[ADVENTURES IN RETAILING] Greedy Thursday & Black Friday

For a bit now, I’ve been wanting to do a series of posts called Adventures in Retailing, in which I, a retail employee, talk about my experiences with retail. I won’t be writing these everyday. Just on the days I feel like they’re necessary or I feel like it. Some of the posts will be just regular old blog entries about my day, while others may summarize a frequent experience I have.

My goal is to shed some light on working in retail to those who have never worked in retail before. I hope it makes some of you feel bad. My other goal is to entertain those who either have worked in retail before or have family members who work in retail and regularly hear complaints about it. I’m hoping there will be a laugh or two out of you!

I work for retail giant, Walmart, which I have stated before in another post. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of Walmart in the first place. However, I am very thankful Walmart gave me a call and hired me, giving me a chance to work. I hope in the future I can work my way up the ranks and understand the inner workings of retail even more.

I know this post is a bit late – frankly, I’ve been too lazy and distracted to write it – but I wanted to tell you all about the adventure that was Greedy Thursday. Okay, a bit of Black Friday too. Mostly Greedy Thursday though.

It was 2:33 PM on Thanksgiving when I clocked into work. It was pleasantly empty throughout the store, presumably because most people were getting ready for a or having a Thanksgiving dinner. Thursdays are usually when the store becomes a lot busier, so having a Thursday that was so quiet and empty was pleasant. It was definitely the kind of day you could lounge around work and socialize without having to feel guilty due to the rather long periods of no customers.

I think I might have been on register 8 or 9 in the start of my work day. I talked a bit with the other cashiers, cleaned up my cash register, and attempted to put away a bunch of impulse items (those items you see at the registers that most people probably buy at an impulse, hence the name, harharhar) that I was asked to do, but kind of failed due to most of the items not even being on the shelves. I only managed to put some chapstick away, since it was easy enough to refill them and I didn’t have to walk all the way down to the other end of the register area to do it.

As I attempt to put items away and walked from register to register, I noticed one odd thing about the store: it felt clean. Usually the Walmart I work at doesn’t feel clean, even if the store itself is physically clean. When you walk into my store on any other day, you can feel the negativity floating around, leaving behind a trail of hatred, anger, tiredness, arrogance, and annoyance. However, on Thanksgiving, all that was gone. The air itself felt so much lighter than usual. It felt like somebody took their time to scrape off all the negativity from the store, leaving behind something far more light in comparison. I couldn’t help but smile at how much cleaner it was.

The cashiers I was talking with pointed out the emptiness of the store, much like I had noticed earlier, and stated most people were coming in around 4 PM. It probably should have occurred to me that Black Friday started on Thanksgiving for Walmart right then, but it didn’t.

You see, I don’t like going out very much. If I don’t have to go out or I’m not withering to go out, I won’t. That being said, I wasn’t aware retail sometimes started Black Friday on Thanksgiving. I also wasn’t aware people were crazy enough to actually get deals on Thanksgiving.

Around 4 PM, I was sent over to Self Checkout, which I was more than happy to do since I really like being over there. Soon enough, numerous other cashiers – primarily my work friends – were sent over there too. Once there was 8 cashiers (eventually 9, but that wasn’t until a bit later) over there, we were given our assignments: to ring out the customers at self checkout instead of letting them do it. We were to put the machines into Attendant Mode, which turned off all the “bells and whistles” to give us a hint if somebody was going to try and steal something. We were told to read the notebooks about what to do and how to do it that were at each self check out station, which is what we all did. Turns out the only thing we didn’t already know was how to put the machine into Attendant Mode (which kicked us out after 3 minutes of inactivity).

As the time inched closer to 6 PM, the store slowly and strangely enough, quietly, filled up. I watched people pour through the doors with carts, almost one by one (probably because outside had metal fences that you often see at concerts). People seemed quiet for the most part, with only a slight murmur every so often. Talk was more of a humming noise than words. I almost didn’t even notice how many people were suddenly in the store until they had people line up in the food aisles (which are in front of the registers) to wait until our cash registers reopened at 6.

Looking around, I noticed the number of staff was much higher than usual. There were MANY people I had never seen before by the door to check the receipts of leaving customers. All but the broken cash registers were open (which is about twice as much as we usually have open).

There was an air of excitement and anticipation throughout the store. It was so different from how it usually is. Usually you can tell nobody really wanted to be at Walmart. However, today, people wanted to be there. There was smiling, talking, and cheering from the other cashiers. The managers seemed a bit stressed out, but stressed out in such a way that didn’t want to make them pull out their hair. They seemed like they were hoping that everything would go as planned.

