Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Plea from a Tired Register Jockey

So, this week I managed to get into a rather ugly Facebook fight about stores that are starting their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving day, and what that means for their employees. An acquaintance of mine from college gave a list of reasons why she would be shopping on Thanksgiving and that retail workers forced to give up their holidays should be happy to do so. Needless to say this made me, the tired retail employee, pretty angry, and now I have one less Facebook friend. I wanted to use this space to respond to some of the arguments about Thanksgiving day shopping I've seen this week.

“I want to beat the crowds.”

You're not beating any crowds, you're just creating a crowd eight hours earlier than last year.

“I don't want to have to spend all day with my family. It gets boring, especially if they don't have cable.”*

If you dislike your extended family that much, maybe don't spend Thanksgiving with them. I know I got really lucky, having a giant extended family that enjoys each other company, and I cannot imagine being bored at Thanksgiving. We play football, watch football, play board games, watch movies, just hang out together. And if none of those things appealed to you my Grandma would tell you to take a walk, read a book, drink some wine and relax. Or go volunteer at a soup kitchen or food bank. If you hate your family and their lack of TV channels, if you're that miserable around them, stay home next year, I'm sure they'll be happier without you.  Especially if they've seen your Facebook post about how awful it is to be stuck with them for the weekend.  

“Some retail workers don't have families and would probably rather work.”

Two points on this one:
  1. My boss took a poll to see who would be willing to work on Thanksgiving, out of the 17 people required to staff our store at opening, three volunteered. That means, if we did decide to open tomorrow, the bulk of the staff would be very unhappy to have drawn the short straw, forced to work on what used to be a holiday.
  2. Most retail employees (myself included) work two (or more) jobs.  In those cases Thanksgiving is often the only day you have off in November.  I, and most of my retail cohorts, would like to  spend that day at home, relaxing, watching the parade, rather than at work.  
“Wouldn't they rather work Thursday evening instead of crazy early Friday?”

It's adorable that people think it would be an either/or not a both scenario. If either of my jobs decided to open tomorrow evening my schedule would be as follows: 
 Thursday 5pm-1:30am JobA
 Friday 6:30a-3pm JobB,  4pm-10pm JobA. 
That's essentially a 29 hour shift with a two hour nap.  No one would choose that.

As I said, most retail employees, especially in large cities, have more than one job, and most seasonal positions exist solely to staff Black Friday. So essentially it's just creating an extra shift, one that employers are not required to give you any sort of extra holiday pay for, during an already stressful retail week.

“You don't hear hospital employees and military personnel complaining about working on holidays.”

This one is just insulting to medical and military people. Their jobs are literally life and death; selling you a giant TV, or a cheap toy, or the perfect Christmas dress is not. How dare you belittle what these people sacrifice as a means to justify your ridiculous shopping habits. Also – they don't like working on holidays either, but someone needs to be there to fix all the idiots who thought they could deep fry a turkey after a case of beer. As for our armed forces – they are risking their lives, far away from their loved ones, for your freedom. Comparing what they do, what they give up, to what I do – you should be ashamed.

“It's more convenient for me to shop then.”

I'm sorry that no one has taken the time to inform you that the world does not revolve around you. I realize that most people view retail employees as servants of some sort, or people not worthy of consideration, but we are, in fact, people just like everyone else. We have families, and friends and hobbies and interests outside of our jobs, and we would like Thanksgiving to be one of the two days a year we can be like everyone else and enjoy our lives away from work. Plus, in case you're unaware, the internet is open 24/7 and you can shop in your jammies while enjoying a cocktail.

So maybe, as you're counting your many blessings, you can add “I'm grateful that in this economy I have a job that allows me to support myself, and spend time with my family during the holidays.” And after that – try to have some empathy for those of us that don't have those things. Imagine what it would feel like to have to leave your family behind on a holiday to go to a place that underpays and undervalues you, only to be yelled at and abused by people who CHOSE to go shopping on what is supposed to be a day of rest and thankfulness. As the consumer, your voice is the only one that matters to my bosses. And the way you can make your voice heard is by staying home on Thanksgiving.

When you do go shopping on Black Friday, try to throw a little extra kindness at the very tired, very stressed retail employees, who have spent the morning breaking up fights and getting yelled at for things far beyond their control. You'll earn some good shopping karma, and perhaps prevent a retail worker's total emotional breakdown.

*Actual Facebook quote