Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Occupy Speedbumps

According to USA Today, the Occupy movement has opted to make themselves noticed on Black Friday, using a variety of tactics- perhaps shambling around the stores as 'zombies', perhaps trying to direct people to small businesses, perhaps creating a 'really, really free market' where people donate items for shoppers to just come and take so they don't have to spend any money anywhere, perhaps just straight-up protesting.

For their sake, they'd better not be standing anywhere near the front doors when the stores open. Outside this blog, I'm a retail worker, and that is a damn good way to get yourself trampled.

Black Friday, experienced at the opening stampede, is basically Christmas minus all the nice parts. There's no frolicking in the snow, no family togetherness, no gathering around a tree, not even really a 'oh, little Billy would love this!' that you'd think would happen here, seeing as it's shopping and all. Oh, no. You, on the retail end, are spending your Thanksgiving- the day prior- manning stations, setting up the set pieces (and the markers for them). We set up waiting lines at our store. We have bathroom passes. We give a manager- a predetermined, designated manager we know can handle things- a bullhorn. The cashiers are told to get out of the way when the doors open. Nobody unauthorized is to get anywhere near the doors, because when they open, it is a wave of humanity streaming at you, that at some point must keep moving simply because too many others behind them are moving as well. Keep pushing forward, or get run over by people that are.

On the shoppers' end, it's a straight-up military operation. All the disparate times the stores kick off their Black Friday sales are mapped out and combined into a daylong battle plan. You'll hit Store A at midnight. Then you'll hit Store B at 3 AM, Store C at 6 AM, Store D at 10 AM. Add in drastically reduced prices to the equation- plus, mind you, a lengthy economic downturn- and the result really rather sucks the Christmas spirit out of you in a hell of a hurry. Christmas is a lot of places, but it's not in those stores. All that's there is semi-panicked chaotic entitlement.

Those clips they run on the news about the opening stampede may look fun- maybe even funny- when you're a shopper or not participating, but when you're in retail, it dawns on you very quickly that there's someone whose job is to stand on the other end of that madness and maintain some sort of order, and that someone is you. The price for failure can be high. Everyone in the industry remembers the Walmart people greeter that died in a Black Friday stampede three years ago on Long Island. It's only the one death, but none of us in retail want to be the second and take every measure we deem necessary to keep it from happening.

Behave yourself out there Friday morning, and it won't.

Be in the thick of it protesting and adding bodies to the equation that don't have any other business being there, and you put yourself and everyone around you at risk.

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