Just in case this quarter of school has your brain pummeled into a forgetful soup, I’ll remind you of an impending day of food and joy — Thanksgiving arrives this Thursday. If you’re reading this story and haven’t done any of your shopping yet, drop the newspaper, walk away, and do it now. Better yet — do it yesterday. Yes, travel back on your own time stream, buy all your Thanksgiving supplies, and create a temporal paradox in the process. What are you thinking, waiting this long to gather ingredients?
Every holiday season, Black Friday makes for a hot topic of conversation. The people ask: What gut-wrenching deals will the department stores run this year? Who will trample who for the best deal on the new Oculus Rift? Worse yet, how early on Thanksgiving will Wal-Mart and Target be opening? In the eyes of many, Black Friday’s moneygrubbing tendencies encroach on the types of values we believe Thanksgiving should encompass: family, togetherness and being thankful for smartphones that can play Super Nintendo games in the palms of our hands. However, many people don’t realize just how insane Black Sunday, Black Monday, Black Tuesday, and Blacker Wednesday are for grocery stores everywhere.
Forget Black Friday for a minute — let’s talk about the horrors of Thanksgiving shopping at grocery stores, from the perspective of a man who’s spent over a decade in the business.
The days leading up to Thanksgiving frequently take the definition of “ugly” to new heights. Combine snobby attitudes, gross impatience, and spatial unawareness and you get a level of disorderly chaos that makes the 2016 Cleveland Browns look well-organized by comparison. Each day leading up to Thanksgiving provides a distinct flavor of chaos:
As the sun begins to rise, grumpy shoppers emerge from the shadows to shout at cashiers for every reason you could imagine. Customers begin strategizing different ways to get in the way of every employee over the course of the holiday. Last minute turkey orders trickle in, making up nearly 95 percent of overall orders. Regular customers experience amnesia and forget where to find bread. The internal voices of employees warm up for a half-week of internal screaming.
Last minute orders arrive, crushing everything in sight with giant pallets of food — or at least that’s how it feels for each employee working this day. Customers begin to disregard every other human being — especially employees — to get what they want as fast and aggressively as possible. Regular customers experience amnesia and forget where to find butter. The managers scheduled the most help over the following three days, making this day feel like walking up a descending escalator with a sprained ankle.
People who think they’re beating the Thanksgiving rush arrive at the exact same time, creating the rush they tried to avoid. Some crafty thief uses the chaos as a perfect cover for stealing thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. A picky customer forces a passing employee to turn over every single pumpkin pie to find the most desirable “sell by” date. Regular customers experience amnesia and forget where to find broth.
Nobody knows where the checkout line begins or ends. Customers think other customers stole their parking spots at least once an hour. Every other customer comments on the insanity as though they’re the first to notice. The internal voices of employees are so hoarse that they internally crack. This leads to feeling internally defeated, leading to external crying. The masses tear the grocery aisles apart faster than employees can restock them. Regular customers experience amnesia and forget where to find everything. Everything hurts.
Despite popular belief, meat-cutters are not magicians — they can’t make turkeys materialize out of thin air the hour before closing time on Thanksgiving Day. This isn’t the “Jetsons” — meat cutting expertise doesn’t inherently allow them to defy universal laws of matter conservation. A pallet of eggs falls over a half hour before closing. One minute after the manager locks the doors, a frantic woman pleads to be let in for “only one more thing” because her baby is sick with something only a package of Hawaiian rolls can cure.
Psychologists believe humans — like most sentient creatures — routinely learn from experience, so you would think they would stop waiting until the last minute to do their holiday shopping after only one or two claustrophobic shopping experiences. Speaking from first-hand experience, this assumption is mostly false — it happens virtually every year. These customers must be classically conditioned to love waiting in long lines, love terrible parking situations and absolutely love driving “all the way from Gig Harbor” for a specialty product they weren’t sure the store even carried. A holiday believed to be about family values frequently deteriorates into a menagerie of selfishness, egotism and gross indulgence — all for the sake of one dinner. As a result, Thanksgiving shoppers can wear so heavily on employees that it kills their own desire to celebrate.
I admit — this situation may not affect many of you. You could just be the people showing up to a family member’s home this Thursday to devour everything in sight. Just remember: You may be one of these customers someday. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Whether it’s the days leading up to Thanksgiving or the notoriously violent Black Friday, don’t forget to be a decent human being. Shop early, shop friendly and shop smartly — your externally friendly retail workers will thank you.