Working the holiday rush

By Tiffanie Reynolds |

Placing the last gift basket on the shelf, I took a few steps back and watch as two women behind me rushed and grabbed six each, completely emptying the middle shelf. Walking to the back room to open and empty yet another box, I slid past men and women on their cell phones relaying the items they saw as they rifled through bins and scan shelves. All this while “What a Wonderful World” played through the speakers above.

Although not as violent as the pepper spraying at the LA area Wal-Mart or the looting in Soho, the St. Augustine Outlet Stores did receive their share of the holiday rush. People were walking into the store already carrying three or four shopping bags, reaching over one another to look at the products on display, and, at times, squeezing themselves past others to get from one table to the other. Some even sent one person into the store to shop, while the rest of their group waited outside.

This is only a snapshot of the success of this year’s Black Friday sales. Despite the low economy, with many big brand stores opening Thanksgiving night to draw more people, Americans spent 16.4 percent more this Black Friday than the same day last year, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Foundation. On average, a single consumer spent $398.62 that day, compared to $365.34 last year. A little over a quarter of that money, 37.8 percent, was spent shopping online, which marks the increase of using the Internet to make purchases.

Of course, the crowds did not slow down after Friday. On Saturday, the line for the cash registers still snaked halfway across the store, with a huge, red, sparkley sign held over the crowd to indicate the beginning of the line.

I found myself going back to the same shelves several times, replacing products not nearly as fast as people took them. It was the second day of already opened shopping bags lining the floor and table behind the cash registers. It was also the second day of piles of empty boxes stacked in the back room as the last of the stock was moved to the shelves.

Even with all the “doorbusters” and sales, what is most interesting is how many people are not really buying for their Christmas list. Many women I passed in those two days said they were mostly buying for themselves, their bags filled with individual items and only two or three gift baskets.

Do people really wait all year just to shop for these sales? Would they really wait in long lines, fight through crowds, and snatch at whatever items are left for themselves? I could see it on their faces: the glazed eyes, the frustration. Yet, people still come in packs, marking the mall map like a battleship game board.

The big lure of Black Friday weekend is to be able to shop for your whole holiday list for less, but how many shoppers were really doing it?

But the real irony to this holiday season kick-off is watching people shove, snatch and spend their way through every store as mall speakers simultaneously pump the chorus of peace on earth and coming home for Christmas.

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