Hired for Holiday Hell

topIt’s that time of the year when families gather together to celebrate the holiday season, houses fill with warm wishes and merriment as they sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, but while this happy little scene plays itself out in a cozy picture straight from a Rockwell painting a darker and more sinister event is taking place outside. As those families roll themselves into their respective place of slumber and lay gorged with bellies content and satisfied from turkey dinners, there is a group whose hunger is not satisfied; it is no traditional Thanksgiving feast they crave. They gather together in the twilight hours, huddled in darkened masses waiting for the hour when they can quench their irresistible hunger. Thanksgiving has ended and now their holiday begins as the rest of us slumber in our beds.

Welcome to Black Friday.

We’ve all heard the horror stories: people being trampled as they wait in line to grab that perfect gift at a huge markdown, or the fights that break out between those ravenous consumers jostling to get their hands on the perfect deal. Surely these are just the worst stories hand-picked by the media to sensationalize the event; it couldn’t really be like that here, could it? Well, as you scan through the tempting store ads promising the perfect gift that would make your upcoming holiday complete and silently contemplate braving the insane hours and endless lines to acquire this treasure, do yourself a favor and listen to some of these stories from locals in the area who have braved the madness as well as those unfortunate enough to work on that dreaded day, and make your decision wisely.

“My first experience with Black Friday was… interesting,” Amber R. recalls as she reminisces on one of her first forays into the abyss. “I was 14 and my mom and I went to Fred Meyer. I watched this woman following another lady, when she turned away for just a second, the first woman started taking stuff out of her cart. The woman looked shocked and started yelling, ‘What are you doing? Give me my stuff back, bitch.’ The lady that took her stuff started running away and the woman chased after her. Not sure what happened in the end… the things she took were socks and underwear.”
It’s not so easy for the employees spending their holiday tending to the massive crowds either. Laura S. talks about one of her first times working retail on a Black Friday: “I remember my first year working a Black Friday, I was in the tools department and I witnessed a screaming match between two customers waiting in line. One woman was waiting to get helped and another lady swooped in from around the side and moved to the front of the line from the other side. The first lady started screaming at the other telling her that she couldn’t cut in line and then they started yelling obscenities at one another. I remember just standing there and not knowing what to do.”

Another hopeful shopper recounted just how mean and nasty some of the crowds can become. “One year I was waiting in line and a bunch of other people were waiting in line outside of the store and this Arab-looking man started walking past the crowds of people and moved his way up to the front of the line. People started yelling and cursing at him. They started yelling derogatory names at him… afterwards everyone realized who he was. It turns out that the man was the store manager and was opening up the store for them. As they passed into the store he just looked silently at all the people as he let them into the store.”

Another retail worker who wished to remain anonymous remembered one year when a near riot broke out in front of his store. “One year the lines were stretching around the building, all of the people had been waiting there overnight. They had set up little camps and had brought lawn chairs and were bundled up for the cold weather. A couple people were parked up towards the front of the line. When it got close to time for the doors to open, all of their friends and family showed up and set up in the front of the line. Everyone behind them started yelling and complaining. It got so bad that it became a near riot as the people were shouting at one another. Eventually the police were called and had to break up the arguing customers.”

So as you consider skipping out on a friendly Thanksgiving meal with your family to partake in the madness you have only heard about in legends, please think twice. If you do decide to brave the insanity, please don’t forget what the holidays are really all about and try to treat those around you with respect and compassion.

Note: No Corvallisites were harmed during the events described above, although you should take it easy on your fellow citizens as, although we don’t have many big box behemoths here in town, some of us work at them just across the border in Albany.

by John Rosales

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