- The day after Thanksgiving is one of the biggest shopping days in retail.
- Shoppers clamor for bargains in-store every year to save big on items like TVs and video games.
- But for retail workers, it can be a hectic affair.
- Here’s what Black Friday was like for a former Best Buy sales associate.
“Black Friday” is no term of endearment, especially for the people who have to work in retail that day. To call it the most hectic day in retail is an understatement.
To get a better sense for what it’s really like to work retail on Black Friday, we asked a former Best Buy sales associate who handled customer service and worked as a cashier during five Black Fridays until 2013 to weigh in.
The former Best Buy sales associate we spoke to is not featured in any of the photos below.
Here’s what the former Best Buy sales associate had to say about their experience:
“Black Friday was tons of work, and everyone was involved.”
“November 1 is the normal beginning of the holiday season, but the store started hiring seasonal employees in October because it gave them more time to train the newbies.”
“All new recruits got register training, sales associates got register training and department-specific training, and everyone got training on how to sell protection plans, including more senior employees, who got a refresher training on how to sell those plans faster.”
“Everyone learned to sell protection plans because, honestly, that’s where they make money.”
“The weekend before Black Friday or a couple weekends before, the managers would put the registers in training mode and do a dry run of what the day would look like.”
“So, for example, all the employees would get merchandise and run to the registers so the cashiers would get a feel of what the morning would be like.”
“Some people would pretend to be really nasty, others would pretend to steal — it was actually kind of fun.”
“One of my friends who still works there told me that they still hold a meeting and explain how the day will run, but they don’t do the dry runs with the register anymore.”
“We weren’t really taught how to handle worst-case scenarios like violent outbreaks …”
“… But there was usually a manager at high-traffic points in my store, so they were there to deal with the issues. I was taught if there were any issues, get a manager.”
“During my time, the inventory and merchandise team worked a ridiculous amount of hours, particularly the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.”
“That’s usually when the main shipment of stuff came in, and they had to put it all away and organize it and make it readily available for customers.”
“During the holidays, the shipments to the store came more frequently with a lot more stuff. So the inventory team has to find space for everything.”
“Some things like TVs needed to be well organized in the back, but a lot of things needed to go on the floor, so they filled the aisles with inventory, usually accessories.”
“They sometimes also moved the carts outside so they could put inventory where the carts were inside the store.”
“They would also sometimes start to stack laptops and computer stuff in the shelves overhead.”
“Overall, the whole store was stuffed like a turkey, no pun intended.”
“And then on Black Friday there was another shipment and a rush to get that stuff out, too.”
“On the day, a couple hours before the store opened, customer service people and sales associates would go outside and start selling accessories, credit cards, and product protection plans.”
“That was difficult because it was cold and the people looking for the doorbusters were less likely to get anything other than the product.”
“Once the doors opened, the first few hours were craziness — a blur of customers and product.”
“It was pretty much all hands on deck, especially during that first initial rush of customers.”
“And throughout the day there continued to be a steady flow of people, so everyone had to be available.”
“When I was there, minors got the eight-hour shifts during the day.”
“And more experienced staff usually got a split shift: so one eight-hour shift from midnight to 8 a.m., and then you came back at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. to close.”
“During my time there, you could easily work 15 hours on Black Friday.”
“But you don’t see too much of that anymore because the store hours have changed — people I know there work closer to 10 hours now.”
“When it started to slow down, the rest of the day was like waves of calm and then tons of people.
“In between the craziness, during times of calm, people were trying to clean up and return product back to the floor.”
“I really think the best way to describe Black Friday is that it’s a blur.”
“The mood leading up to Black Friday was mostly anxious, and then it got very hectic.”
“The excitement only lasted for the first or second rush of people. Then it just started to feel like a regular busy day.”
“Sometimes managers would do nice things like get coffee and doughnuts to keep everyone’s spirits up.”
“The first year I worked Black Friday, managers paid for lunch.”
“When I started, the incentive to work on Black Friday was the extra hours, and there was excitement about the rush of it.”
“But as the shift moved toward Black Thursday, there really wasn’t that incentive anymore.”
“It was more annoying to come in on Thanksgiving. But, since you had to come in on a holiday, you got holiday pay.”
“The worst part was the very long hours and the customers.”
“Working through the night and working for 10 to 11 hours was tiring, and it was hard to keep up a peppy, happy face when you were exhausted.”
“Often customers were not very understanding of this.”
“They were often super tired and had either been up all night or had been waiting on lines all day, so they weren’t in the best mood either.”
“One or two cranky customers would completely ruin your day.”
“I have seen a mother crying because her son really needed the newest Xbox for Christmas.”
“I’ve seen customers fighting on line. I’ve seen a customer wait outside for two days in order to get a doorbuster — that one was ridiculous.”
“Some of the sales associates would get people asking them to put something away for them or asking them for a call if something got returned.”
“Sometimes people would try to slip them some money, and I honestly don’t know if any of them accepted.”
“After Black Friday, the store was a mess and everyone was exhausted.”
“There was also a feeling of ‘thank God that’s over.'”
“But by the end of the day, everything had to get cleaned up and ready for Saturday, because that’s another very busy day.”
“After working your first Black Friday, you get used to the crowds and having to work at a faster pace.”
“My advice to someone working retail on Black Friday would be to breathe, eat, and drink tons of coffee.”
“Also customers can be rude, but it’s not personal, so don’t take it personally.”
“For shoppers: Patience is a virtue. And if you don’t get what you were looking for on Black Friday, there will be another sale.”
“Surprisingly, people did not just shop for the deals on Black Friday.”
“I think there was just an excitement about shopping that day, so customers would buy whatever, and, because of that, on Saturday there was a lot of buyer’s remorse and returning.”
“Also, honestly, the sales were often better the week before Black Friday and the week right before Christmas.”
“If you didn’t sleep at the store the night before for a doorbuster, you were probably wasting your time because you could have bought beforehand for the same price or waited until closer to Christmas.”
“In my opinion, working on the other side of Black Friday, I feel that it’s really not worth it to rush through time with your family on Thanksgiving just to save $10 on a video game. It’s just not worth it.”
“I love Black Friday shopping. I do it every year, and I think it’s fun.”
“But I refuse to go out on Thanksgiving afternoon.”
“I think it’s ridiculous businesses have invaded Thanksgiving — my favorite holiday — to save a few dollars.”
“I’m hoping that eventually it goes back to Black Friday actually being on Friday and not on Thanksgiving.”
Responses have been edited for clarity.