Ah, Black Friday. The day where we all give thanks for the wonderful things our deity of choice has provided for us by ruthlessly hunting for the best bargain in town. For some, that means the excitement and mystique of getting up early and being the first in line for those $5 DVD players, and the rush of fighting your way to the front of the line. You may lose a couple of teeth along the way, but at least you saved a couple bucks for your Christmas gift shopping.
Just as the name suggests, Black Friday is more than just a fun day of shopping. For the few unfortunate souls that have to work in America’s lucrative retail industry, the words conjure up feelings of chaos, fear, and loathing. If you’ve ever worked in retail, you know exactly what I mean.
I have worked the past four Black Fridays at various well-known retail establishments, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything as chaotic and stressful as those couple of hours of shopper’s delight. I’ve seen doors literally knocked down by anxious early bird shoppers, and I’ve seen a manager pinned to the wall as people, completely unaware of his existence, run past to the large pallet of cheap electronic devices (he had bruises afterwards).
It’s not fun for us who brave working in the world of holiday retail, but for most of us, we have no other choice. With that in mind, I thought it’d be helpful to give you crazy shoppers some general guidelines for Black Friday shopping. Remember, customer service associates can help make your shopping day a wonderful experience, and following a few simple etiquette rules can get you what you want and save you a headache or two.
1. You will have to wait in line. Let’s establish this early. You will have to wait in line, and there will be lines, all day, even when every register is open. Don’t make an ass out of yourself: show some patience. You won’t get any further by yelling, whining, or complaining about how you’ll never shop at said store again because the wait was too long. It just won’t work. We don’t care, and it won’t get you anywhere.
By waiting patiently, you make the process for everyone involved much easier. Cashiers appreciate a nice, thoughtful customer, and you won’t be the “dick” or “bitch” discussed in the break room later in the day (that is, if we even get a break).
With that said, some of the “big box” retailers have a system where one or two associates will scan your items with a wireless scanner while you wait in line. The wireless scanner prints out a receipt that the cashier scans when you are at the register ready to pay. This will save you a lot of time, so if you encounter this while shopping, smile and thank the associate. We just saved you some time and hassle.
2. Don’t barter. Unless you spend your Black Friday shopping at an open air market or auction house, you shouldn’t even try to barter your way to a lower price. Most retail companies have spent hours laboriously going over the numbers and have lowered prices as low as they can go. All of this is done using very sophisticated computers tested by monkeys in a NASA laboratory, so they know the price is right. Everything is already so damn cheap; do you think an already overworked sales associate can get it any lower? Most likely not.
Many retailers have a price-matching program that will match the prices of competitors on identical items (some will even take an additional 10% off). Before you go to a store, do some research on their price matching program and bring the flyer with you with the competitor’s price clearly marked, and you’ll most likely get a better deal.
3. Be short, concise, and know what you want. As much as we love to hear your family stories or your experience with one of our products, today is not the day to talk about how cute your little Johnny would look in this shirt or these pants. We don’t have time, and neither do you.
Instead, you should have an idea of what you want, and when you can’t find it or need help with something, ask the questions in a concise manner. We don’t need the back history, just what you want to buy. If you keep it to the point, you’ll have what you need before you know it.
4. Plan ahead. This goes along with knowing what you want, but it’s so much more than that. Don’t just go out there without direction or clue of where to shop first or what to buy. Write up a list of some things you know the kids, siblings, or parents want, and go to the places that have these products first. Once you are there, get a feel for the store and ask an associate where to go (this will especially help you in the huge superstores so popular today).
Even though I’ve made it painfully clear how busy store associates will be that day, they are still there to help you find what you need. A smile and a thank you will go a long way if you need extra help with a product, so keep it calm and collected, especially if the associate is in the wrong department or new to the store (it happens, a lot).
5. Have fun! This is an obvious one. Let your hair down and have some fun! Even the craziness of holiday shopping can be an enjoyable experience, and it’s much more than just getting low priced products and one-time only deals. Don’t be the impatient bastard that everyone in the store stares at while you revert into a fit of rage. If the store is out of a product, shrug your shoulders and move on. Yelling, swearing, clawing, or pulling of the hair is unnecessary. Laugh a little, move on, and wait for another holiday sale later in the season.
I must admit, I’d rather be lying on the couch sipping Pinot and eating stale pumpkin pie on the day after Thanksgiving, but instead I must be out there defending capitalism, one customer at a time. For you veteran shoppers, remember: retail associates are here to help you, and if you show us the respect we deserve, we’ll return the favor. With that in mind, I hope to see some of you out on Black Friday, and on behalf of the retail industry, Happy Shopping!