Black Friday Thanksgiving Countdown Survival Tips For Retail Workers: #4 Make a Lunch and Break Plan and Don't Let Black Friday Sale Ruin Your Thanksgiving
Besides staying hydrated and taking care of your feet, when you work a long sale day in Retail Hell make sure you get time to eat and enjoy your breaks. That may sound like a given, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to get swept up in sale hell madness and before you know it, it's been 7 hours and you haven't eaten or taken a rest, and you're starting to feel the effects of Retail Zombie take over your body.
Some managers are on top of scheduling and the moment you walk into the store you know when your breaks and lunchtime will be. However, there are those Bad Managers who are not as organized and not only do they not know what time your breaks and lunch will be, there's a good chance you might not get them at all. Even though it's illegal to do that, never depend on a disorganized manager to get you out the door for your breaks. If there is no plan for them try and get one going early on in the shift so you don't find yourself in that Zombie predicament begging to be released from your register prison. Some managers need a kick in the pants when it comes to scheduling breaks.
And when those break times arrive, use them to your full advantage. Give your feet and brain a rest and make sure you do eat something for lunch -- coffee and chocolate are not going to keep you going. They will lead you down the road of nausea, fatigue, and headache. And as mentioned in the hydration post, try not to eat a heavy lunch on long sale days, as it will only slow you down and make you want to find a napping spot in the stockroom. This may be hard because our sale weary hearts want burgers and pizza! And in times of chaos, sometimes that is the best medicine. So if you do decide to go with comfort food lunch, the trick to not feeling really bloated and sleepy afterwards, is not eat too much of it. Eat smaller portions and save the desert for your break later on.
If everyone's busy, chances are no one's going to take time out just to tell you to grab your break—you have to look out for yourself. Decide in advance when you're going—ideally a longer lunch or dinner and a few 15 minute breaks or short breaks over the course of your shift—and get a buddy to agree to cover for you in advance (and you can cover for them). Let your supervisor know when you plan to take them early; that way they can't feign ignorance when the time comes and you need to go. Set a timer or alarm on your phone and keep it in your pocket while you work. When your phone vibrates, you know it's time to slip away. Give your buddy the signal and bail.
Often times during busy retail schedules, there is no time to even go out and order food. With some lunch and dinner breaks only being 30 minutes and breaks being 10 minutes, you may never get through that long line at Sbarro.
A great tip in getting nourishment at lunch is to appeal to your friends and family to help you in your time of need. They may be out shopping anyway, or they may just be in your corner because they have no intention of fighting over half-price Blu-rays.
See if they're willing to bring you something to drink from time to time, or a snack—maybe lunch. Even a cheerful face can mean a lot. Those big shopping days and long shifts can make it difficult to get away even to grab a cup of coffee or a sandwich. Plus, when you do, you could watch half of your lunch break evaporate while waiting in line at a fast food joint along with all of the other people out in the madness of the holiday rush.
Instead, ask your friends to brave the crowds—not to shop, but to do you a solid and bring you a hot cup of coffee so you don't have to waste your break in line, or a lunch you all can eat while you people watch. You'll get the benefit of something good to eat or drink, good company, and you'll get to actually enjoy more of your break instead of wasting part of it running from place to place or waiting in line for food.
Alternatively, you can also bring something from home and keep it stashed. If your workplace doesn't have cold storage of any kind, a king sized Snickers bar, trail mix, beef jerky or other snack mixes that don't have to be kept cold can be lifesavers. Get something with nuts or, if allergic, meat protein like a jerky. You want something that will stay with you for an extended period of time so your stomach isn't chewing on itself by your next break.
However you do it, by hook or by crook, make sure you get some time away from the hustle and bustle that comes with long hours, busy shifts, and tons of people. Even the most extroverted among us need some time away from the crowds and the noise to recharge a little bit.
Besides, unless you work somewhere where your manager or teammates will really appreciate you not taking breaks (and if you do, that's probably the same type of place where they'd all make sure you got them anyway), you'll only be hurting yourself by working through them.
For the last 5 years we have watched department store corporations and malls follow Macy's, Target, and Toys-R-Us down the path of being open on a cherished American holiday and destroying it for millions of people. All because they want to have increases over last year's sale and they think they can get it by being the early bird. Sadly it's only going to get worse in the coming years as stores open earlier and earlier attempting to beat last year's numbers. Thanksgiving has been lost for most retail workers and will never be recovered.
So we have to adjust and not let those greedy corporate executives ruin our holiday. If you are one of millions who have to work The Black Friday Sale on Turkey Day, we want to tell you:
DON'T LET YOUR STORE RUIN YOUR THANKSGIVING.
If you are missing out on a big family/friend get together, we feel your pain and it may seem like Thanksgiving is already ruined. But the best thing to do is make other plans and find a way to have an enjoyable dinner with good company. Canceling everything and doing nothing will only make you feel bad and you'll take that energy into Black Friday Sale. It will just make you hate retail life even more. If it doesn't look like you are going to be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal before the start of your Black Friday Sale schedule, be proactive in the coming days to plan your Turkey Day holiday if it means something to you. Make plans so that it works out in your favor. Try and get family members to move the day or time of Thanksgiving dinner. I once celebrated Christmas with my family on December 9th because I was a manager and there was no way I could get the day before or after off to travel. It ended up being one of the best Christmas' ever! Inside we were in pajamas having a party, outside it was a Tuesday in early December. It doesn't matter when you celebrate, only that you celebrate, if it's something that brings you joy.
Retail Corporations may have stolen the "day" of Thanksgiving but thankfully they can never take its spirit.