On the way to the store, I drove past one of our competitors. This gave me a false sense of security since the crowd in front was nothing more than a half hour's amount of work do deal with.
Then I got to my store. Without exaggeration, I can tell you that the line was at least two football fields long. I admit, I mildly felt like some kind of rock star or celebrity as I walked in. There was a notable rise in the customers' excitement level, since they knew that once the grunts arrived, the show would soon start.
I didn't feel tired. It just felt like I wasn't capable of performing any advanced mental functions. I could do my job well enough, just not any advanced mathematical calculations.
The guard stood at the door, watching the clock for the official countdown of when to open the door. When the time came to do so, I can tell he did so with a bit of hesitation. If it's not a customer who gets trampled to death on black friday, it's usually the employee who opens the door.
The door opened and the customers started flowing in. First they just speed walked, maybe so as not to embarrassingly eager. This lasted long enough for them to get past the security desk, then the full-on ran.
From there, it was like watching that scene from Jurassic Park where Dr. Grant and the kids are in the valley watching the flock of gallimimuses run past before suddenly taking a sharp turn and running in their direction. We had about three minutes from when they walked into the door to when they made it to the registers merchandise in hand.
We were well prepared. All lanes were open. The line was properly corralled. Our managers were on hand at all times to deal with everything from problem customers, to computer errors to just plain running low on change. We only needed to turn around, give a motion and the'd be at hand.
We even had employees whose sole duty was to wait in the wings until one of us had to take a bathroom break or something. We'd make the gesture and be swapped out. It was also the one time we were allowed to keep a coat under our register so that we wouldn't stand out as employees if we had to run to the back. They didn't want us having to deal with the dilemma of having to either brush a customer off onto another employee (which was bad) or not making it back to the register promptly (which was also bad).
The onslaught didn't stop for three hours. Three hours of repetitively making the same gestures of swiping and bagging and trying to sell the same extended warranties on the same products. Thankfully, those practically sold themselves. With computers and video game systems, everybody had heard enough horror stories that they almost expected them to fail but bought them anyway, with the warranty. Cameras and TVs were another story, but nobody got bent out of shape on us not selling warranties those.
Things slowed down around 8am, which was enough time for us to take our breaks. The early morning rush crowd had gone home, so we had some downtime until the second wave. The veterans told us that usually around 10-ish we'd get hit by another mass of customers who wanted to take part in the Black Friday frenzy without the part where they camp out in front of a store all night. This was the group that wanted to enjoy the sale, but didn't care for the ridiculously marked down merchandise.
Sure enough, when ten o'clock hit the crowd surged again. Once again, it was a never-ending stream of people coming through, just as strong as the early morning crowd. This rush only lasted for about two hours. It might have gone on a bit longer than that, but at noon my shift ended and I was able to go home and sleep, slightly perplexed by how I managed to do a full day's work before noon.
The sad part is that it still didn't stop me from going back to the store later that day to take in the sales myself...