11/28/2012 07:08 pm ET Updated Jan 28, 2013

I Worked Retail on Black Friday

Well, the Thanksgiving weekend has settled and the turkey in your belly has settled and the bet you made on how many shots of Wild Turkey you could do has been settled all over your bathroom.

And those of us who work retail are now able to, at least for the moment, take a deep breath and relax. I wish I could tell you that writing is my only job and I make a killing at it... so I will, and continue to sink deeper into soul crushing denial...

Working retail can suck. Anyone who works or has worked retail knows that. It's not always bad. Sometimes there are genuinely good customers. Customers who deserve a hug simply for showing that rare human trait of empathy.

Though I find that when you do hug them they get all weird on you and you never see them at the store again. And then you find out later that they called up the store to find out what your schedule was so they could shop when you weren't around. And then you show up on an off day to try to explain to them why you hugged them. And you start reciting from memory the lengthy letter you wrote to them over the course of three sleepless days. And they say something like, "Andy, this just isn't working out... I'm going to other stores now... and the savings are getting pretty serious."

But Black Friday retail is something you can't prepare for. It's a different kind of retail. Right now it's about 7 p.m. on Thursday and I'm mentally preparing to work at 11:00 p.m.

The thing is, being busy is not a problem. The day tends to go by faster when you're busy. But there's busy, and there's "Jesus deliver me from evil with your custom-made Desert Eagles Wings."

It's nearly B-Day. I won't tell you where I work. But I mean to recreate the events of Black Friday as they happened from my perspective.


11:00 p.m.

I arrive for work. Pushing through people at the doors. I know part of them is thinking, "If this asshole thinks he's cutting in front of me..." And the other part is thinking, "Must be an employee... why doesn't this asshole just let us in?"

All I heard mainly from people outside was, "It's REALLY cold, why can't we come in?" My response is, "It's also REALLY late, why aren't you sleeping?" Oh, right... stuff. My refusal to open the door early for cold customers is far less egregious than their insistence on standing out in said cold late into the night to buy shit.

We try to do our job getting the store ready while little abandoned blind puppy dog orphans stare at us through the windows. Their palms flat against the glass, they lick their lips as if they hadn't eaten in weeks and I'm inside dining on a thick prime rib.


People barge through the doors. Their eyes say to me, "Hope you enjoyed that prime rib in your mansion over there on Warm & Cozy Lane, jerk!" Their pupils are like those of cat nipped felines, like black holes from which no amount of savings can escape. And I'm standing right at the event horizon.

You know, sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can still hear the screaming. But nothing a shower fully clothed in the fetal position can't fix.

1:00 a.m.

The initial surge comes from people knowing what they want. They've been looking through the windows for at least an hour and they spotted that thing which will give them true happiness. And it's going to be theirs. All theirs. And damn you if you think you're denying them this happiness.

A woman asks in the bitchiest way possible if she can "actually get some help over here?" It's a fun game of make-believe a lot of customers seem to be playing simultaneously, where they pretend there aren't 100,000,000 people in the store.

It's good to have an imagination. Just ask Newt Gingrich.

2:00 a.m.

That initial surge hasn't let up. But the crowd has turned from customers who know exactly what item will bring them joy to customers desperately seeking the item that will bring them joy.

There's this strange phenomenon that occurs multiple times: one customer will pick up an item, carry it around the store with them, then before leaving, decide they don't want it and leave it somewhere randomly. Other customers see this, and calmly -- and by that I mean EVERYONE STAY COMPLETELY CALM!!! MINE MINE MINE!!! -- walk over to the item to investigate. They quickly discover it's nothing they desire. Like a hyena pathetically slobbering over the cleanly picked bones of a zebra after a lion has already done its thing.

3:00 a.m.

Now the young folks who thought they would stay up all night long are tired and loitering in the store. "I can go all night!" is something I hear a few times from the high school kids. Followed by the inevitable glance around to see if anyone has cracked a smile.

See, they were talking about sexual intercourse. And having sexual intercourse all night long. Oh, you got that, okay. Cool, just wanted you to have the full experience here. Let's push right along then...

So part of my task is to break up these lingering groups of high school kids whose only reason for being there is acting as the chief purveyors of "no good."

My basic spiel to them went as follows...

ANDY: Hey guys, sorry to have to be a dick, but we need you guys to clear on outta here.

It went rather smoothly most of the time, because they appreciated the honesty in admitting I was being a "dick," which to high school kids is any person who lives in reality and has grownup responsibilities. Those types of people really bum high schoolers out. Why? I don't know, get off their back about it already!

In my dreams though, the exchange always went like this...

ANDY: ...
ANDY: ...
ANDY: ...
FREELOADING YOUTH: Hmm... guys, maybe we should get out of here and get jobs and discover empathy.
ANDY: ...

4:00 a.m.

Bloodshot eyes begin to set in. Because of that, everyone has a slightly crazed look. Probably why the crowds begin to taper off here. Or maybe because it's 4:00 a.m. I like my reason better. We're all fucking crazy looking.

5:00 a.m.

Delirium is upon us, customer and employee alike. Everyone's giggling. Like, up-all-night-with-friends-drinking-Jolt-cola-playing-Castlevania-and-watching-the-Spice-channel-scrambled giggling. (If you don't know what any of those things are, you're too young and probably one of those freeloading high schoolers -- get lost!)

Is it sleep deprivation, or are things genuinely funnier when you've had a lot more hours awake to be funny? Hmm... TBD.

6:00 a.m.

Now arriving are the customers who chose to get up early today rather than stay up late last night. Their fresh faces are rejuvenating and the staff is re-energized for the day!


Nah, I'm totally kidding, we're crazy fucking giggly now. Like every new customer is a naked Indian in the desert and we just drank some weird mind altering cactus water.

CUSTOMER: slewot rof gnikool m'I
EMPLOYEE: I don't understand you, naked Indian.
CUSTOMER: I'm looking for towels.
EMPLOYEE: What, no, don't try and cover up your nakedness, naked Indian in the desert. Love you for you.

7:00 a.m.

Good night. I mean, morning. Shit. It's light out and my brain is instructing me to operate under completely different circumstances. Time to go home, find reruns of Cold Case Files to cheer me up, and let the sweet voice of Bill Kurtis numb me to slumberland.