Behind the scenes of working Black Friday

by Megan Quick

With November comes Thanksgiving, with Thanksgiving comes Black Friday and with Black Friday comes one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

For sophomore Britney Steele this isn’t the case. With her Black Friday comes a long shift of retail chaos.

“When the gates open at midnight, seeing the insane amount of people swarm in and fill the mall…there’s nothing else like it,” Steele said.

This will be Steele’s fourth year in a row attending Black Friday, as an employee. She previously worked at Buckle for three years, a clothing store in Jordan Creek Mall.

Come this year, Steele will still be found at Jordan Creek, this time in Scheels Sporting Goods store. Steele has been a staff member in the women’s department for about three months now.

“People flood in as soon as the doors open and can be rude about it, but I have to remember I would probably be one of them if I could be,” Steele said.

Before joining the retail industry, Black Friday was something Steele looked forward to participating in.

“Part of me wishes I could go with my family and enjoy the shopping, but after four years I’ve accepted the fact that I have to work.” she said.

“For many people who work in retail, I think they dread Black Friday,” Steele said. “I don’t mind because as a shopper, I appreciate Black Friday and understand the excitement.”

Unlike most, Steele dreads the night because she wishes she could be one of the many out finding bargains; not because of the hours or a general dislike of the holiday.

“It’s different for me now because I live my Black Friday experience through the costumers and by helping them get the best out of their night,” Steele said.

This year the atmosphere of Black Friday will be different for Steele, with Scheels and Buckle differing in multiple ways.

Scheels is a much bigger store than Buckle, which means shoppers and employees won’t be as crammed as Steele is used to.

“I feel like there’s two different types of customers, so my experience will be different,” Steele said. “I think more people will be going to Scheels with an idea of what they’re getting. People will come in just to look too but it won’t be as noticeable as Buckle because there’s more space.”

During her Buckle Black Fridays, customers were always knocking jeans over and throwing unfolded shirts wherever they pleased.

Another change comes with the fact of shoppers recognizing her as a staff member. With the dress code at Buckle consisting of wearing the store’s items, some shoppers thought she was just another one of them.

Scheels requires a distinct uniform, which allows for easier recognition than Buckle.

On Black Friday there will be an larger amount of those uniforms walking around as Scheels schedules an increasing amount of employees for the busy night.

Buckle also increases their staff size as well as, changing up the typical process. On a normal day customers enter the store and each member of the sales staff help with specific shoppers. Employees are paid on commission, so the particular sales member is with their customer from start to finish. They are of assistance with browsing, fitting rooms and they continue to personally ring them up themselves.

This all changes on Black Friday.

“They hired a non-sales staff to go around and pick up the store so the rest of us could focus on selling and getting the product out the door,” Steele said.

One specific employee is in charge of the fitting rooms, instead of the salesperson usually getting the fitting room on their own.

“There’s a dressing room list,” Steele said. “Someone is in charge of dressing rooms and we tell them our customer’s name and they add it to the list. We are informed when our customer is up next.”

The last and final step works the same way. Ringers are hired so salespeople don’t have to fight over registers and wait in line to ring each of their customers up. They give customers a card with their number on it. The ringers receive the cards from shoppers and then know who earns the commission for each sale.

“We also did a potluck among employees so we wouldn’t have to take a break to go eat,” Steele said. “We just go in the back and grab something real fast and then get back on the floor to sell.”

Working in retail for Steele means making sacrifices: nights and weekends, giving up family time and shopping and adjusting to the odd shift hours.

“It’s mentally exhausting going nonstop on your feet and continuously talking to people for a long shift,” Steele said.

The upside is the money earned and knowing she has been a help to customers.

“I’m looking forward to working because it really kicks off the holiday shopping,” Steele said. “I love helping holiday shoppers, because it’s fun to make people’s Christmas shopping experience a little better.”

After Black Friday comes a steady stream of holiday shoppers, followed by holiday returns and exchanges after the season is over.

Although the idea of Black Friday shopping thrills Steele, that’s not always the case for everyone.

Senior Jordan Sundblad would rather not spend her evening looking for the best deals.

“I’m kind of glad I don’t go shopping that day, just because I don’t do well in busy environments,” Sundblad said. “I’ve never shopped on Black Friday, just worked it. I feel like you can’t get what you want and you wait in line forever. To me it’s not worth it.”

Even though she hasn’t been a shopper, she has been on the other side of the experience. Sundblad has been an employee at Victoria’s Secret in Jordan Creek for a little over a year now.

With this being her first retail job she has the experience of working one Black Friday under her belt.

“It was very busy,” Sundblad said. “The lines were really long the whole time. They would snake through the store. It was nonstop.”

Nonstop for Sundblad means continuously checking customers out since she worked the registers in the store.

“It’s very crazy,” Sundblad said. “I always knew Black Friday shopping was busy, I guess I just never really knew how busy.”

For Sundblad, the busy day has its positives and negatives. The fact that it’s busy makes her day go by faster but also makes for a long day as well.

“Since it was busy, it made the day go by fast, which is nice,” Sundblad said. “You get to see how things run in a busy environment but people aren’t always necessarily friendly.”

Victoria’s Secret makes sure they inform all their employees on what to do to prepare for the long day ahead.

“We had a meeting for the whole staff and they made a big deal about having water with us and being hydrated; and making sure we get enough sleep before, to physically prepare for it,” Sundblad said.

The store schedules more staff for the big day and makes sure they have plenty of items in stock. Other ways they promote the store is through sale items and huge deals, as well as having a box of candy to hand out to customers while they wait in long register lines.

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