, aspirin, Pepto-Bismol — whatever it takes to keep you relaxed and comfortable. Stay hydrated. Take breaks and sit down. It will significantly improve your stamina and your mood. Ditto for anyone shopping with you.

6. Don’t freak out or take it personally if we’re watching you more closely. Shoplifters love Black Friday and holiday shopping — lots of crowds and, ideally for them, distracted associates. We have to keep a close eye on everyone. It’s our job.

7. Say thank you and please to the people trying to help you. Really. We know you don’t have to, but it makes the day a lot easier and so much more pleasant for everyone.

8. If at all possible, leave the kids at home, especially smaller ones who get bored, noisy and run all over the store, worrying us, if not you.

9. The store is actually not a garbage can. It’s not like going to the movies, no matter how entertaining — so do not dump your half-eaten pretzels and cookies on the floor or your loose-lidded soda cups filled with sticky fluids high on a shelf where someone is going to knock it all over the clothing/items.

10. If you are truly getting nowhere with an associate ask, nicely, to speak to the manager. Don’t abuse the help. In most instances, no matter how bad it can get, many of us are really trying our best to help you.

11. Get off your cellphone/Blackberry while we’re cashing you out or speaking to you. It’s rude, slows everyone down and makes it difficult for us to communicate with you in order to accurately and quickly fill your needs.

12. Have fun! Shopping can indeed be an exhausting and overwhelming ordeal. Remember it’s a great blessing if you still have the health, strength, mobility and income to even head into a store these days.

8 thoughts on “I'm Working Retail Black Friday — Here's Some Shopping Tips

  1. My husband works in a restaurant on the Upper East Side, and he tells me about people chatting on their phones *while* they order a meal, send back perfectly good wine, expect free food for the smallest mistake – etc. I find it shocking.

    These tips are great, but the same shock applies: number 9 and 11? Yikes. I can’t wait to NOT go shopping on Friday. I hope you get more of the 12’s this year…

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    I would be shocked by people’s behavior – but after two years of this ^%$$#@! am not. I have to wash my hands a lot after picking up people’s half-eaten food off the floor. We’re basically seen as another set of personal servants.

    The irony is that our mall shoppers are some the of nation’s wealthiest and should really, after all that Ivy League polishing, have figured out better manners, as in No. 9.

    Everyone does No. 11 now. It is extremely irritating and narcissistic. It’s the equivalent of a baby covering its eyes to make you disappear. Not.

    1. Love this list, Caitlin.

      As a corollary to #10: Don’t bitch in a nasty tone about the prices to the cashier. I hate when people address questions to me as if I have any control over such things. Talk to corporate, or better still: shop somewhere else. No one’s holding a gun to your head.

      And while I do hate cleaning up after adults with infant’s manners, I almost hate it worse when they’re too lazy to look for a trash can and hand me their garbage to throw away. Yuck.

      As a general rule, remember that salespeople are, well, people. Don’t treat them like they’re animals whose only purpose in life is to please you. As the Southernism goes, “Act like you got good sense.”

      Working in retail is the quickest way to lose faith in the American public. The level of entitlement, ignorance, and outright cruelty on display every day is jaw-dropping.

  3. solfish

    Freaking North Face. I remember when they sold practical, if overpriced gear to backpackers. Now every other annoying yuppie is wearing a $150 fleece.

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    Joseph, you have totally described it. Just got home — all sweaty and tired — having had someone describe me tonight to a coworker as “rude” after I told her we didn’t have another paid of gloves in her size. Yeah, well…

    The only saving grace, and it is one, are the lovely customers, and I had one of those tonight as well.

  5. fleetlee

    I thought this sounded familiar Caitlin- I saw you article on “The Last Page” of the December Smithsonian about “Shopping Maul” and loved reading about your exploits as the “former saber fencer” working on Black Friday and the analogy to “The Birds”. Hope you get lots of new material Friday!

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