I Cracked Black Friday

The week before Thanksgiving, a friend posted on Twitter that the Kate Spade store in the Pentagon City mall in Arlington, Virginia needed extra hands on Black Friday. The mall opened at midnight on Thanksgiving and didn’t close until 10 p.m. on Friday night. Thinking this would be a fun adventure that would lead to a (possibly awesome) store discount, I went in for an interview. There was one interview question: what do you bring to this position? Brand knowledge and energy. I was hired immediately.

Here is how my experience went, by the numbers:

1.5 hours: the amount of time I spent training in the store the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I learned the backroom stock, the cash register, and most importantly, package wrapping skills. I also panicked about learning how to ring up a gift card. (When I worked Black Friday at Barnes & Noble in 2007, that’s all anyone wanted to purchase.)

1 a.m.: my shift start time. The store was packed. I walked through Macy’s, an anchor store at the P City mall, on my way to “work.” It looked like a tornado had ripped through it. This definitely lowered my confidence on how fun this adventure would be.

5: the number of sales associates working at the store once I clocked in.

2: number of tax forms I had to fill out (a w-9 and a w-4)

2: the number of security guards working in the store. This is double the standard number. Justin, who was a surprise addition to the security personnel, was only to be there until 8 a.m. Vance, the usual security guard, recognizes me when I shop in the store. He also recognizes my husband. Remember that little thing about “brand knowledge”? It comes from copious amounts of window shopping.

4: the number of back up mall security guards that were called in when a fight broke out in front of our store at 2:30 a.m. A group of late teens/early 20-somethings, who were perhaps high off of their Thanksgiving festivities, were pulled apart mere steps from our merchandise. The lead instigator in this pack asked the security guard if she could just have a phone to call her mother. She was going to ask to be picked up at the Baltimore City Mall. All of us in the store gasped and made faces. Our manager said “She doesn’t even have the right state.”

$7.88: the amount I paid to buy everyone in the store Starbucks to stay awake

5 a.m.: the time the store manager came in for duty and let many of the sales associates, me included, go home

10 a.m.: the time my shift was scheduled to end.

$4,000: the amount in sales the manager on duty wanted to make by 5 a.m.

$1,300: the amount in sales we had at 5 a.m.

0: the number of purchases I wrapped up as gifts

0: the number of gift cards I rang up

$1,403.97: the total amount I spent on merchandise

$2,800: the total amount I would have spent if I hadn’t had my discount

50%: my employee discount

30%: my employee discount on already discounted items

6: the number of items I purchased as gifts

6: the number of items I purchased for myself

$?.??: my hourly wage. I just never asked.


Jillian McMahon is checking of her list.


14 Comments / Post A Comment

BananaPeel (#1,555)

I read this with interest but the part I keep thinking about is the girl who thought she was in Baltimore, not Arlington. What?? How could that happen?? I guess if you rode in the car with someone else and napped the whole way there?

Jillian (#4,717)

@BananaPeel She was definitely high. Another girl shouted “You don’t even know where you are!” which prompted her repeat assertion that she was in Baltimore City. It’s a new Metro stop, for sure.

garli (#4,150)

Holy crap, you totally win. 50% off for a single shift? I wonder if I can find that (at places I like to work) anywhere around me. My company shuts down for 2 weeks around Christmas, I don’t celebrate and my husband has to work.

athens_baby (#2,527)

How is the amount you spent lower than the store’s sales? Did you not buy your stuff on the same day, or were you rounding the sales total down? I can’t tell if literally the only transaction that night was you!

lemonadefish (#3,296)

@athens_baby Probably she shopped after her shift ended…

Jillian (#4,717)

@athens_baby Yep! I shopped after my shift. So I basically doubled what the store had made in 5 hours in about 15 minutes of shopping.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

I am a former KS shopgirl! I’m surprised you guys were opened. We were always dead on black friday because we didn’t have anything really crazy discounted (I remember one year it was this $200 that was marked down to $150). Also, I worked in a store that was part of a ritzy-ish/very local-focused downtown (Princeton) and so the crazy crowds on Black Friday were there for the tree lighting and toys at Jazams next door. I’m sad you didn’t get to wrap anything; that was my favorite thing to do at the store and my presents look bomb (as well as my handwriting and thank you-card writing) because of it.

I remember my first xmas as a ks girl…I nearly fainted at the amount of money I would’ve spent if I didn’t have a discount. If you are a full time associate, you also get 50/50s where you get to buy three things at 75% off. You get to buy a purse every quarter at 75%. I think they’ve changed it and actually give the associates a small clothing allowance (2 dresses or something) for the season so you’re ‘brand-appropriate”.

andnowlights (#2,902)

@ceereelyo Really? We have a KS store here. Wondering if I should apply for part time work later once the dead season of January/February is over. I LOVE their clothes but man alive, $$$!

ceereelyo (#3,552)

@andnowlights – I had a lot of fun working there, but definitely had to find something that paid more. I also probably would’ve saved more money because I was constantly shopping. As a full timer though there’s a lot of pressure on sales, but it was a little more personal , ebcause I had a book of clients that I helped and woudl personal shop for (everyone gets a book, or at least that is how it was when I was there). And since Princeton is very small I would see these people all the time. I had super rich ladies who bought ks for gifts (gifts?! like 500$ bags for their dog walker or something) and princeton students and also just people who wanted to get something nice for themselves. With every purchase you had to write a hand-written thank you card. They’ve changed a lot the past couple of years since I’ve been there. But yeah , cheap fancy clothes man. I have several of their dresses on rotation at my super-boring corporate job.

Jillian (#4,717)

@ceereelyo They call it “wardrobing”; the fulltime associates get a wardrobing discount so they wear the brand in the store. They get 65% off the shoes because they want sales associates to wear the shoes to sell more shoes. I thought that was fascinating.

Jillian (#4,717)

@andnowlights I bought clothes. No way can I afford them without the discount, and the best items never go on sale online/in store. Or I’m just not fast enough to catch the sale.

andnowlights (#2,902)

@ceereelyo @jillian Their dresses haunt my dreams. Someday when I have a real job/my husband isn’t in school/I lose all the weight I regained, I will buy ALL THE KS DRESSES!

RonnieC (#5,501)

@jillian As a previous retail store manager I always find it interesting to see what perks other companies give their employees so therefore find this article intriguing…but I hope for your sake that you did not sign a non-disclosure agreement, but it is almost certain that you did. I have worked for many brands, large and small, and have always had my associates sign them even if they are seasonal. If the sales figures and discounts you mentioned above are accurate, you just broke a legal agreement between you and KS by writing this article.

Jillian (#4,717)

@RonnieC Hey, just saw this and wanted to chime in. Since this is written under my real name, I wanted to set the record straight. I work at a law firm, my husband is a lawyer and we might be the most law abiding citizens in the country. I hope that if Kate Spade saw this and did not approve of any of it, they would let me/the Billfold know. I will always do the right thing legally.

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