Matt Potter 4:30 p.m., Dec. 6
"Deck the halls with hunks of money--fa la la la la, la la la la! 'Tis the season to be greedy-fa lal la la la, la la BAH HUMBUG!" --from a December, 1974 issue of "Boy's Life."
Christmas brings out different emotions for different folks. For the kids, it's visions of Santa and the wonderous toys that await them under the tree. For sky-watchers, Christmas Day is four days after the Winter Solstice, and the days are getting longer. For so-called "culture warriors," Christmas is a raison d'etre for accusing those who aren't saying "Merry Christmas" of not being "true believers."
However, when you have worked five years in the reatil sector, you end up calling the season between 1-Nov and 7-Jan "The Silly Season." This is because during this time, we see a lot of silly people doing silly things in-and-out of our stores. Unless you have a constitution of chilled steel, being in retail during this time is a good way to start loathing Christmas as a moden bacchinalia of consumerist excesses!
Think my potato has been baking too long?
The time between All Saint's day and The Day After Thanksgiving is when our stores are supposed to prep for the crush of crowds, all seeking that "just right" bargain to put under the family tree. All the stuff going on sale for the Christmas Rush gets put on the shelves. Extra restroom supplies are ordered. Seasonal help is hired-and-trained. Parking lot personnel (aka: cart attendants) are given extra lectures on safety and told every shift to "be careful out there."
And, unfortunately, with good reason.
For on the Day After Thanksgiving, the Silly Season goes into Maximum Overdrive. Folks line up for at least a half-mile or more, hoping to get in and get first crack at the various bargain items. From "Tickle Me Elmos (yeah, right--tickle these!)," to household stereos, to the latest video gaming consoles, the shoppers line up to get in the store at 06:00...and God help the staff and management if the store opens even one minute late.
Out in the parking lot, the folks charged with keeping the store full of shopping carts have a daunting task on their hands...getting the carts back to the store for re-use, without getting turned into Pavement Pizza by some fool in an SUV. As the shoppers finish unloading their carts, some pop the carts intro specially-built corrals, while many others just leave them in the lot.
No matter. We cart attendants (yes, I did a tour at Target Escondido from 2001-2005) have to get those carts into the store, no matter the cost. With each brace of twenty-five carts on the front of our cart moving machine, there are twenty souls waiting to grab a cart and get to business.
The cashiers and Guest Service folks have it the hardest. The cashiers have to get the guests and their goodies checked out in record time--while the Guest Service folks have to not only be vigilant against rip-off attempts (a box of stones in a VCR box used to be a easy way to rip off the store), but also explain that our return policies are not like our competitor's (if said guest can read the policy (in English and Spanish) on the back wall of Customer Service).
From fistfights over a parking space, to a cashier getting an earful from a guest who forgot that the cashiers don't set the prices, to having to call EMS because some dodo in a SUV backed over a cart attendant...then drove off? These are a few of the reasons we call it "The Silly Season." And the Christmas Decorations that are starting to go up earlier and earlier are merely the harbinger of what's to come.