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Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Restraint of Beasts

The next US Holiday in the Calender after Halloween is Thanksgiving, which falls on the 4th Thursday in November. This won't be my first Thanksgiving in the US, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday at my BIL Chris and and SIL Maureen's house in Texas, but it'll be the first in my own US home.

I like Thanksgiving as a Holiday. The focus is not gifts or chocolate, carols or cheesy songs, greetings cards or decorations, but simply getting together with family and friends, eating a meal and spending time together and being grateful for the good things we have, celebrating a (hopefully) successful harvest and surviving another year. The Retail industry can't make much money out of that however, even American families can only eat so much roast turkey and pumpkin pie, so they invented Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving, a day of Sales mayhem and misery for retail staff.

Two years ago a WalMart employee was killed by a stampeding crowd, while protecting a pregnant customer who had been knocked to the floor. As a consequence of this, WalMart has employed crowd control specialists (who have worked the Superbowl for years as well as thousands of smaller events) to organise and assist in "The Event", as this sales day is dubbed at WalMart.

All this is of particular relevence to me, as I have been selected to be on the Crowd Management A Team in my store. Our store is open 24 hours so we don't have quite the same mad rush and panic when the doors open, but there's still potential for injury to customers and staff, so our job is to guide customers through the store, ensure orderly queuing, controlled but steady movement along the designated queuing aisles, and to keep customers calm and moderately happy while they queue.

The store will have "Hot Items" on sale, such as big screen TVs and other expensive items, and the A Team get the hottest item of the lot. When that's sold out we split up and reinforce the other teams (B through J), and so on. Queuing starts at midnight and ends at 5am, so I'll most likely be starting my shift at midnight, which is bound to put a dent in my Thanksgiving dinner - assuming I'm not working that day anyway.

Large items that cannot safely be manouvered  through the crowd and out of the store will be collected at a special pick-up point between 5am and 6am. If I start my shift at midnight I'll be done by 9am, by which time the second rush of customers starts, those people who were at other stores for their initial purchases.

It may all sound a bit of a grind, but I'm looking forward to it with interest. Part of my enjoyment of living as an immigrant in the US comes from doing new things and having new experiences, and this will certainly be a new experience. I know that I've been selected for my track record of reliability, responsibility and maturity, and willingness to take on any task set for me with enthusiasm, and I'm determined to perform at my best.

1 comment:

  1. That trampling story is truly disturbing, but we've heard similar from all kinds of settings worldwide...sporting events, accident scenes, rock concerts...
    Humans in mob form are a phenomenon from which I instinctively retreat, hence you will not find me shopping at your store or anywhere else on Black Friday!
    That you approach it with willingness and interest must mark you as a true social anthropologist!