Mammoth retailer Walmart has taken some heat this year for its Black Friday Eve sales, which critics say keep both employees and shoppers away from their families on Thanksgiving Day.
The parking lot of the super Walmart at Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia was nearing capacity around 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and the crowds were already idly standing in the rows. Some sections were marked off with caution tape to “keep shoppers from bum rushing the products” said one employee who’d prefer to keep his name secret.
Northeast residents Lee Flood and her daughter Lauren Smith agree, Black Friday sales can get pretty crazy. They know, they’ve been doing it for together for 16 years. “Bring the good attitude and the patience,” Flood said. “A lot of people can’t hack it.”
Her daughter finds the experience entertaining. She’s in the store picking up a few things for her own daughter and a fire pit for her husband, who was recently laid off. Smith works two nursing jobs and appreciates getting the “best sales. I also love spending time with my mom,” she said at checkout.
Sonny Jenkins, of nearby Bensalem, keeps his hand resting on a Memory Foam Mattress Topper for his wife. He’s at Walmart with his daughter, a bride-to-be, who’s off looking at vacuum cleaners as he waits for the sale to begin in the bedding aisle. At 8 p.m. an employee will approach Jenkin’s aisle and release the merchandise. “So far, it’s been pretty peaceful,” he said, “but I’m beginning to feel claustrophobic.”
Monica Parisio and her daughter Anna Parisio have been waiting in the pen aisle since 4 p.m. for a 32-inch HD TV that goes on sale at 10 p.m. They are first in line and expect to leave the store around midnight. Parisio and her daughter say they’ve made three new friends waiting for the TV that, “my son [had] better appreciate.”
In a less occupied aisle of throw pillows, James Bond, 16, is guarding his mother’s haul, which is about three carts full of comforters, toys and cookware. Bond’s cousin, Kayla Olsen, 12, was “jumped on” to get two dollar towels. “It’s crazy! And we get to stay up late,” said Olsen of her and her three cousins. Mom and aunt Danielle Dussinger explain that Walmart’s Black Friday sales are a family ritual. “Just have fun, don’t get knocked out!” she said.
At the front of the store, 8-year Walmart manager Sicily Ruff is keeping an eye on the flow of shoppers in and out of the store, occasionally sticking a finger over her right ear to listen to the earpiece in the left. Besides being tired, she says it’s going pretty well. “It’s the same as it always is.”