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Black Friday : A Cautionary Tale

The only requirement they gave me when I had applied for a Geek Squad position at Best Buy (I know, don’t laugh) was that I absolutely had to work on Black Friday.

Just briefly, for those who don’t know..
Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving, when stores decide to open at the butt crack of dawn to start Christmas sales. Most moms fall for this ploy and wake up at 4am to fight other mothers for cheap presents.

I gladly accepted the job at Best Buy, and eagerly volunteered to work the “front lines” on Black Friday. Being a naive new-hire, I was as happy as a clam that they would give me a job that held such responsibilities; they must have really trusted me! My duty would be controlling the flow of traffic, while passing out gift cards to the polite shoppers. This should be a piece of cake!

Oh, how wrong I was.


Black Friday:
My alarm went off at 3:00 am, to where I bounced out of bed and bounded down the hallway — getting ready for this most momentous day. This was it, kid. Being not much older than 16 at the time, this was the best job I ever had. All my training had come down to this.

Arriving at the Best Buy entrance at 4:00, my pupils were wide as saucers as I observed the various sleeping bags, tents, lanterns, and the like. They were lining the sidewalk of the store and snaked around the building. People were standing all around doing random things. Some were reading, some getting dressed, brushing their hair– I even thought I saw one of them spitting after brushing their teeth.

Wow! ‘This is better than I ever could have imagined!’ I thought. ‘After today’s performance, I’m going to be promoted to shift leader for sure!’ I strolled in a unattended secret side door to be greeted by my fellow coworkers. A cute girl named Hannah, a Best Buy veteran, rushed up to me exclaiming:
“Oh my god, are you ready for this?”
I responded immediately. “Absolutely. You?”
Hannah piped in: “I think so, but I was lucky enough to work in the shipment area so I’ll be away from the madness most of the time.”
I peered at her, wondering if she had some sort of social anxiety issue. “Away from the madness? Why would you want to b—”

Our conversation was interrupted by a crackling over the intercom. Our always-excited manager chirped some motivational things, saying “Go Team” a dozen times, among other things, I’m sure. I blanked him out most of the time. That was until he barked: “Okay, everyone! STAND ON YOUR COUNTERS!”

Huh? I didn’t have time to be confused before someone from the managerial staff was shoving me to the first cash register nearest to the entrance. I glanced to the door and saw a middle aged mother pointing to the stack of Xboxes inside the store that we had piled high on an endcap (They had just came out that year). The huge crowd was noisy enough, but I could actually hear the mother yell to her son: “Grab as MANY as you can, honey.” She then pushed her kid against the glass.. his mouth gaping as he fogged up the window.

I felt a hand on my shoulder: My head whipped around to see that it was one of the security guys. He warned, “Now since you’re the closest, in 30 seconds we’re going to have you walk up to the 2 front doors and unlock them. Do NOT pull them open, let the crowd figure out that they are unlocked so you have time to run.”

I scratched my head and prepared a question for him, but then ‘SMACK!’ Somebody on the outside started pounding on the door. ‘SMACK SMACK SMACK!’ The rest of the group followed in a horrible display of protest. The hour hand was nearing 5, the time the store opens. I had only 2 minutes now before I exposed this barrage of flying fists to the products for which they lust.

Saying ‘I didn’t sign up for this B.S..” many times over in my head, I made a mad dash to the doors– turning the huge deadbolt on the first one. Nothing. Nobody realized it was open yet. I started unlocking the second door, and as soon as the lock clicked a very rotund man threw all of his body weight into it.. flinging it open and catching my heel.

Ow! I bolted to the register on only one foot, flinging myself up onto the counter in some bizarre Olymipic-style move that I didn’t know I could do. Good thing too, as shortly after I did, I saw a steady flow of people pushing through the doors so hard it rivaled some of the moshpits I’ve seen. The first set of unlocked doors had not been opened yet, because people kept slapping away the ones who went for the door handle, then shoving them away just so they could be the one to open the door first.

Finally the groups all figured it out and in came a stream of people, cascading like a giant color wave over the floor. From the safety of my counter my jaw dropped as I realized I had volunteered to jump into this fray. Suddenly I wished I could beg to be working with Hannah in the back. After thousands of people packed into the store, with more coming.. I nervously lowered myself down to the floor.

I was instantly swarmed by a mob of people who chimed in: “We need a video game!”,”Now Electronics!” and “Don’t forget the moooovies!” Somehow they carried me in their little push-bubble to wherever they wanted me to go. I started feeling claustrophobic; I couldn’t escape them. I eventually broke free from the push bubble by almost tripping over that same kid I had saw earlier, his mother having stacked Xboxes so high in this poor kids arms that they went almost over his head.

Still limping, and now quite tired, I hobbled over to the place I thought would be the most peaceful- Routers and Internet Cables. Seems harmless enough, right? I felt a sharp jab in my back, courtesy of a short old woman: “I need you to get me that up there.” She said while sneering at me as she pointed to an lone 802.11 B router that was resting on the highest shelf.

I can do that, no problem! “Sure thing, Ma’am. Allow me to get a ladder and I will be right with you.” She nodded, and I scurried off to snag a ladder. This was no easy task; I wobbled all over the place with one good leg, now carrying a bulky object, before returning to the Routers isle. The old coot apparently couldn’t wait that long. There she was, having stacked 6 boxes high and standing on her tip-toes, reaching for this router.

These weren’t just any boxes: She was putting her entire weight on brand new laptops! I gasped and set up my ladder immediately, hoping that if she saw me there she would cease her attack on the poor equipment. However, she continued to reach with outstretched, bony fingers for this damn router, so I planted myself right on the third rung of the ladder and began reaching as well. (I was taller than her anyway)

Router within my reach, my hand was now on the plastic. Hers was too, so we both began pulling. “Please, I don’t want you getting hurt.. just let go and and I’ll be happy to— Holy &!#@!” I felt something really hard smack me in the face, my vision going pure white for a few seconds, as a throbbing pain invaded my mind. I grabbed the ladder and held on tightly while my other hand clutched my face, holding my eye. She had made a direct elbow-to-eye connection. There I was, suspended in mid-air, blind.

My vision came back into focus, but the pain intensified — I squinted my eyes to see a dusty empty shelf where the router had been. The woman was gone. My heart sank. I had failed as a dutiful employee. I can see it now, wearing a tee that reads: “I worked at Best Buy on Black Friday and all I got was this stupid t-shirt.” (and a shiner)

Now half-blind and limpy-legged, I meandered slowly into the back room.. Hannah saw me and screamed. “What in heavens name happened to you?!” I muttered. “Front lines.” She replied: “Well, at least you get time and a half for this.” I chuckled insanely. “Time and a half? Haha.. you couldn’t pay me enough to go through that again.”

No more Black-Eye Fridays for me!