Insider: Everyone At Best Buy Dreads 6 P.M. Thanksgiving Day Opening

We’ve been writing a lot about major retailers’ plans to open on Thanksgiving Day. In case it isn’t clear, we aren’t fans of this phenomenon. According to to our poll data, our mailbox, and comments left here on the site, neither are our readers. We received a lengthy rant from an anonymous Geek Squad agent about how things look right now at Best Buy, and what workers at Big Yellow and Blue have to look forward to.

The anonymous agent signed his or her name as “Behind the Clip-on.” You know, the clip-on bow tie. BTC started by quoting from last year’s memo to Best Buy workers about the chain’s planned hours for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. The powers that be decided to open at the stroke of midnight on Black Friday in 2012. According to the memo BTC passed on, they wanted to balance competing with other retailers and letting their employees actually celebrate one of the few holidays that retail workers consistently have off.

“Throughout all the holiday strategy meetings we decided, not only will we have a unique competitive opportunity with a midnight opening,” said the memo, “but we will also provide a balance of being there for our customers when they want us to be there and giving our employees time with their loved ones before the winter holidays.”

This year? None of that compromise nonsense. BTC writes:

This year, our announcement was merely that we would be opening at six o’clock due to what customers had indicated they wanted. There was also a tacked on bit at the end of the internal memo that thanked employees for their upcoming hard work. Hardly inspirational, especially since it is highly unlikely that corporate will be working the long hours we will now be forced to.

Many Best Buy employees will be working split shifts, with part taking place on Thanksgiving, and the rest taking place on Black Friday. For example, Geek Squad members will all be working split shifts in my location, which means that those opening have to be at work around 5:30, leave at midnight, and come back for another 5-6 hours Black Friday. For smaller Best Buy stores with fewer Agents, their plight can best be summed up by this direct quote from one of the Geek Squad managers:

“This is going to be a staffing nightmare…4 agents to work 28 hours with clients here potentially the entire 28 hours…”

Those four Agents are going to have a very long 28 hours, pretty much ruining their Thanksgiving.

That sounds pretty awful: Geeks, you have our sympathy. No, really, you do. We make fun of Geek Squad, but we’re human beings who understand what working terrible split shifts is like. The Geeks are only a small part of the store’s staff, though. What about everyone else? BTC points out a few things that you might not realize about what a 6 P.M. opening on Thanksgiving Day really means. Not everyone rolls in at 5:30 after an early dinner. BTC explains:

Speaking of Sales Support, let’s talk for a bit about how much fun these new hours will be for the Warehouse team, as well as those individuals who are responsible for setting the Black Thursday ad. The ad cannot be set until the store closes Wednesday night…this means that employees will be working late into the night and possibly early morning of Thanksgiving, trying to get everything ready to go. Most of these employees will then need to come back for Black Thursday, I have personally seen one schedule that had the person at Best Buy from 8 am to 4:30 pm on Thanksgiving. I have a feeling his Thanksgiving will be somewhat lacking in cheer.

This is so last minute that employees who naively expected Best Buy to open at midnight as it did last year and bought plane tickets or planned family events are now facing the loss and disruption of those plans. One guy I know personally actually loses pretty much his entire Thanksgiving with his family whom he rarely sees.

And remember, Thanksgiving and Friday work is mandatory, there is no volunteering. If you are sick, you had better show up hacking up a lung or you will be fired. Given that only full time employees have sick days anyhow (and still get written up if they call in sick without staggering into work tangled in their own intestines, although it takes multiple write-ups for termination so this isn’t a big deal most of the year) this adds special luster to an already festive holiday work atmosphere.

Yeah, sounds cheery. While BTC admits that they’re only a front-line employee and don’t know a lot about the big picture or the bottom line, from behind the Geek Squad counter there isn’t much of an advantage to opening earlier every year. “Yes, there will be hundreds of people in line for the store opening…but they will be there no matter what time the store opens,” notes BTC. “The initial rush is always people trying to get the early deals, after which it tapers off for 4-5 hours where there is very little traffic.” Moving the opening time back just means that customers will rush in six hours sooner, and employees will have more time to sit around pondering how their lives have gone wrong. Really, it’s the people camping outside who should be doing that.

Finally, here’s one last bit of wisdom from BTC. If you’re reading Consumerist, you probably already know this, but: be nice to the people who are giving up their holiday, probably against their will, to help you buy stuff.

Remember that Best Buy employees are primarily hard working individuals who are doing the best they can to get your tech wants fulfilled. Many of us are working other jobs as well, trying to make ends meet. Holidays, we are tired and exhausted as no other time in the year, but we still try to greet you with a smile.

[R]emember that we have given up our holiday to help you shop for yours, and you have no idea how much a cheerful customer who shows that they appreciate you being there can do to help the day pass.

[I]f you take some time to show us you appreciate us, we will bend over backward and do handstands to help you (Not literal handstands, typically tech ability does not go hand in hand with athletic ability. Many Agents are shaped more like a pyramid with fuzzy edges and would seriously strain something attempting this).

Customers who show consideration and take time to genuinely thank us instead of shouting or treating us like idiots are rare and are valued as such.

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  1. ZLoth says:

    On one hard, this is the price you pay for working retail. On the other hand, where will the executives be on Thanksgiving? Probably not working side-by-side.

    • MathManv2point0 says:

      Exactly! However, not all sectors/businesses are like this. I worked at a boarding school where many of the students stay over the holidays (Thanksgiving/Christmas). FT supervisory employees were expected to work overlapping, reduced shifts on those days. However, they earned a total of 2 vacation days for that and guess who else was there… the owner of the school. It sucks to work holidays but there are cost-effective ways to incentivize employees and promote a supportive culture.

    • CzarChasm says:

      Work your way into management? There are plenty of jobs that require people to work holidays, if it’s something that really bothers you, don’t do that type of work.

  2. Xenotaku says:

    Stuff like this is why, unless there’s an item that’s only available at that one place, that I won’t shop anywhere that opens on Thanksgiving. For the entirety of the holiday season.

    • robinm says:

      Agreed… and I can’t even imagine what retailer-exclusive product I would ever buy (because that also chaps my ass), but I will be avoiding these places. I wish there was some real hope that this won’t be a smashing success for them :(

    • GoldHillDave says:

      As usual I will be doing most of my shopping at a place open on Thanksgiving: Amazon.

  3. Shappie says:

    It is really sad we are talking about the day “Black Thursday” instead of Black Friday. I can’t wait until Black November starts…

    Although Amazon.com has already started with their Black Friday countdown that started the beginning of November.

    • nchiker says:

      I agree. Maybe all the Black Friday creep will move it to Wednesday and they can keep Thursday as a scared day.