Daily Egyptian

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side

By Kayli Plotner

There are several avenues people take when it comes to Black Friday shopping.

There are those who camp out on the concrete for hours in the cold waiting for an iPad. There are those who start at the 6 p.m. sale and stay awake all night long, or those who sleep until 4 a.m. and then spend the entire day in line. But there are also those often forgotten on Black Friday: the people who make the entire day possible.

I spent the first four years of my working life giving up family time to work on Thanksgiving Day at Kmart — yes they are open at 6 a.m. every year — and then turn around and be there at 4:30 a.m. for Black Friday.

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I also spent the last three years of my life at a much more employee-oriented company that has closed on Thanksgiving Day: Menards. Depending on the quality of management you end up with while working at Menards, there are only two potential opinions you will have of that store post-employment: really good, or really really bad.

However, with a new job this year, things were different. For the first time, I had Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday off of work.

That only meant one thing: I was going to join my stepmother and her friends for the biggest shopping day of the year. Being the veteran Black Friday goers that they are, I knew I was in for the full effect.

I kept saying I wanted to see how the other half lives, and I got my share of insight. Ironically enough, my stepmother is an avid Menards shopper, so the majority of her plan of attack consisted of the very items I used to stock.

Now, having seen both sides of the fence, here are the top three reasons why it is better to be working — preferably in the hardware department — than shopping on Black Friday.

1. People. When you have a job in retail, provided you are lucky, your employees become your friends and on some level everyone as a group becomes a family. It’s been almost two years since I saw some of those cart boys, and I got a hug and ‘how ya been’ as we left the store.

The crazy ladies at Kohl’s, on the other hand, watch your back. There’s pushing and shoving, yelling and lines upon lines. No one says excuse me, and no one cares to. Whoever decided those crazy ladies should have access to carts needs to walk in front of them for about five minutes and report on how their heels feel.

I would rather be making $9 an hour showing people where their power drill is than spending hundreds of dollars listening to those same people in line.

2. Lines. I know I am by no means a patient person, but hunkering under blankets on the sidewalk for three hours at the coldest part of the day is the opposite of a fun time for me. The last time I was that cold I was sitting on at the base of a tree waiting for a turkey to walk by; and even then I got bored and took a nap.

Naps are not an option when saving your place in line. People literally run to the door, four hours before it opens. I still don’t get it. Having been on the other side of that door, I can promise it is a much nicer environment. Yes, waking up at 5 a.m. to go to work is a pain, but not as painful as your butt will feel after three hours on frozen cement when you’ve lost feeling in all of your toes.

3. Time. For some odd reason this year, Wal-Mart decided to set the trend of sales starting at 8 p.m. Therefore, lines had to start forming no later than 6 p.m. Call me crazy, but that’s dinner time. I can recall as a child, long naps after dinner before shopping, but this year it was simply an all-nighter. According to the veteran shoppers, when one of the items you need is available 10 hours before the other one, shopping all night long is your only option. Being a college student, I am fully accustomed to not sleeping. However, seeing the entire mall bustling at 3 a.m. was a little unsettling. I haven’t been on this earth too long, but I would love to know at what point Americans became so obsessed with the world of retail that it took precedence over sitting across the table from your grandparents.

The fact that Thanksgiving has become nothing more than a precursor for Christmas shopping — and that Christmas is simply about shopping — is just a sad reality.

When you grow up with little to no presents, and then turn around and sell those present for seven years, there is a new perspective on the holidays. Our culture is so wrapped up in the gifts and the deals that we forget why we’re there in the first place.

Even after being a part of the industry for years, I will never understand America’s fascination with the world of retail. There may be thousands of people who are cut out for Black Friday shopping, but I will never be one of them.

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