Retail Workers on What to Know About Black Friday Shopping

  • Black Friday is traditionally a day of great deals, crowded stores, and chaotic shopping. 
  • Writer Jenn Morson spoke to retail workers around the country about what they wish Black Friday shoppers knew. 
  • They said they wished people were more empathetic and understanding that they can’t meet every single shopper’s demands. 

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Black Friday

is the shopping equivalent of an Olympic sport. In American homes, as soon as the turkey coma has worn off, scores of deal-seekers head out on hours-long buying sprees to get through their holiday shopping lists in one fell swoop. 

We spoke to seasoned Black Friday retail workers who had some advice for making your experience — and theirs — a festive one.

Have a heart

Lyndsey Drooby is starting her third holiday season with Anthropologie as a store associate in New York. It’s all hands on deck, with each employee required to work on Black Friday, and the scene is chaotic. 

“It’s always a rush of customers looking to scoop up the famed Volcano candles or scour the sales section, which gets incredibly messy and disheveled within minutes,” Drooby told Insider.

Lyndsey Drooby

Lyndsey Drooby.

Lyndsey Drooby

Drooby says that shoppers would do well to keep their sense of understanding and empathy. 

“Retail employees are human as well, and we don’t have the day off after stuffing ourselves with turkey,” she said. “We have to clean up that sales section, a fitting room that looks like a clothing tornado hit it, and put away misplaced items all day while customers huff and puff about long lines and out-of-stock items.The biggest thing customers should always be aware of is their sense of empathy.”

There aren’t ‘more in the back’ 

On Black Friday, retailers who advertise a limited number of items will put all of those items on the floor, so retail workers want you to know that no, there aren’t any more they can look for in the back. This year the impact of supply chain shortages looms even larger over Black Friday. 

Ishita Kent, a sales associate at Interabang Books in Dallas, Texas, says she expects this Black Friday to be worse than usual because of inventory issues. 

Ishita Kent

Ishita Kent.

Ishita Kent

“I need people to understand that yelling at the cashier won’t make the thing you want appear,” she said. “In fact, if you blow up at a cashier, you’re probably going to become the subject of mockery in many a support group chat.”

Try having fun instead of being cranky 

Instead of being cranky, view your Black Friday outing as an adventure. Marykate Murphy, a Kohl’s employee in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, told Insider that her favorite part of Black Friday is “seeing the same customers every year at about the same time, knowing the deals in each store, and telling the person behind them where they’re headed next.”

Marykate Murphy

Marykate Murphy.

Marykate Murphy

“It’s a tradition, not a battleground,” Murphy said. “Be those people who get up early, go to breakfast, shop, then enjoy a beverage as you admire your shopping accomplishments! If you are choosing to be out on the busiest shopping day of the year, don’t make it a chore.”

Don’t get swept away

This is where having a plan before you shop comes in handy — don’t get caught up in the moment and spend money on things you don’t need because the price is marked down. 

“It’s fascinating watching people rush and run down the aisle for that ‘limited’ deal,” Murphy said.  “I’m always baffled to see them toss around $3.99 tees that they are clearly only buying because they are $3.99!” 

We might be new here

Increased foot traffic during the holidays means many retailers are hiring seasonal employees who are new to the job. Holiday shopping means a need for seasonal employees, so that sales associate frustrating you might very well be new on the job. 

Andrew Reising has worked in retail over many holiday seasons and is getting ready to do so again this year at Blended Local, a collective local artisan shop in Ohio.

Andrew Reising

Andrew Reising.

Andrew Reising

On Black Friday especially, Reising says customers can be especially demanding of and harsh on new employees  who have only been working a very short time. 

“Most big stores ramp up their hiring push in late October/early November, which means that a decent number of people working on Black Friday have only been working there a month or less,” he said.

Try to keep that in mind when an employee doesn’t know the answer to your question and have patience as they attempt to find the answer for you by asking a more knowledgeable employee. A little bit of kindness can go a long way. 

Please wear a mask

We are still in a pandemic, and shopping on Black Friday means being crowded into indoor spaces with a lot of strangers. 

“In a lot of those stores, social distancing will be impossible,” Reising said.  “Wear a mask, regardless of your vaccination status,”

Reising said that shoppers and workers alike are no longer used to crowds and that masking will help reduce the stress level of everyone who is out and about on Black Friday. “For some people in the store, that will be the most crowded public place they’ve been in over a year and a half.”