‘It’s a Zoo Out There’

A team of Dollars & Sense reporters threw themselves into the throngs on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and filed these reports and observations.

Staten Island

At Target, “We had 10 TVs in stock, $200 for a 32-inch screen, and $369 for a 40-inch screen,” says Rocco Miraglia, a sales associate. “We had to hide them in the men’s section, because if we would put them in electronics it would get overcrowded. People would even steal the TVs from other people’s carts when they weren’t looking.”

As shoppers search frantically for the best deals, downright hostility is common. “One thing managers tell you is to not to help customers, just fold the clothes and clean,” says Francesco Tribuzio, a sales associate at Express, in the Staten Island Mall.

At Macy’s, “along with the big sale already going on, this woman wanted to use another coupon on top of the 20 percent off coupon she was already using,” says Rosa Patruno, a sales associate. “Not only is combining coupons not allowed but also the coupon was expired. I called the manager and they got into a huge argument.”

—Teresa Roca

Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, Central Valley, N.Y.

“I had to leave the house when it was still a little bit dark out in order to get here early, park the car and get what I wanted,” says Heather Bayer, who lives nearby, with a giant bag from the Timberland Outlet over her right shoulder. “If I had not done that, my items would have been gone by the time I got here. Timing is everything on Black Friday.”

Cars fill every spot at this Orange County mall and have parked out the entrance and down the road. “I’ve been in line for over an hour and in this spot for about 20 minutes now,” said Thomas Kincaid, of the Bronx, who drove an hour to get to the Commons.

Stepping into the main shopping area is like walking into Six Flags on a nice summer day: people end to end, front to back, many carrying monstrous bags. Shoving, yelling, and pushing seemed to be the main forms of communication.

“The holiday’s come around and people forget their manners,” says Francine Watts, on her way out of Bose with a surround-sound system for her husband. “It’s a zoo out here.”

—Nicholas Anglero

Wal-Mart, The Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Kohl’s

At 3 a.m., I’m getting ready to leave for a Wal-Mart upstate, and all I can think about is the stuff I’ll be buying on sale. If there’s one thing I’m good at it’s spending money. When we arrive at 5 a.m. in Central Valley, N.Y., I see something I had not encountered in all my years of shopping on Black Friday: the parking lot is nearly full, and some people are already walking back to their cars with two or three full carts. Last year, when we arrived at Sears at 5 a.m., we were the second car in the lot!

“I feel opening that early is unnecessary,” says Amanda Vega, a sale associate at The Gap in Astoria, Queens. “I understand the customers that wish to get their shopping done early, but I don’t understand allowing it to consume you, to the point of sleeping a few hours or rushing to a store right after you finish celebrating your Thanksgiving.”

A blogger at gather.com says she was in Kohl’s toy department, and customers were dumping unwanted toys anywhere, grabbing things off a pallets as workers were trying to restock shelves and even grabbing and pushing employees to get their attention.

At Victoria’s Secret in the Cross County Mall in Yonkers, Janet Anguelova, a sales associate, says, “I think it’s a craze stuck in Americans’ minds. I don’t even think the deals are that big—retailers make them seem big. But then on other holidays they might reduce the prices as much or just have a lot of coupons available.”

—Christina Torrence

Abercrombie, J.C. Penney, Old Navy

Never have I seen so many bleary-eyed soccer moms clawing through the sales racks at 6 a.m. as I did at Abercrombie two years ago – it was like watching a National Geographic special on the survival of the fittest, retail style. I especially hate being in a crowded store that has clothing strewn all over the floor, which seems to be a specialty at J.C. Penney.

Working retail on Black Friday taught me that no one is happy that day. Every customer seems to be cranky, and the employees are just as miserable. Don’t let their fake smiles fool you…No one should have to wake up that early the day after eating their weight in turkey. Kim, my best friend, works at Old Navy, and said a fist fight broke out at 7 a.m. … I hate Black Friday.

—Duncan Goodwin

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