Employees, in-store and online shoppers have different Black Friday experiences

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Maddi Dayton
A sale sign is on display at the BYU Bookstore. Stores prepare sometimes weeks in advance for what is the biggest retail day. (Universe Photo)

The copious Thanksgiving meal of a stuffed turkey covered in cranberry sauce and potatoes smothered in rich gravy has been responsible for extra pounds and a food-induced coma; but Black Friday shoppers won’t let a few extra pounds get in the way of their discounted television.

Boots and coats on, Black Friday shoppers are lining up in the cold weather, sleeping in tents at the entrance of a store or setting the alarm that will wake them up for the deal of the year. Such a depiction has become the norm for many Americans, but some have a different idea of and experience on Black Friday.

Barbie Berg, originally from Colorado, works as a creative director for wedding dress line LatterDayBride which specializes in modest wedding dresses. Every year on Black Friday, the store offers its customers a sale on bridal and prom dresses. LatterDayBride calls the day “White Friday,” in reference to the white wedding gowns.

Berg said the “White Friday” sale is a lot of fun. She gets excited as soon as she sees the customers lining up outside. “Knowing that we are helping someone find the most important item of clothing they will ever wear is an awesome experience,” Berg said. “I love the look on their face when they find ‘the dress,’ and the tears that come when we put a veil in their hair and they understand their dream is now reality.”

For other shoppers the tears happen in the midst of fights over products. Alivia Luu, department manager of the jewelry counter at the Orem Wal-Mart, tells the story of the crazy shoppers she faces every Black Friday.

“I have seen people straight up take things out of other peoples carts, which usually starts a fight,” Luu said. “People come in every Black Friday and destroy the store by going crazy.”

Luu said Wal-Mart prepares its employees weeks in advance for what is the biggest day in retail. To face Black Friday challenges, employees are trained on how to deal with unmanageable customers and fights.

According to Luu, employees receive a training guide instructing them on what to do when people fight and also when they fall. “We are supposed to stand around them to kind of hide them so others don’t stare until they get up,” Luu said. “A lot of people just biff it in front of everyone and they get so embarrassed and I know I shouldn’t laugh, but I can’t help it, it is the funniest thing.”

Luu said Wal-Mart becomes a completely different store on Black Friday. Employees have to move the entire store around for the event. But the customers’ behavior is the most surprising change. Apart from falling and sometimes acting irrational, customers are often confused and easily become rude, according to Luu. “If customers see one person breaking the rules and get their way then it is free game for everyone to break the rules,” Luu said. “They get mad so easily, so it is important to make sure we don’t make exceptions for anyone.”

A shopper holds shopping bags. With its sales and good deals, Black Friday attracts all kind of crowds. (Universe Photo)

Other stores have made the decision to avoid the chaos by closing on Black Friday. In an effort to encourage its employees and customers to spend the holiday outdoors, Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) announced in October that they will be closing their stores on Black Friday.

Sean Haines, a BYU sophomore from Alaska, said he likes REI’s decision to close on Black Friday. “Sure they might miss out on some sales, but they avoid the madness and don’t force their employees to work that day, causing them to potentially miss out on holiday activities,” Haines said.

Haines said he thinks most stores should close to leave its employees and customers more time to enjoy the holiday. He said the worries of getting to the store on time, to get deals and save a few dollars, takes away from the Thanksgiving holiday. “It used to be that the deals started Friday morning, but now they are starting Thanksgiving day night,” Haines said. “Where will it end? And why not just push the sales and deals till Saturday or something?”

Haines said he will spend Thanksgiving this year with his family and use the time without classes to relax and bond with his family.

BYU student Zixuan Zhou, originally from China, said she has never been Black Friday shopping before, but has gone Singles’ Day shopping in the past. One of the largest online shopping days in the world, Singles’ Day is celebrated on Nov. 11 to honor people who are single.

According to Zhou, the date (11/11) is symbolic as the number 1 represents an individual standing alone. “Many single people will buy things or hang out with friends to celebrate this festival,” Zhou said. “However, about six years ago, merchants began to use this opportunity to make money by selling things online.”

Zhou said Singles’ Day is very different from traditional Chinese festivals. It does not involve any specific traditions and is only a day to have fun and buy things. “It’s kind of fun when people who are single can have their own holiday,” Zhou said. “Although today it is not so much about single people, but more about everybody enjoying discounts and buying things.”

The 2015 Singles’ Day broke all records when e-commerce giant Alibaba saw its sales reached $14.3 billion, a 60 percent increase from 2014, according to a BBC article. Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, was named second richest person in China by Forbes magazine in 2015.

In comparison, online sales for Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day in the U.S, combined with Black Friday sales are expected to reach $5.7 billion.

 

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