When I was a kid, I remember having a Barbie Dream House and both Andrea and Kristen drooling over it. I remember boxes and paper absolutely everywhere. I remember making cookies, year in and year out, at Mom's house. I remember carrying my Cabbage Patch Kid into my cousin's house in Bolingbrook and everybody oohing and ahhing over it.
My point is that the positive feelings associated with Christmas was more because those things were mine and the day surrounding them, and less because of the moment I received them. Now, I was recently at a birthday party for a five-year-old, and when he opened one of his gifts, he started running from the living room to the playroom and back, yelling, "I'M FREAKING OOOOUUUTTTTTT!" It was hilarious. I just don't know if the lasting impression will be the yelling and running, or playing with the toy afterward.
And it could have been any toy. Or game. Or article of cute clothing. The lasting effect on kids is the entire day, and not that one gift that they open and lose their minds over.
I say this today because, up until June of this year, I managed a retail outlet overnight for the largest company of its kind on the planet. Last year, on Black Friday, I was in the middle of my rotation and had to leave Thanksgiving dinner at Mom's house to go to Walmart. My first job of the night was to be backup for our Asset Protection manager, so I was directing traffic in the parking lot. "Excuse me!" I yelled. "This is a fire lane, so sorry!" I got "Fuck you...everyone else is parked here!" Okay then.
After that, I went inside to help control the flow of the lines. Every register had a cashier on it, but our fire code allowed for (if I recall) 33 people per register in the store at a time. Think about this for a second, and picture how close together the registers are, and how everyone wants to get checked out all at once. People were in line for three hours, barely moving for the majority of that time. Meanwhile, the person you claim does not make enough money to survive without food stamps (not true, by the way...most of these kids are either supplementing their income, or they know what they are getting into when they take the job...that is THEIR choice and not Walmart's...I also had hourlies that made forty grand a year) is getting harassed by one person at a time, plus the two or three people behind them in line within ear shot of the cashier.
I was in the middle of a swarm of people with shopping carts who were threatening each other, and they started to threaten me and my safety if I did not take care of things. This is a mob mentality I have trouble understanding. I actually did something I do not often do...I put on my Mom hat, and I told these people I would take care of things the best I could, but that they had to shut up and cooperate or they could leave their full shopping carts where they were and I would be happy to show them the door.
Then, later, I had eleven customers at the door of my office (the capacity of the office was three, maybe four if someone was in a dispute and you were willing to stand instead of sit). Apparently, one of the associates gave out tickets for a Playstation before the right time, so customers were threatening my job and my safety again unless I could do something for them. I took down all of their names and phone numbers, talked to our Electronics manager later that evening, called each and every one of them back the next day, and offered for them to buy the product online and I would refund them the difference. After a night's sleep (on their end) and their mob-mentality hangover wearing off, they were fine with that and they thanked me for my help.
But not that night. It was all about blood and anonymity that night.
So I ask you to consider a few things on this Thanksgiving, which now has the greatest commercial misnomer EVER, "Black Friday":
- Do you remember Thanksgivings of days past as being a beautiful day of family, football, food, and togetherness? If your answer is "yes," then stay home and shop tomorrow. Your kids will be pleased with whatever they receive for Christmas.
- Retailers (not just Walmart...all of them) have made it difficult to afford Christmas without missing Thanksgiving. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to sacrifice family time to get hot under the collar with a thousand people fighting over the last Wii, or would you rather make the holiday yours and just afford what you can, so you can focus on love instead of money?
- Do you honestly believe that your kids will grow up resenting you if you get them a smaller tablet for Christmas than what they wanted?
- If you do venture out, can you please take a breath now and again and remind yourself that the people waiting on you are also missing their holiday, not so they can buy things for their kids, but so you can buy them for yours.
I do not normally bleed my heart out for anybody...I love to make money, and sometimes you have to take advantage of people to do that. But there are so few togetherness-themed times in our lives that are left; cars have DVD players so kids no longer play the alphabet game with their parents on road trips. We miss little moments because we are so busy documenting crap on facebook that we do not look up in time to see the next thing that happens. We go to little league games where no score is kept because heaven forbid a kid get their feelings hurt for losing, so we no longer have the chance to comfort our kids and help them get strong enough on their own two feet to accept the fact that life goes on after defeat.
So if you would rather get a good deal on a new TV instead of sit at home and laugh with your family, I respect your decision. But the people you encounter are either other stressed out shoppers just like you, or they are retail workers who are doing their best to get you the hell our of their store in peace so they can put things back where they belong when you are gone. They appreciate your business, but each of them will have thirty people asking them questions and complaining all at once, and quite frankly, none of them get paid enough to prioritize like that.
I did. I made well over seventy grand a year there. But the hourly employees are there strictly to help you find what you need, and make your shopping experience pleasant. If you are miserable, ask yourself if it is because of something at the store, or if it is because you chose to go out into the swarm. I am not blaming anyone for holiday shopping. All I'm saying is that perhaps...maybe...you brought on some of that stress yourself. Retailers' jobs as a company are to entice you. If you fall prey to it over being with your family, that is on you. Not them.
Happy Thanksgiving to you. And ask for a manager if you need one.