The merriest days of the year are around the corner, made distinct with the flourish of bright ribbons, impeccable gift packaging and the unconventional holiday lights and blow-up snowmen lining houses in the suburbs. However, let us not forget the overload of eager shoppers hauling around shopping bags, not only as a vehicle of their purchases but as a clever weapon for fending off crazed holiday shoppers with their sights set on discounted electronics and half-off cashmere sweaters. The insanity of holiday shopping begins on the one day of the year retailers love and hate all at once: Black Friday.
This year, I was behind the counter during the infamous pseudo-holiday instead of on the opposite side as the customer. And my life may never be the same. Bath and Body Works, a branch of Limited Brands Inc., has been a store favored by everyone from little girls with lip gloss obsessions to men seeking shaving supplies and women stocking up on lotions more potent than their grandmother’s expired perfume. I’ve had the privilege to work there; however, I was dreading my Black Friday experience at the establishment.
Think about it: When people can’t think what to get co-workers, their brother’s new girlfriend, or their kids’ teachers for the holidays, where do they go? Bath and Body Works is always a safe bet when it comes to finding a gift. Baskets filled with lotion collections, stocking stuffers and intricately wrapped gift sets are always available. The store’s accessibility and convenience have made it a target for holiday shoppers, with good reason.
The store was jam-packed throughout most of the day. The three lines (with an employee ushering them, of course) were ridiculously long, being catered to by six cash registers, sometimes with two cashiers at one station. Holiday recruits decked out in the company’s signature apron-clad uniform were the soldiers in the Bath and Body Works army, replenishing stock or assisting co-workers with particularly high-strung customers.
All the while, employees roamed around the store offering potential buyers shopping bags, thrusting the holiday specials under their noses so they couldn’t refuse. Picture a metallic pink bag filled with perfume, lotion, face cream, and even a loofah.all for a mere $15! We had total control over these pro-shoppers, willing to snag a deal at any given moment. That is the beauty of Black Friday. Despite its hectic atmosphere and the willing-to-kill attitude of store patrons, everyone seems to win. Retailers bask in the money earned from a non-stop day of sales while customers give themselves a pat on the back for scoping out the best deals.
I know that there are people who live for Black Friday, who see it as the day to knock people off his or her holiday shopping list and save money. However, I never saw the appeal and I don’t think I ever will. I have been both the buyer and the seller and I can tell you that I would rather pay full price for gifts than wait on agonizing lines, circle the parking lot to find a space and fend off crowds and competitors for the last television at Best Buy. Getting up at 3 a.m. to wait on a line outside after a night of overeating (I believe turkey coma is a very real and serious condition) is not my idea of an exciting day, and as you probably already know, I love to shop.
Maybe it’s just a matter of how far you’re willing to go to get the best deal and how much patience you have with other people. After working a long shift at Bath and Body Works, however, I was just simply reminded of how close the holidays are and the stress people feel when doing their holiday shopping. Underneath the pretty packages and adorned gift-wrapping is a gift conceived most likely from long hours of store-hopping, searching, and spending large sums of money. The stress begins on Black Friday for everyone, but at least we can say many holidays are brightened as a result. Unless, that is, someone happened to snag that last television at Best Buy before you did after all.