Black Friday in the time of COVID


Alison Walters

As COVID-19 continues to loom over us this holiday season, consumers and retail workers are altering their personal regulations in order to create a safe experience for Black Friday on Nov. 26. 

Some shoppers see the stress of Black Friday and the airborne illness of the coronavirus to amalgamate for the worst. Thus most shoppers this season, much like the last, are relying on the e-commerce experience. 

“When the big department stores started offering their deals online, I took advantage of it,” avid shopper Jojo Stephens said. “I choose to pay a little more and wait on shipping over what Black Friday has become: a circus. It was completely ridiculous and dreadful.”

For those who choose to shop in-person, many big stores, such as Walmart and Target, are doing away with the COVID-19 restrictions seen in Black Friday 2020. Vaccination rates may be going up, but as of November, COVID-19 cases are also slowly but surely increasing.

For workers, working in this situation is unavoidable. They must go into work dealing with great amounts of crowds in a community where no mask mandate exists except while in a government building.

Although there are no Black Friday deals at most coffee shops and fast-food chains, workers still report having increasingly large numbers of customers coming in to fuel themselves for their morning of shopping. Many workers who get called into work during Black Friday say they are ridden with anxiety, not only by the possibility of becoming ill for the holidays, but being within the fast-paced environment.

 “There’s a lot of pressure to take safety precautions due to COVID but also having the searing eyes of customers stare you down,” Leestown Road Starbucks barista Logan Stivers said.

As for retail workers in general merchandise and department stores, some say the weight of the crowd can feel just as unbearable. 

“Even when I worked on Black Friday last year, a lot of the restrictions that were in place didn’t really stop the crowds and definitely didn’t stop me from being stressed my entire seven hour shift,” Nicholasville Road Walmart employee Andre Williams said. “Now, there are no earlier sales prior to Black Friday to try to slow the crowd down, so it’s going to be hectic that Friday for sure.”

Some people, like UK freshman Noelle Schulkers, worry about the older generation and their underlying health conditions, as well as the potential threat the large Black Friday crowds present to their wellbeing.

“I used to go Black Friday shopping with my Nana every year,” Schulkers said. “It was a holiday tradition for us, but when COVID hit, we had to transition from walking into Kohl’s to opening our laptops for the sake of her health. The spirit and rush of it all is definitely condensed, but it makes me feel better knowing we’re probably better off enjoying online deals as more stores post their deals online.”

As Lexington mandates from the coronavirus die down, community members are continuing to keep themselves safe by implementing personal safety measures within their workplace, or altering how they celebrate the holiday season to do so in a healthier way.