Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
"I worked at Aritzia, a hip, slightly upscale clothing retailer that my coworker referred to as a 'gold-plated hell-hole.' The week started with a 7 a.m. merch pull to ship out all of the things that weren’t on special, as our stock room was quite small. The day before Thanksgiving, 20 extra boxes appeared in our shipment because the warehouse had mistakenly sent all of those items back. Space was extremely limited, so all of the shopping bags and tissue were moved into the restroom, at which point a lackey from the corporate office chided, 'I’m glad the CEO isn’t here to see this.'
"Getting prepared for Black Friday the day before Thanksgiving was nearly as bad as Black Friday itself. There was a new window display to install, the store needed to be re-merchandised, clothing on the mannequins changed. Despite the 'corporate policy,' several employees (who coincidentally were friends with the managers) were excused from Black Friday duties for superficial reasons. They scurried out the door while the rest of us, slightly understaffed, set to work with a booklet of sale prices and started marking tags.
"About an hour and a half in, a message came in from corporate that the prices had been re-adjusted; therefore, at 10 p.m. on the evening before Thanksgiving, we were forced to start over. The new price difference was nickels and dimes. We finished preparations at around 2 a.m. As we wearily started to gather our things, a corporate lackey appeared and began nitpicking the merch manager's work (which, honestly, looked terrific). Luckily, we had a great merch manager who gave her the most truthful answer when asked to redo the mannequins at 2 a.m. 'If it's so important, do it your effing self. We’re all going home.'
"On Black Friday, a table was set up in the narrow hallway between the stockroom and bathroom, to process shipment. Sales associates were constantly bumping into me in this hallway, going back and forth between the sales floor and the stockroom. At one point, surprised by the constant stream of people into the stockroom, I peeked inside to discover sales associates not on a sanctioned break, taking some time to post to Snapchat and snap some selfies while hiding from the chaos in the store. This continued for the entire day. I wish I could’ve hidden under a pile of sweaters with my phone as well.
"Also... I managed to bump the light switch and turn out the lights in the entire store several times — and by several, I mean nine. The ninth time I bumped the lights, I did it on purpose, because it was funny watching all of the frenzied shoppers suddenly freeze.
"When I was hired, they sold me with big stories about what a down-to-earth company they were. 'No caste system in place here; the CEO would work at the stores on Black Friday — sweeping floors, assisting customers, swaddling purchases in tissue, and bagging them,' [people said]. Yet, when Black Friday rolled around, the CEO and his corporate office minions stood, arms crossed, chatting with managers and schmoozing employees for a couple of hours before making a hasty exit mid-chaos to grab a bite and head off to Costco in hopes of procuring a discount Vitamix (for real)... Not once did I witness anyone from corporate being useful.
"We were dealing with about 100 times the volume of customers we were used to, yet not getting paid more... Not to mention the state that I worked in had a law that allowed companies to skirt overtime pay if employees are listed as part-time. So they would schedule half of their workforce to be just under the minimum to qualify for full-time employment."
*Name has been changed