Thursday, November 22, 2007

Before you freak out on a store clerk tomorrow morning...

Please read the following, my account of working a "Black Friday" at Fargo's Best Buy a few years back. I've been there; it's not their fault! (p.s. I haven't read this since I wrote it last year, so hopefully it's not too offensive or anything....)


Stuck inside of Best Buy with the day-after-Thanksgiving blues again
Matthew R. Perrine
Budgeteer News - 11/17/2006

When I think of Thanksgiving, I hear a song.

Not one of the myriad of Christmas songs coming up through my record needle 24/7 (thanks, wifey), but one from Milwaukee’s the Promise Ring.

“Get on the Floor” includes three stellar and potentially prophetic lines: “I feel paranoid / I get on the floor / And I just freak out.”

Now, this might not make a lot of sense until I let on to the fact that, at this time last year, I was working at Best Buy No. 13 (Fargo).

One of my responsibilities included a pre-dawn, day-after-Thanksgiving shift in the camera department. (Cue sinister theme music.)

Who better to tell “day-after” war stories than someone who has worn that dorky blue polo and lived to tell about it?

The weekend prior to Black Friday (as it’s known in “the biz”), Store 13’s army commenced for an early morning training session. The mission was simple: Prepare everyone for the day-after onslaught.

We’d all heard rumors, but how bad could it really be? As the hilarious accounts on’s forums were my only window into that madness, I was decidedly shocked when our store manager popped in a video from the previous year’s Black Friday.

The few that bumrushed the poor soul who had to open the doors (which were, by that time, busting at the seams) snowballed into an avalanche of rabid bargain hunters — all in a matter of seconds.

It had the look, the sound and, from what I gathered last year, the smell of a stampede.

These people were nuts. Not in the way bargain-store shoppers hover over your shoulders (you know, in case you somehow stumble upon the deal of the century ... otherwise known as “the one”), but in the sense that putting “blood” and “thirsty” together doesn’t even come close to cutting it.

It was complete and utter madness. At least a few of them had dollar signs glowing in their eyes where pupils used to sit.

Of course, now knowing what we were up against, a trial run was conducted. Leading the pack were senior team members who had “been there, done that.”

It was scary. Some coworkers I considered halfway normal became werewolfs, getting in my face and barking at me for this or that from all imaginable directions.

“Ha, good one,” I scoffed.

Little did I know that they were going easy on me. As I would soon find out, Black Friday bargain shoppers are freakin’ lunatics. If you don’t give them X amount of cameras in Y amount of time (a couple of seconds ... if you’re lucky) for Z amount of dollars, you will be in some sort of XYZ hurtbag.

I had never been so scared in my life. When the stampede reached my department (near the back of the store), it had been all of 2.2 seconds since the doors opened. (Not to be outdone by physics, the accompanying trail of saliva still attached to the corner of their seething mouths somehow reached us first.)

There wasn’t any time to think, let alone blink. My department supervisor would later admit that, from time to time, he’s had employees literally freeze up. No joke. They had to be taken to the break room to recoup. But it’s entirely understandable. Had half of Fargo’s television news media not been there recording every move, I could’ve fallen by the wayside.

Not me, though. I wore my “blues” proud that day. Sure, I kind of wished I had been born with more arms, but, after the initial rush, the legions of zealous shoppers were ushered into a checkout line that wrapped around the entire store.

The cattle had had their day. Now it was time for them to queue up. Moo?

But this triumphant feeling soon fizzled. Sure, I was free enough, standing in my own space, but then the glares hit me. I knew what they were thinking: “If only you had moved a little faster, I would’ve gotten that cheap digital camera or that cheap memory card or....”

They didn’t appreciate the fact that I had busted my butt. No, all they could imagine was just how fast I could’ve moved.

Their faces said, “Black Friday is your one day to transcend your human form, Matt. Channel that inner mutant.”

Mouthing “I tried my best” or “I’m just one man” or “Yes, I agree, my mother should have enjoyed some Morgan Park water back in ‘82” wasn’t going to cut it — and that’s exactly why I had to retire from the game.

Matthew R. Perrine is the Budgeteer’s news clerk/reporter. He can be reached at 723-1207 or


This concludes the first installment of my new series, THE RECYCLER: OLD STORIES MADE NEW AGAIN! (All hail the almighty Slate!)

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