IIn a typical year, traders have many reasons to hate Black Friday. Crowds, combative shoppers and long working hours add to a mall employee’s nightmare.
Then came the pandemic.
“We don’t even dare to consider refusing to work on Black Friday,” his job at The Children’s Place, a mall, which like other retail workers interviewed for this store story told The Daily Beast. clothing store based in Illinois.
“We have already been informed that if we do not work that day, we are immediately made redundant and no dispute will get our jobs back. We simply cannot run the risk of losing our jobs when there are simply no more jobs to be had right now with closings and stores closed for lack of funds.
Black Friday, one of the busiest days of the year, is a competitive sport among some super shoppers. In COVID-free years, this crowd can camp outside Best Buy overnight or rush into a store as soon as the doors open. Retail workers have a long history of sharing accounts of aggressive customers who negotiate with them, assaulting them even when a deal doesn’t suit them.
This year, as densely populated interior spaces bring risk of COVID-19, some retail workers feel trapped working in dangerous conditions with a particular breed of reckless consumers in a pandemic.
None of the employers named in this story returned requests for comment.
Some stores and states have implemented new policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Walmart, where shoppers wait in long lines before the dawn of Black Friday, announced it would cap storage capacity at 20% and keep shoppers in single file lines while they wait for enter. The supermarket also started some of its sales earlier in the month, apparently in an effort to avoid massive crowds the day after Thanksgiving. A few other large retailers have followed suit.
But the prolonged buying frenzy can backfire. An employee at a Macy’s department store in California said his company ran Black Friday deals lasting several weeks, only to see constant chaos.
“The store traffic has been like Black Friday every day,” she told The Daily Beast. “Nonstop lines… The other day our store was full capacity, so the managers closed the doors and started counting people. But it shouldn’t happen to this point.
She and some of her colleagues aren’t comfortable working on Black Friday, she said, but she feels pressured to come to work for financial reasons: like millions of Americans in the COVID economy , she experienced unemployment earlier this year.
“When it comes to vacations in general, customers suck. A large crowd of last minute shoppers, titled Karens, and the stress without interruption.“
– Iowa retail worker
Holiday shopping can also be a headache for grocers. A dairy store in an Iowa supermarket told the Daily Beast that customers often lose their temper around Thanksgiving.
“When it comes to vacations in general, customers suck. A big crowd of last minute buyers, titled Karens, and the stress on and on, ”she said. “I pray to God that this year the majority of customers use our online shopping service and stay at home.”
This worker said she only worked the unenviable Thanksgiving and Black Friday shifts because her store offered a 10% bonus for those days. “As a college student, I’ll take what I can get,” she told the Daily Beast.
Another mall employee said Black Friday shoppers worried him more than normal shoppers.
“My mall seems to be pretty busy, so during vacation hours I can only imagine things getting worse,” he told The Daily Beast. “People who come to the mall for shopping worry me the most because: Why do they even need to indulge during a pandemic? Can’t you just find a way to limit your exposure while still receiving gifts safely? “
Despite nearly a year of coronavirus, Americans’ buying habits are still on the rise. In an announcement on Monday, the National Retail Federation said it expected a 5% increase in spending in November and December from those months of 2019. And not all of the cash flow comes from online sales. , which have skyrocketed since the virus. swept the country; The stock prices of mall conglomerates and mall-based retailers like Gap and Macy’s are on the rise, based on forecasts that shoppers will flock to IRL stores this holiday season.
These buying spikes coincide with a terrifying COVID-19 spike. United Food and Commercial Workers, a union that represents grocery and retail workers, announced Monday that at least 350 of its union members have died from COVID-19 this year. The union is calling for a dramatic increase in protective equipment for workers, as well as risk premiums and paid sick leave.
“Put simply, frontline workers are terrified that their employers and our elected leaders are not doing enough to protect them and stop the spread of this virus,” UFCW President Marc Perrone said in a statement. appeal to the press. “As the holiday shopping begins this Thanksgiving, we are already seeing a surge in customer traffic. Unless we take immediate action at the start of this holiday week, many other essential workers will fall ill and others, tragically, will die.
Instead of successfully rolling out more protections, however, some stores are struggling to enforce their existing anti-COVID policies.
“Iowa is one of the worst states for COVID. I’ve seen people walk into the store in large groups, without masks, and get too close for comfort, ”the grocery store worker said. “Often when the store is very busy, I am called to help prepare the races because we are understaffed.”
“People don’t follow guidelines,” Macy’s employee added of the mask warrants in her store. “We have a Starbucks in our store, [and] people walk around drinking and eating without masks. If restaurants have to close outdoor restaurants, I don’t understand why we always have our Starbucks open. “
Customers resistant to masks are a constant complaint from traders. Walmart and Target employees previously told the Daily Beast that their stores force workers to enforce mask rules, putting them in conflict with shoppers who spat and cursed at them.
The problem is ongoing, the Children’s Place worker said.
“We have customers who think they are invincible, immune to this very deadly virus, and that makes them feel they have the right not to wear a mask or practice social distancing,” she says. Even on the best days, customers ignore signs and markers on the ground that encourage social distancing, the worker noted.
Enforcing these rules is even more difficult in a children’s clothing store, she said, and asking parents to put masks on their children means risking the buyer to file a complaint with the store manager. .
Still, on Friday, the store’s sales will kick off – and she and her colleagues will have to tame the crowd.
“They have decided that Black Friday will remain Black Friday, seemingly regardless of the fact that we are living in a deadly pandemic,” the Children’s Place worker said. “It feels like the profits are more important to them than our lives and our safety.”
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