Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Nothing you have ever experienced will prepare you for the absolute carnage you are about to witness. Super Bowl, World Series - they don't know what pressure is. In The Happiest Place in the Mall, on the Day After Thanksgiving, it's either kill or be killed. You make no friends on the stage and you take no prisoners. One minute you're up holding a Tinkerbell doll and a 25% coupon and the next, boom, your kids don't get a single Mater die cast car and the Cast Members are telling you they're out of Pink Minnie Mouse plush.

Think big, think positive, never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy quick, use the discounts. Fear? That's the other Guest's problem. -- Louis Winthorpe III, from "Trading Places", paraphrased.

This is The Happiest Place in the Mall, the day after Thanksgiving.

There were almost 100 people waiting to enter when the doors opened at the stroke of midnight on the D.A.T. And there, they came. Even at 2am, Jennifer has great hair.

From all reaches of the city, the county, the country, they came. With desires of Mickey Mouse plates and Tinkerbell pillows, they came. With yearnings for Junior to open up the infrared remote control Power Rangers car, $29.50 but 20% off the entire store until noon, they came.

Me: "So, you decided to pick up 'Sword in the Stone' and 'Aristocats', huh? Great films, though I really love 'Aristocats'"
Guest: "Oh, definately. I'm just glad you had them!
Me: "Me too! Okay, your cost is $42.60" (the cost is approximate, by the way, I'm just telling a story here)
Guest: "How much? I thought that the movies were $5 off?"
Me: "No ma'am, these are $19.98 each"
Guest: (impatient) "But the sign says 'Titles $5 Off!'"
Me: (smiling) "That's just for three titles--'Ratatouille', 'High School Music 2' and 'Pirates of the Carribean 3-Two Disc Edition'"
Guest: (now sorta mad) "But where does it say that?"
This is the point where I try to carefully point out the rather large sign close to the DVDs, the shelf card actually on the DVD shelf and the 8x10 sign at the register less than two feet from where me and the guest are actually standing... all of which boldly proclaim, "SAVE $5 NOW FOR A LIMITED TIME ON THESE TITLES:" and have pictures of the movies "Ratatouille", "High School Musical 2" and "Pirates of the Carribean 3 - The Two Disc Special Edition".

At 3am, they weren't coming. It was the calm before the storm. It was the time to rush the shelves, to put onto the walls and floors whatever we could. Princess vanities, princess thrones, Belle toddler dolls, Mulan dolls, Toy Story Buzz Lightyear laser guns, Ariel sweatshirts... we ran back and forth. We moved with purpose. We moved with feeling. There wasn't much time. The clock was ticking. We knew this was the eye of a hurricane, a hurricane who's high Guest winds we only briefly felt before the monster was truly to come ashore.

We were ready. Were as ready as we could ever be. And still, we knew nothing. We waited.

Me: "How are ya this morning? Are you finding all the magic you need here at Plush Mountain?"
Guest: "Oh yes, definately. I've got my basket here, almost full! But I have a question..."
Me: "I have an answer!"
Guest: "Wonderful!" (I realize they are holding onto a Daisy Duck plush) "Now, is this $10.00?"
Me: "Absolutely... well, no. Actually, it's on sale for $7.99, plus 20% off the entire store until noon, and since its only 405am, it'll be $6.39!"
Guest: "Which ones are that price?"
Me, looking at her funny, then glancing at the big red sign that says "Plush - $7.99" which sits right in the middle of the Happiest Plush Pile in the Mall. I am fighting the urge to say, "Well, we've mixed in the $7.99 plush with the more expensive plush, so you have to just guess which ones might be $7.99--that sign there only refers to half of them. We just don't tell you which half."

Its 5am. The rumble is beginning. I've taken my only break I'll get. I sat for 30 minutes, eating an Orange Moon Pie and drinking a Vanilla Starbucks Espresso Energy Drink. Seriously, that was my late dinner, early breakfast, whatever you call it.

