Black Friday is a yearly nightmare for retail workers, but the consumer free-for-all becomes especially scary during a pandemic.
Workers dread the long hours facing sometimes combative day-after-Thanksgiving shoppers in a normal year, but coronavirus pandemic forces them to choose between their lives and livelihoods, reported The Daily Beast.
“When it comes to the holidays in general, customers suck,” said one grocery worker from Iowa. "Large crowds of last-minute shoppers, entitled Karens, and nonstop stress. I pray to God that this year a majority of customers will use our online shopping service and stay home.”
But workers have little leverage in avoiding the risks of exposure to the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus.
“We don't dare even considering refusing to work on Black Friday,” said one Children's Place employee, who requested anonymity like all the other retail workers quoted in the article.
“We've already been informed that if we don't work that day, we are immediately terminated and no amount of contesting it will get our jobs back," that worker added. "We simply can't run the risk of losing our jobs when there are simply no more jobs to be had right now with shut downs and stores closing down due to lack of funds.”
Some shoppers get aggressive with workers and each in stores packed on one of the busiest retail days of the year, and some employees fear the added risk from COVID-19.
“Simply put, frontline workers are terrified because their employers and our elected leaders are not doing enough to protect them and stop the spread of this virus,” said Marc Perrone, president of United Food and Commercial Workers. “As holiday shopping begins this Thanksgiving, we are already seeing a huge surge of customer traffic. Unless we take immediate actions beginning this holiday week, many more essential workers will become sick and more, tragically, will die.”
More than 350 union members have died from COVID-19 this year, and the union has asked for huge increases in protective equipment, hazard pay and paid sick leave.
“People are not following guidelines,” said one Macy’s employee. “We have a Starbucks in our store, [and] people are walking around drinking and eating with their mask off. If restaurants have to shut down outdoor dining, I don’t understand why we still have our Starbucks open.”
Workers are even more worried about Black Friday shoppers than normal.
“My mall seems to be quite busy, so during holiday hours I can only imagine it getting worse,” said one mall worker. “The people who come to shop at the mall worry me the most because: Why do they even need to indulge during a pandemic? Can’t you just find a way to limit your exposure while getting presents in a safe way?”