NOTE: This is one of my favorite In Mala Fide articles, originally published on November 29, 2010.
Presenting the best of Black Friday 2010. Or at least what I think is the best. I wouldn’t know. I don’t shop on Black Friday. I don’t even go to any stores on Black Friday. In fact, I spent this Black Friday, as well as the one before, sleeping in. I want nothing to do with you miserly, two-legged buffalo.
My abstention from joining the herd on the day after Thanksgiving, the biggest shopping day of the year, is rooted in pragmatism and protest. If you’re standing in the freezing cold all night to buy a video game console that goes on sale at five in the morning, do the world a favor and kill yourself. As for the protest, it comes from having spent many a Black Friday in the store, but on the other side of the garage door you filthy animals smashed in so you could get your fucking $299.99 HP laptop (that will break on you in a year after you load it up with malware from all those shady porn sites you visit).
Yes, once upon a time, I was a retail wage-slave. I was the guy who said, ”Thank you for shopping at FuckMart! Have a nice night, please come again,” as I handed you your receipt. I was the guy who lugged the four bags of soil into the SUV you bought because you didn’t want the hot guy at Dunkin Donuts to think you were a mom or married or anything unsexy like that. I was the guy who grabbed the carts you let drift all the way into the Staples parking lot because you were too lazy to put them in the corral where they belonged. I was the guy who got the mop and bucket after your precious little munchkin pissed himself on aisle six.
For years, I trudged into the back of one of America’s most mismanaged big box stores, punched the clock, and tried to act like I cared. I was young, still in school, and I needed beer money, and where better to get it then from one of America’s exalted shrines to Mammon? It seemed easy enough on paper. Work the register, organize the shelves, clean up spills, help customers find stuff. At the minimum wage plus a quarter per hour, it was a decent job for someone working towards an education. So I put on the golf shirt and the name tag, the black khaki pants and the $20 dress shoes, and trudged out to the floor to experience first-hand what it’s like to have your soul sucked out, one greasy puff at a time.
There’s something about big box stores that encourages people to make worthless scumbags out of themselves. I remember every freak who passed through the doors of FuckMart with an eye to give me hell. The smelly middle-aged Romanians who didn’t know how to use soap and water. The mean old lady with the oxygen tank who went batshit crazy because the scanner wouldn’t accept her out-of-date coupons. The surly black guys who behaved like extras from Idiocracy, right down to starting a fight because one of ‘em had called the other a “pussy ass nigga.” Had to call the cops for that one.
This and more, for twenty to forty hours a week. You want to lose your faith in humanity, work a retail store on Black Friday. Deal with the soccer mom cunts who are screaming at you in the line for the latest video game to pacify their Ritalin-bombed sons. Deal with the venal morons who make in excess of $100,000 a year haggling with you over a two dollar discount. Deal with your idiot managers always afraid of a mystery shopper or a snap inspection from the regional headquarters to grade them on how well everyone is sucking the customers’ dicks. And deal with it all for minimum wage (plus a quarter) per hour.
The only reason a disgruntled Kmart, Walmart or Target employee hasn’t gone postal yet is because they don’t pay them enough to afford guns.
That’s why I don’t shop on Black Friday. I don’t want to inconvenience myself over a couple of measly deals, and I don’t need to add to the already obscene workload that the poor schmucks working on that day already have. It’s the same reason why I always tip waitresses, pizza deliverymen, and cab drivers generously (unless they do a really bad job). I’ve been there, working that shitty job, and I know how it feels. I know what it’s like to stumble outside into your car at one in the morning, your feet aching from being on them for ten hours straight. I know what it’s like to have to mop some brat’s urine off the floor. I know what it’s like to be treated like a dirty dishrag by the scum of the earth and not being allowed to respond with anything other than feigned politeness.
Last week, Xamuel wrote on the moral duty employers have to pay their employees well:
We hear a lot about the work ethic, the notion that hard work is inherently virtuous. We don’t hear nearly so much about its dual, the Pay Ethic. The Pay Ethic is the idea that paying generously is a virtue. There’s no question that we practice it: we value peoples’ fashion, their taste in art, their furniture, based largely on how much they payed for it. Paying more for a work of art is more virtuous, and it imparts a higher value into the art itself. Where the ethic is really most important is in paying wages. If my servant has a moral obligation to work hard for me, then I have a moral obligation to pay him generously. Not just pay him what I can get away with. Not argue with his union about contracts. If he is obligated to work more than the bare minimum to avoid being fired, then I am obligated to pay more than the bare minimum to avoid a strike.
If you want to see where the pay ethic is being violated the most egregiously and insultingly, visit one of America’s big box stores. Thanks to Sam Walton or some other penny-pinching creep deciding that “the customer is always right,” the average idiot in this country thinks he has a human right to piss on cashiers, sales associates, and other retail workers who are just doing their jobs. And for all their trials and tribulations, their wonderful employers don’t give them much more than the government-mandated minimum, while the top cats award themselves bigger and bigger bonuses and wonder why their workers put in the bare minimum of work.
Everyone knows that Black Friday is called that because it’s the day most retailers and chain stores get into the black: in other words, start turning a profit. I can’t believe no one has thought about the implications of this. It means that the average store is so valueless, it LOSES money for eleven months out of the year. Even with the Christmas shopping season, Walmart, Kmart et al have extremely slim profit margins, and are highly vulnerable to slight tremors in the economy.
Xamuel is right. Businesses that can’t afford to pay their workers decently are businesses that don’t deserve to survive. The entire model of American retail is unsustainable and teetering on the brink. Those low, low prices you enjoy at FuckMart only exist because someone else is getting shafted, whether it’s the cashier who’s being paid minimum wage and a quarter to take your bullshit or the factory worker who got laid off when the factory got moved to China. Something’s going to give.
Not that I care too much. Like I said, I slept in on Black Friday. And I’ll keep sleeping in and ordering my gifts from Amazon. Meanwhile, you roaring, furless bison can continue forming human stampedes over cheap crap while thinking you’re an advanced form of life. I’m just here to watch this freak show until the curtain drops.
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