I walk the floor, but movement is slower now. Not because I'm tired, not because I am running out of strength, nay, because I'm running out of room. The floor space has been significantly reduced now with new bodies, new people, new guests. Shoulders are bumping, feet are shuffling, tensions are beginning to run high.

Shelves are now beginning to empty. Those people counting on Junior to excitedly open Blue Jungle Fury Power Ranger with the Kung Fu Grip on Christmas morning are worried... there are only two left on the rack. Can they make it across the store in time? The Magic 8 ball says no.

Guest: "Excuse me?"
Me: "Yes ma'am?"
Guest (holding up a white, long sleeve Minnie Mouse shirt): "Can you tell me if you have any more Extra Smalls in the back? I can't find any here"

Me: "Wow, I'm sorry--all the shirts we have are out here on the table."
Guest (contimplating, putting down the Minnie Mouse shirt and picking up a Tinkerbell shirt): "Well, what about this one? I didn't see any XS here on this one either"

Me: "No, ma'am, all the girls shirts we have are out here on the table"
Guest (picking up a Jasmine shirt): "What about this one?"
Me: "No ma'am. We've sold through a ton of girls shirts, and we put all of them out today"
Guest (pausing): "Do you have any more girls shirts in the back?"

Its 6am. The storm is here. The storm is blowing through the store. This is what we've trained for, this is what we've prepared for, this is truly what we've spent our days and nights studying for. This is not a drill, this is not an exercise, this is The Day After Thanksgiving. Black Friday.

The line starts in the back of the store. Five feet up, you can go left, and stand in a line headed towards the front register, the Box Office. You can go right, and stand in a line headed towards the back box office.

Brad Latta, resident Atty General for Clouds in My Coffee, and his wife, Another Lovely Stephanie, make an appearance. They pop in, say hey, pop out. They knew of the circumstances.
The store is so full, the store is so packed at this very moment, rather than work my way to the front of the store actually going through the store, I head out the backstage door, into the parking lot & parking deck, go right, go back into the mall's double entrance doors and go into the front of The Happiest Place in the Mall. I talk to some Guests, I talk to a few Cast Members, I get a feel that things are going great up here, and I leave the same way... out, around, through the back door and back into the front of the store.

And still they come.

Joe, another Cast Member: "Hey Dave, just wanted to let you know that some of the Guests are complaining about the long lines in the store."
I glance back to see Jillian and David on the two back Box Office registers, with Kourtney bagging. I look over to see Kristen, Tiffany and Melanie on the other registers, with Joy bagging.
There is nothing that can be done.
Me: "Dude. I don't know what they were expecting. Its the Day After Thanksgiving."

Its 7am. The storm is in full stride. The lines are long, the money is flowing, the inventory is disappearing.

Its 8am. The storm, while subsiding, is still dangerous. My body has now informed me, "Dave, man, you are tired. You are getting too old to do this. Why don't you just go lie down in the back?" I can't. I musn't. I must press forward. Junior needs his Club Penguin Firefighter, Juniorette needs her Aurora Rag dolls.

Its 9am. The clock is running. I can see the daylight now. Not the daylight that is streaming through the backdoor--that's been visibile for three hours now--but the daylight that is at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel that is marked 1030am on it.

Its 10am. One burst of energy left. I have a half hour. I press on. I move on. I walk, I run, I smile, I clap, I laugh, I dance.

Its 1030am. I've made it. While those Cast Members who have just arrived are beginning to form their own memories, for me, The Day After Thanksgiving has become one. I walk around The Happiest Place in the Mall, which has now just trickled to a busy Saturday crowd. I put one arm into my zippered sweatshirt, I slip the other arm into the sweatshirt, I zip it up, Eeyore half smiling at me from the breast pocket.

Its done. I walk out the open back door, smell the fresh carbon monoxide from the cars, take in the dreary day, and smile. The Day After Thanksgiving has now become a Day For Relaxation and Sleep.

Now, its on to Best Buy to find a good deal on a Blu-Ray player.

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