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Let me begin by saying I love a discount; I do. Paying full price for something when I could be saving money is amazing. That being said, we end up paying a different price when it comes to Black Friday.
Physical causes of death and injury aside, let's start by looking at some data and financials.
According to Business Insider, the federal minimum wage peaked in 1963, and if it actually increased according to inflation, we would be around $19.33. Nineteen dollars.
In my home state of Arizona, our minimum wage is $10.50, and it's set to increase to $12 by the end of 2020. Personally, as a Starbucks supervisor, I'm getting $12.83. I'm supposedly getting it raised to $13.13 for 2019. For Black Friday, as well as other holidays, I'm receiving $19.25, which is almost what the federal minimum wage should be.
Imagine if Arizona residents were paid $19.33. That would mean I'd be paid about $22, which means for time-and-a-half I'd be getting paid $33. Almost twice what I'm actually getting paid.
When you do the math of what it should be, you get pretty pissed when you're on the receiving end of this and you start to wonder where this money is going...to add to the hurt, you have United States legislators advocating to not increase the minimum wage and using small businesses as an excuse when in counties and states where the minimum wage is $15, they're experiencing surpluses in their local economies.
We're beginning to see progress being made by some senators like the recently reelected Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who proactively advocate for the true working class by creating legislation that adds benefits and increases pay.
This isn't a think piece about Sanders or Warren. I could write multiple essays about why they'd be good for us socially, politically, economically, and environmentally. This is about why Black Friday in particular sucks a big one.
Money is a large factor, but I think what is even worse is just how dangerous it is to both shop and work on Black Friday.
Most employers require their employees to work holidays, but especially Black Friday since it's the busiest shopping day of the year, which means profits can be potentially record-breaking every year.
In doing so, they put employees at risk when they don't staff their stores properly. For example, in my particular Starbucks café, my closing team is almost always understaffed and we're expected to give high quality service, speed, and get the store cleaned and prepped for the next day. Normally this wouldn't be a problem if we had the right amount of people, like the morning does.
Likewise, most employees will see Black Friday and other holidays as a chance to pick up time-and-a-half, like I did. Most of us who live paycheck to paycheck will even volunteer to work insane hours, some up to 24-hour shifts just to take advantage of the money so we can pay our bills and have the ability to get gifts for our families.
There's a reason we have limits on shifts and why certain companies will make it against their rules to have back-to-back shifts. I know multiple people who have made themselves sick working incredibly long hours during the holidays. One time, when I worked at Target, I saw a girl excuse herself to the bathroom in order to throw up then she came back to her register where the managers turned a blind eye. WTF?
If you've never worked retail, you might not care about us, and that's fine, the feeling is mutual. We can tell who you are and we can make your shopping experience a living hell. Unfortunately, though, you're not safe from harm either on Black Friday, Karen.
We've all seen the news the next day about gun-friendly Americans shooting people down in order to get the last 80-inch 5K television from Target and it happens everywhere.
Two people were shot and killed because of shopping on Black Friday this year. That number should be zero, by the way, if you think that's not a lot.
Kids and elderly people are trampled, some people have heart attacks, and there was even an incident in 2008 where a pregnant woman had to be hospitalized because the crowd tore the hinges off the Walmart doors and pushed her down. Emotions are high during this time of year.
All of this being said, have you ever wondered why it's called "Black Friday"? Historically, it started in September 1869 when two Wall Street brokers named Jim Fisk and Jay Gould (lol) bought gold in bulk, cornering the gold market, thinking the price would go up and they could sell it at a higher price, but they ended up causing a bit of an economical decline because the price got too high and they couldn't sell it as easily as they thought. Commentators and newspapers called the day "Black Friday."
Thanksgiving was also a time when people would spend a lot of money for the holidays and the launch of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was when retailers would agree not to post their holiday specials until the day after, hence Black Friday. Nowadays, we've gone as early as 5PM on Thanksgiving Day on Thursday to start "Black Friday" shopping.
I digress. Black Friday has become a double-edged sword for both employees and shoppers alike: great deals and time-and-a-half, but at employee's and shoppers physical expense. Is saving 20% really worth getting trampled, Linda?
Meanwhile, you know who's winning physically and financially? The people at the top. With profits going sky-high, the overpaid CEOs and high-ranking officers get paid a huge sum of money while they get away with paying us with what would be a normal wage for doing twice the amount of work.
They don't call it "being in the black" for nothing.
If you do decide to go into No Man's Land at Best Buy, Target and Walmart, remember that the employees are not with their families and they're getting paid what would be a normal wage for maybe up to several hours while doing twice the amount of work.
They are not getting paid to take your shit, Bob. If you pull a gun for a toy or a TV, you're the embodiment of trash and you deserve to rot in jail. No violence is worth any product.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel. Some stores are already making the Black Friday experience smoother. When I worked at Target, they closed off the aisles and had a Target team member standing in each aisle. People were let in about 20 at a time. If they ran, they went to the back of the ridiculously long line.
Customers would have to wait in line inside the store to buy certain products like iPads or TVs. Target team members had to get them and scan them for you. Tickets with numbers held your place in line.
Stores all around the country are trying to make it a less stressful and less dangerous time to shop, so now the only thing left to fix is what the employees are getting paid.
If you make a good living, imagine if you only received $400-700 every two weeks. Imagine raising a family with that kind of income. Those same people at those registers do that every day. Some of them live in studio apartments with two or three roommates who are all in the same situation. Some have two or three jobs just to work 40 hours.
Small businesses will not go extinct. The facts don't lie. The middle and working class spend the most money and when you give us more money, that money will go back into the economy which raises demand, which raises jobs, which raises productivity, which raises income, which goes back into the economy, etc... It's Economics 101.
Pay the workers and they will spend it. Pay us a small wage and we won't spend it out of fear of not having money to pay rent which means less money in the economy, which means less demand, which means less jobs, which means less productivity, etc...
Do you see where I'm going with this?
So be safe and let's make this a successful economy and help Bernie and Elizabeth pass a $15 federal minimum wage so we can help you find that one video game with that yellow cartoon for your nephew without us wanting to blow our heads off.