I really wish I could have taken pictures of the scene of the store doing its final touches of getting ready for the large rush of customers. They took some caution tape and made two big “X”s between self check out and the last food aisle to prevent people from cutting through the front line and make one, big, chaotic mess. It made me really excited to look at because you knew that this was going to be big and they clearly knew what they were doing. Normally, I think part of the staff is a bit incompetent (I’m incompetent too in numerous areas – don’t give me change after I open the cash drawer, I won’t accept it), but today was an exception.

At some point I had to go assist one of the managers with picking up some spilled pickles. Somebody knocked it over and we didn’t want anybody to slip and get hurt. I was asked to go get some paper towels and a dust pan & broom. I managed to get paper towels, but not a dust pan & broom – instead I was given a cardboard box. When I went back over and told the manager that, she just kind of sighed. I managed to improvise a broom though by ripping off one of the flaps of the box.

By the time I got back to self checkout, Greedy Thursday (or “Black Thursday”) had already started. I hopped onto the only regular register there was at Self Checkout (my friend was assigned there and I had passively said I would go there for her…and coincidentally, that’s exactly what I did) and began to work.

People were let in one by one to different self checkouts. Ringing everybody out, for the most part, went by like a flash of lightning. It was very much scan-and-go the entire time. It was hard not to enjoy it!

Eventually 6:30 PM rolled around, when I normally would go for lunch, and I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t have my first break, which should have been at 4:40 PM either. This was all fine to me – being on the register was far more fun and I would absolutely hate to break the workflow. Of course, we get in trouble if we don’t take a lunch (bah!), so I had to talk to numerous managers before finally one of them just told me to go. I think I went around 7:30?

Based off how many people were present in the store, I decided it was a better idea for me just to eat there. I usually go home for lunch or the mall if I didn’t want to go home. The mall was closed though and I KNEW there would be no parking spot for me if I went home and came back. Eating at work was all there was. I didn’t bring anything to eat, but luckily, they were providing a Thanksgiving dinner at work, so I got to eat.

As I was walking to the back of the store, I passed the electronics section and a woman pulled me aside to angrily tell me her friend in a wheelchair was being pushed by customers in the electronic section, they have been waiting an hour, they were shouting “CASH ONLY” in the electronics section, and her friend just wanted to pay for the game and leave. I told her I would go get a manager, which I did, who told me there was nothing we could do and they shouldn’t be here if they feel like it’s too dangerous. I could see in his facial expression that the situation was very much of a “oh well, can’t do anything about it” sort of thing, which kind of made me a bit angry. I asked him to go talk to her because I really didn’t want to be the one she snapped at, and left.

This was pretty much the first time I understood what they meant by “Walmart Family”. They knew you were working on Thanksgiving, sacrificing your time with your family to spend it making money at work. Almost like they were making up for it, they decided to have a Thanksgiving dinner themselves. Though my workplace isn’t as family-like as some other places might be, it was still kind and warm.

I had mashed potatoes, corn bread (I LOVE CORN BREAD), stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Grabbed a water too from the vending machines. Since I had an hour to kill, I decided to download Netflix onto my phone and watch the “Polymorph” of Red Dwarf since it had been 24 years since it first aired and I love that show. Oh man, that was such a joy to watch! I managed to finish the entire episode too AND still have time left over.

Returning back out onto the floor made me realize how tired I was. I was now cold and that awesome workflow from earlier was gone. I was back at the main register at Self Checkout. My head started spinning from the need to do too many things – I had customers I was fully cashing out, then I had additional ones from other cashiers because they needed me to scan these “One Hour In-Stock Guaranteed” cards (basically, if the store is out of the item, it can be ordered online sort of thing) or some item wasn’t scanning on self checkout. I was starting to feel miserable, but I was able to put up with it.

At some point I was asked about my breaks and I told them I got my lunch, but I didn’t go on my first or second break. I think I got one shortly after 10. Then I got one…at 11, I think? Then I went home at 11:30 PM.

I returned the next day on Black Friday at the same time – 2:30 PM – expecting the day to feel similar to Thursday.

What a huge disappointment.

Black Friday was BORING. The clean store was a mess again. The fresher air was returning to being stale. The organization from the day before wasn’t there any longer. Prices were ringing up incorrectly. The busyness of the day before wasn’t there either. It was as busy as an average Saturday at my store.

Overall, Greedy Thursday was GREAT. It was organized chaos at its finest, with a priority to make sure the shopping experience was safe for [most] customers. Time flew by quicker than usual, the store was clean both in the air and on the shelves & ground. I don’t think I could have asked for a better experience. Black Friday, on the other hand, was stupidly boring and I wish I had the day off.