Editor’s note: Meg McGuire, wife of About Men Radio contributor Christopher Mele, offers this recollection of working at a retail clothing store at the Reading, Pa., outlet malls on Black Friday many years ago.
The wrinkle? She didn’t know it was Black Friday.
When I returned from England all those years ago in October with a young daughter and an English husband, we were eager to find work ASAP.
And I did.
At the Vanity Fair Outlet Mall in Reading, Pa.
I had worked my way though a big chunk of college as a cashier at various A&P supermarkets, so I felt that retail would be different, but similar.
I was hired in November.
My first day of work was a Friday.
Yes, Black Friday.
Either because when I was growing up there wasn’t a lot of money to spend on retail or because Black Friday had been “invented” while I was away in England, I had no idea what was about to happen.
The outlets opened at 9 a.m., but I was to report at 8 a.m.
I was taken on a short tour of the floor I was assigned to: A vast cavern of racks and racks of bras and slips and panties and pajamas and nightgowns and bathrobes.
The dressing rooms were pointed out to me:
“We’ll take it in regular rotation to visit the dressing rooms. Just scoop up whatever is on the floor and put it in one of those big plastic bins. Don’t ever try to hang them up. Every hour or so, in the beginning, someone will come and take away the full ones and replace it with an empty one. By mid-morning, those containers will fill up fast. Make sure that there’s room for the guys to get the full ones out and the empty ones in.”
Of course, those aren’t her exact words. But they are close.
The reason I remember them is they were the beginning of my realization that I was in for something spectacular.
By 9 a.m. the buses started disgorging their passengers, who RAN into the outlet, grabbing stuff — any stuff.
Some of the customers did want to try things on, and the dressing rooms were soon strewn with unwanted lingerie, a sea of blue and pink and black. Pretty silky lacy things turned into a mess.
I was told to stand at the edges and not try and go into the shopping mass: “You could get hurt.”
Of course, I saw a whole pile of knotted-up hangers, bras and panties making a hazard in the middle of an intersection of rows.
So I did what I shouldn’t have done.
As I reached down to grab the pile and drag it into one of the bins that now lined the side of the floor, I felt someone grab for the pile, someone else grabbed me and before I knew it, I was on the floor.
Someone stepped on my hand. Luckily, a rescue mission of five of my co-workers came and got me.
I spent the rest of that crazy day standing very close to the bins at the side of the floor, watching and wondering: What could possibly be worth this craziness?
It’s still my question.
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