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Holiday retail "hell" wreaks havoc

Brandon King / Red Dirt Report
Lines are long at Target during the holidays.
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YUKON, Okla. -- The clock in the break room reads 6:55 a.m. and the Target employees wait on pins and needles.

Skylar Blume, whose name has been changed for the sake of this interview, sips on his Mega Monster drink while he leans against the wall. He’s been leaning against the wall for the past 10 minutes staring at the clock. A few deep breaths later, he mutters something under his breath.

“It’s almost over,” he whispered.

Another employee walks past Blume and pats him on the shoulder and continues to walk on. The room feels tense.

In five minutes, the doors will open to the crowd doing their last minute shopping. Retail employees across the country have dealt with waves of shoppers buying for their friends, family and loved ones.

For Blume, this is another day in the chaos of retail.

“I’ve been working in retail for over six months and this time of year is what I’ve feared,” he said. “People kept telling me not to work in retail around this time but I’m still in high school, I need all the money I can get.”

Target is Blume’s job while he works towards his degree at Oklahoma City Community College.

Since majority of schools in Oklahoma have been let out for Christmas break, he was put onto the morning shift. Making a little over nine dollars an hour, Blume has worked almost every day after school until the store closes at midnight.

The clock strikes eight. The doors are unlocked and within the first two minutes, a group of nine people are going through the clothing racks.

“This check better look beautiful,” Blume said with a smirk. He takes one more sip and walks out onto the floor. The first thing he does is refold two shirts tossed back onto a clothing display.

It’s three days before Christmas Day and shops across the state are continuing to see droves of people shuffle through stores looking for last minute gifts for those they care for.

A Time article has labeled the time between Black Friday and New Year’s Day as the most expensive time of the year.

According to the United States Retail Industry, over three trillion dollars were made in 2016 during the holiday season. With this statistic, $476 will be spent on gifts per family for their loved ones. These costs were calculated both for brick-and- mortar stores (physical locations) and online shopping.

Thomas Jones, a retired professor of business at the University of Texas and tutor in economics, stays away from the holiday season.

“I’ve always told my kids that I love the holidays but I hate Christmas time,” Jones said. “It’s too much pressure to get the most expensive thing and the right thing. Anything out of those parameters and you’re known as a jerk. I guess that’s why there’s this rush to do it with such intensity.”

Jones continues to predict through economic statistics that the busiest days for those involved in retail will be between the 20th and the 24th .

“You’ll still find those desperate enough to go near the end of the holiday to find the right thing. I can’t blame them for that,” he said. “What I would caution people is to think of those who are working during the holidays. Be kind, be courteous.”

It’s noon and Blume is getting his first 15 minute break. Dripping with sweat, he sips on the remainder of his monster energy drink and throws it in the trash.

“This … this is hell,” Blume said. “Retail is total hell.”

He tells me of all the countless things misplaced or unfolded as well as the rude behavior of those who have been shopping all day.

“It feels as though, the further the day goes on, the worse these people become. That’s why I get psyched when I see someone who is just nice and trying to get out of here as quick as they can,” he said.

Blume shakes his head and tells me of the moment he saw a man shoulder shove a woman away from a pair of jeans.

“He just did without another thought,” he said. “He pushed her out of the way with his shoulder and said, “for my son” and just left. I helped the lady pick up her full bag and asked if she was okay. She didn’t even look at me. She just walked away and kept shopping.”

Blume’s comments are similar to those who have worked in retail. For those who’ve gotten out of the business, they hold a special sympathy for the other side of the counter.

Lindsay Moore, an ex-retail worker, said, “It’s hell on Earth.”

Kasey Meisner, a stay-at- home and another ex-retail worker, talks about her time working at the outlet mall off of I-40.

“One Black Friday, I opened a dressing room to find liquid all over the floor, covered up by lots of our clothing merchandise,” Meisner said. “And I also found a pregnancy test in a dressing room. I have found dip spit spots all over the store. I have witnessed a father grab a toddler by the throat because he was screaming while they were Christmas shopping.”

Blume joked before he went back out to the floor, “If you really feel the need to shop, just go online and do it there. At least there, you don’t have to deal with people.”

A stack of boxes from Kohls, Amazon and Target shopping. (Brandon King / Red Dirt Report)

The PEW Research Center conducted a research about how the way that the United States shopped during the holiday season.

While 80 percent of Americans shop online for the holidays, most prefer to go into the stores.

Over 60 percent of regular shoppers prefer brick-and- mortar stores due to reasons including seeing the product before buying it or trying the product on for size.

“People would rather know what the product looks like, feels like before the final purchase is through,” the PEW Research Institute said.

Maye Smith is an 76-year- old Yukon native shopping at Target. With two bags in each hand, her husband, Marshall, holds the remainder of the clothes in his hands. As they wait in line, they smile at each other and whisper about the mania of the shops nowadays.

“It’s gotten too crazy over the years but we knew we had to get a few more gifts for the grandkids,” Smith said. “We wouldn’t be here unless we had to, that’s for sure. What gets me is how people can treat one another in the days before a holiday made for spreading love to one another.”

It’s 4:35 p.m. and Blume was told that he can leave for the day; however, he was told to come in at 8 a.m. tomorrow to help with the rush of people. Reluctantly, he agrees, clocks out, and walks outside.

Sweat dripping from his glistening forehead, he smiles as he walks outside and lights a cigarette.

“It’s a living, we all gotta make one,” he said. “I wouldn’t recommend retail to anyone who didn’t have thick skin. But I know this is something that won’t go away as long as there are presents to buy.”

He added, “I would just hope that people would treat those behind the counter with the respect they’re due. They’re just trying to get by during the holiday season too.”

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Brandon King

Brandon King is a journalism student at OCCC, working towards becoming a professional writer....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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