No matter where you work, there are certain words and phrases that strike terror into the hearts of all employees. For instance, the words "labor strike" are not taken lightly in auto plants and textile mills.
Other words, like "financial crisis," have taken on a new level of gravitas with bankers and brokers. But for retail people there are two words that are unlike all others. In the same way that Harry Potter's nemesis is often referred to as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," these words contain a powerful darkness.
What is Black Friday? No, it's not a reference to a medieval pandemic or stock market crash. For the 26 people in America who've never shopped or worked in a retail store, please allow me to explain.
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Stores open ridiculously early (4 am) and offer sales that, to many, seem just too good to pass up.
I've worked in retail for quite some time. During my retail career, I have worked every Black Friday. I haven't been lucky enough to be served any tainted turkey or get into a minor car accident on the way to work. But here's hoping.
Pulling into the shopping center parking lot, I am always surprised by the sheer amount of desperate souls willing to wait in the cold morning darkness for a shot at getting a laptop for a hundred bucks (only seven per store) or three Everest-tested fleece turtlenecks for the price of one.
The way they hover and press their round faces to the glass reminds me of a lost man in the desert being eyed by a kettle of vultures that is anxiously waiting for the moment when he can go no further.
The moment the door is unlocked, normal-looking men and women, usually the models of etiquette and proper social skills, revert into modes of behavior that Charles Darwin would have found fascinating.
But this holiday season, with the lowest level of consumer confidence in years, I wonder what Black Friday will look like. The discounts and sales will still be there, maybe even better than before. I can't really think of anything good about a recession, but lean times do have a tendency of pumping our collective brakes. So perhaps we might be able to come out of the blur that is the go-go-go 100mph pace of holiday shopping season and see the world around us a bit clearer. A gift like that would surely turn Black Friday into a very dark shade or grey. But a new Blu-ray player would be great.