Mall of America on Black Friday

By Natalie Pavlatos

Two women in their mid-50s, holding matching cups of Caribou Coffee, tapped on the glass door. I opened it and apologized. “We open at six.” 5:45 a.m. I was at work at Marbles: The Brain Store, a small chain based out of Chicago that sells products to strengthen and stimulate the brain, ranging from puzzles to games to software. I also happened to be scheduled to open the store on Black Friday at the Mall of America. Over 200,000 people braved the crowds to shop at the Mall of America on Black Friday. I braced myself for that level of crowdedness, and left Mac an hour before my shift started. What I didn’t account for was the fact that nobody really drives at 4:15 a.m. … so the commute that usually takes me 15 minutes went more quickly than usual. The initial wave of ‘midnight madness’ had already come and gone by the time I arrived, though the aftermath was everywhere. I passed more than one person napping on a bench, using their purchases as a makeshift pillow. One woman was slumped against the wall outside of Champs Sports surrounded by shopping bags, sound asleep. Others were lined up outside of Starbucks and Caribou, looking for a caffeine fix to keep them going. I opened the store and people began trickling in. Some came from nearby suburbs, and some had traveled from as far away as Europe to experience the legend that is Black Friday at the Mall of America. Some were laden with bags, and others were just beginning their mornings. I spent the next several hours helping customers find their sons, nieces, granddaughters and uncles a perfect gift. At times, it was impossible to move through the store because of the hordes of people. For the most part, however, it was just another day. I still got to demonstrate our products for customers and hand out little squishy brains to the children who came in the store. Working Black Friday wasn’t anywhere near as traumatic as I had imagined. Yes, the crowds were horrific at times. Yes, there were tears (although that was mainly the small children). At the same time, though, it wasn’t Dawn of the Dead by any means. People were, for the most part, very ‘Minnesota nice.’ The customers and employees – both at Marbles and in the other stores I wandered into before my shift started – were smiling and incredibly chipper considering the time of morning. Everyone who came in was friendly and aware of how insane the entire experience was. Most of all, though, I felt like my coworkers and I went through a communal experience that we’ll be able to laugh about long after we all catch up on sleep. Also, I pulled an eight-hour shift and was home before lunch. That was pretty awesome too.