What is the Black Friday experience like for shoppers and/or retail employees?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
Picture the metaphorical personification of chaos, accompanied by a figurative example of hell on Earth, and throw in some crazy old ladies, aggressive men, bitchy soccer moms, asshole gamers, miserable husbands, and hundreds of young crying toddlers and babies that shouldn't be up at such ungodly hours.
That's it in a nutshell from both perspectives.
Oh, wait, let me back up. My name is Ken Miyamoto. Before my Quora and Hollywood days, I was a retail sales manager for Best Buy circa the late 90s. So that qualifies me from the retail perspective, yes?
I'm also a husband of 14 years (at the time of this answer) that loves his wife, who happens to be LOVE Black Friday shopping with her mom (they are the minority that are NOT old, aggressive, bitchy, miserable, crying assholes).
During our marriage, I've been asked twice to accompany my wife on this adventure called Black Friday. Both times were when her mom and best shopping buddy wasn't in town. Apparently shopping alone is unheard of (that's the way I like to do it, but I'm just a dumb guy), especially on Black Friday, so being the loving (or stupid) husband I am, I reluctantly agreed to go with her twice.
Let's start with my retail employee experience first.
So Black Friday is the end-all-be-all sales day for retail. The very name is taken from the fact that most retail chains rely on these holiday sales to get in the black, profit-wise. Black Friday is an upward of a $60 billion plus day for retailers. It's an industry unto itself.
So as retail employees (in my case a sales manager for Best Buy), the powers that be above us are obsessed with holiday. Needless to say, you can't ask for that day off. Holidays are a bitch for retail employees because of the fact that the biggest sales are during these days leading up to Christmas.
The month building up to Black Friday is pure anticipation from the management end. The week before is even worse. The night before is hell. Employees have to ready the store while managers game plan with district, regional, and corporate leadership on how to handle the day from a logistics point of view. It's usually a store decision as far as how the operations will be handled, working from some basic procedures and policies handed down from the powers that be.
Extra product trucks are brought on beforehand to stock the store and all employees are tasked with unloading those trucks onto endless pallets and staging them in the aisles. When the store closes the evening before Black Friday, the hundreds upon hundreds of products must be taken off of the pallets and staged through the store in preparation for the big day.
Yes you customers out there, those products don't just appear in those aisles ready for you to paw and grab at them. They are a product of sweat, perhaps some blood (those pallet jacks kill the shins), and maybe even a few tears.
And then the big day comes. Whether it's at midnight, earlier, or later, the hour of opening is an ungodly one indeed, especially after eating turkey all day.
Employees wait, ready for battle. They've been stared at for hours during the prep by those strange creatures who have been lurking outside the glass doors. And now those creatures are about to be unleashed in the small confines of a retail stores packed with product.
The doors open and in less than a minute the store is filled to capacity (and sometimes beyond).
It's ridiculous. It really is. It's probably one of the biggest moments of shame for the human race, displaying such consumerism. Now, I can get past the human need for luxuries in life. That's who we are. But the biggest moment of shame for this race is how a majority of people treat each other. More on that in a second.
So the doors open, chaos ensues, people clamor for this and that, and employees are there to get them out as quickly as possible. That was our goal at least. Customers have the patience of a child. Despite the fact that they themselves have chosen to come out on the busiest day of shopping in the world, they still somehow don't understand why stores don't have more registers. It makes no sense, but on Black Friday, for customers, logic is thrown out the door.
The cool thing about Black Friday though, is that once the crowds settle, it's actually not a very busy day as far as what an individual employee has to do.
It really is like a tsunami. The waves crash in, create havoc beyond control, and then recede out with force, followed by stillness and silence.
People know what they want. A majority don't have questions about the product like they would any other day. Instead, they have a list, fill their cart, wait in the register line, pay, and then move onto the next plan of attach for Walmart, Target, Kohl's, etc.
And hey, management gives the employees pizza or what not, so they have THAT going for them.
