If you’ve ever worked in retail, you already know what I’m about to tell you: Around the end of October, a sense of horror begins to build that has nothing to do with Halloween. […] I’m not sure what it is about the holidays that makes so many people behave so horribly. Maybe it’s the pressure to make the day perfect, or the stress of dealing with one’s family. At this point, I’d be unsurprised to learn that Christmas music activates some kind of dormant aggression impulse.
Those in the service industry, and retail specifically, don’t experience the holiday season the way we see in the movies. There is no time off, there is no holiday bonus that buys presents for the family, it’s just the busiest, hardest time of the year.
I used to work at Target, and I remember Thanksgiving 2014 vividly (it happened to be my last holiday season there). The store was closed most of the Thanksgiving Day, but I woke up at 2AM to work my 4AM-noon shift, getting the store Black Friday-ready. There was way too much to do, but leaving things unfinished wasn’t really an option, so we all worked until about 2PM.
At 2PM, after a 10 hour work day, I went back to my parents house, since it was closer to the store than my home. It was empty since they were off at my grandparents’ house enjoying the holiday. My wife too, was with her family doing the same. After eating something very much not a turkey dinner, I hopped into my childhood bed, and got about 2 hours of sleep. Then I had to get up and get back to the store for my 5PM-1AM shift.
I got back to the store and had an hour before the doors opened. We put finishing touches on the displays and signage, and got the team ready to help the wave of customers about to descend on the store.
All things considered, the night of Black Friday (definitely Thursday now, but whatever) was never as bad as the videos you always see on the news. There were no stampedes and no one got hurt, but manners definitely went out the window and dealing with customers was as bad that night as it was all year long.
I did this for 5 years and it has made me so thankful for now being able to spend time with my family and friends over the past few years. If you are lucky enough to be shopping and not working nights, holidays, and weekends this season, please consider how you interact with people working hard to make sure you get all the things you need to enjoy the holidays at home.