I left the retail world about a year and a half ago. I started as a team member and worked my way up to management spending my first five years of my “grown up” career in a couple of different stores. While I worked for a great company, no amount of recognition, no Christmas gift, or even annual holiday bonus (which I never received) would have been enough to balance the stress that came with the job. Each year from about mid-October to mid-January every employee from the cart attendant to the store manager could feel the overwhelming pressure from corporate to get the biggest season of the year right.
While those things where stressful and they sometimes even made it hard to want to go into work, they were no surprise. I was there because I chose to be. I chose to work retail and to have a job that I knew would limit my holidays and even my family time. I knew that in order to help support my family that I had to throw on my red and khaki each day and go even when I didn’t want too. It just came with the job.
A year and a half later, I will tell you that leaving retail was one of the best decisions I have made. Not just for me, but for my family. I’m happier, I more easily find joy in the little things, and I actually like carrying on conversations with strangers again. So for anyone who knows me and hears that I’m going Black Friday shopping, they always ask me why. Why would I go out and shop on a day that is dreaded by most retail employees? How could I do that?
As mentioned above, the stress of retail was to be expected. It’s not like I signed up for a job that I thought was going to have the perfect schedule or allow maximum family time. Those things were not a surprise. What I was surprised by though, were the guests. It wasn’t just the holiday season, it was year round. I never quite expected people to treat me or other employees the way that they did. I’m usually a pretty tough person when it comes to strangers and their opinion of me. It usually takes a lot for my feelings to get hurt. Retail was different though.
There were moments I was worried for my safety and for other employees’ safety. There were days that I held it all together until the moment that I walked in my front door. Within seconds of the door closing behind me, I would lose it, crying about how cruel people could be. I was called every name in the book and every flaw and insecurity of mine was pointed out and sometimes quite loudly. There was one particular instance when I could not process a return because the system would not allow me too. The woman trying to return the item decided to stand at the front of the store and gather as many guests as she could to inform them that I was worthless, ugly, incompetent, and that no one would ever love me. You might think I’m kidding, but I’m not. She was so loud that other guests told me they could hear her from the other side of the store.
As odd as it might seem, this is why I choose to black Friday shop. Those things happened year round. With the added stress from corporate and with guests who are extra on edge because the majority of them are spending money they don’t have, black Friday is a stressful shift to work. To be truthful, it’s not really even in our budget to go out and do much shopping this holiday season. Shopping is not really the reason I’m choosing to go out. I’m going out because whether people want to or not, they will be working. People will be sacrificing time away from their families. People will be running on little to no sleep. People will be grumpy and ready to go home. And worst of all, quite a few of them are going to get treated poorly by the people shopping.
I hope to go so that I can stand in line with others and look a cashier in the eyes to tell them thank you. “Thank you for being here. Thank you for your time and sacrifices. You are appreciated!” I hope to show kindness, bring joy, and maybe even have a little bit of fun while I’m out. Staying home is not going to help those employees get home any earlier. So my thought is, why not go out and bring a little bit of light to the holiday season when so many others will be doing the opposite?
I know when I was in retail, that one genuine thank you was sometimes enough to keep me from reaching a breaking point. That genuine thank you was sometimes what kept me from crying when I walked through the front door of my home at the end of the shift. So yes, as a former retail employee, I support black Friday shopping. I hope some of you will consider it too. And hey, if it’s already something you planned on doing, try and be a light in the midst of chaos. Trust me when I say, it WILL BE appreciated!