As a manager, I had to deal with complaints, sure. But you become numb to that. It's no longer annoying. You just shake your head, accept the fact that this person is suffering from Black Friday disease, which affects all senses and reason, and stand your ground with a smile. Faking a little sympathy is always the best way around confrontation. "Yeah, I don't know what these corporate assholes were thinking when they only give us twenty $200 flatscreens."
Now let's look at it from a customer perspective.
More specifically, let's look at it from a "husband doing his wife a favor against all of his survival instincts" perspective.
Allow me to start with an analogy of sorts. Probably not a good one, but...
Soldiers. It takes a certain mentality to be a soldier. It really does. Beyond that, let's look at Special Forces. If it's hard to be a soldier and to have that mentality, then imagine what is needed to be a Navy SEAL, Marine Recon, Green Beret, etc. Many think it takes what is called a "warrior gene." Training is key, to be sure, but these guys truly do have a warrior gene within that allowed them to take on this greatest of positions.
The same can be said for Black Friday shoppers. They have their own warrior gene of sorts. It allows them to actually enjoy the process of Black Friday shopping. My wife has that gene. I do not.
The first of my two Black Friday shopping experiences was horrible. First off, we had our second son Tyler that April. Yes, mommy was still breast feeding him thus we couldn't leave him with my parents at such a late hour. So we did what I promised myself I would NEVER do when I was a sales manager watching these customers bring their children with. We brought him with.
Luckily he slept most of the time, but still, it was cold in Wisconsin. Blistering winds. And we were THAT couple with a baby. So the night wasn't off to a good start.
My wife had a plan, as she always does. I didn't understand it despite the fact that she had a map of sorts made up of ads. Perhaps it was just a stack of ads and she had the map inside her warrior gene head. I don't know. All I remember is endless lines of people, packed aisles, not being able to move, product everywhere, people running, children (not mine!) crying, Christmas music, coffee cups, winter wear, visible breath in the cold air, carts stacked seven feet up, and the dark of night.
That's what I remember. It's chaos. It's not fun. It makes no sense. There is no rhyme or reason.
The second time is more clear. It was just my wife and I. It may have been last year, but I could be off. My brain could have blocked it for my own well being.
I remember walking with my wife towards the Kohl's and seeing the line wrapped around the building an hour before the doors were to open. I remember a second group of people numbering near a hundred or more standing NOT in the line, but right in front of the doors.
"What are they doing?" I asked her.
She shakes her head. "They're going to rush the door and bud in line."
I was shocked. I thought she was joking. But low and behold, an hour later, as we were at the end of that line, we watched as the doors were opened and those f***ing assholes (men, women, and children) rushed the doors and pushed people that had been waiting for hours aside.
And yes, the store employees did nothing. They couldn't. It was one of the most infuriating things I've ever seen. Honestly. How could those people look at themselves in the mirror?
Much of the same at other stores, although most places did a better job of making sure that didn't happen.
It's a long night, Black Friday. A long, long night of waiting in lines and shaking your head at rude people... all to get two for the price of one, or 60% off, or a $200 flatscreen that is probably going to crap out in a year anyway, etc.
Those with that Black Friday warrior gene love it though. It's not specific to any gender, age, or race. I see why they love it in some odd way. For my wife, it's about spending time with her mom. Getting coffee, buying breakfast, nabbing some great gifts for friends and family, etc. For others it's about going out with the girls (maybe some guys). For gamers, it's about hanging with friends, getting that new game, and going home to play it into the morning. For those that can't afford it normally, it's about getting that big flatscreen that you've been staring at in the stores but never had the money for until you saved all year and got that discount worth hundreds.
Black Friday feeds the economy. Employees work. Businesses profit. And SOME of the human race can enjoy what they've been blessed with... excess and luxury, even in its most minute forms.
For retail employees it means a long night/day, free pizza maybe, and time and a half on the paycheck hopefully.
For customers it means a variety of different things. Fun. Misery. Exhilaration. Defeat. Savings. Ripoffs. Annoyances. Bonding.
Happy Holidays to all!More questions on Quora: