Black Friday! Big Retailers Gone Wild!

Black Friday! Big Retailers Gone Wild!

It’s Black Friday! Let’s Shop!

What does it mean to be thankful?  For my family, we embrace the predictable practices of watching the parades in the morning and getting together with friends and family for a fabulous meal in the evening.  If we are back in Baltimore and I can be with my older sister, we get up early Friday morning to go holiday shopping and take advantage of the “door buster” sales.  We know that the bigger retailers (Walmart, Kmart, Macy’s, Target etc.) will have the greatest deals and discounts early in the morning.

But how early is really too early and will it really make much of a difference whether we shop at 7:00 a.m. or 12 midnight?

This year, the effects of Black Friday are hitting home.  My friend, Sophie, is scheduled to work tonight.  First, she’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.  I am sure that she will relish spending time with her many nieces, grandnieces and grand nephews.  Sophie, a widow, is 74 years old.  Spending time with family, especially on holidays like Thanksgiving is a rare treat.

But after the food has been eaten, the desserts consumed and the left overs parceled out amongst the different households, instead of going home, Sophie will go to work.

Sophie has worked at one of the major department stores for over twenty years.  At first she worked there because she wanted the employee discount, now she works there because she genuinely needs the money.  Unlike many people her age, Sophie is a spry and energetic woman. I’m sure that she has an occasional ache and pain but  she rarely complains about them.  However, she has slowed down a bit recently and gets tired more easily than she did a few years ago.

Tonight this senior citizen is working the mid-night to 10:00 a.m. shift at a suburban department store because, she says, she has to.

Wait? She has to?  I thought that employees LOVED working the Black Friday early morning hours, right?

According to Brad Tuttle’s recent article in Moneyland Time entitled Do Extended Black Friday Hours Actually Increase Sales?,  “…the decision makers at many national stores are taking a literal approach by actually making Black Friday longer than a day, with extended sale hours that actually start on Thursday. The idea is: If something works, then more of it will work better.”  According to many retail analysts, this justification is not accurate.  “Instead of increasing sales, extended hours tend to just redistribute sales over a longer time period. Some consumers may be happier with the extended hours—preferring to shop at midnight on Thanksgiving night rather than 4 a.m. on Friday morning—but they’re unlikely to spend more overall.”

If the impact of “door busting sales” or early incentives isn’t drawing consumers into stores like they used to or impact spending, then why are large chain stores ruining Thanksgiving for many workers by making them come in on a national holiday?

Tuttle’s answer is clear: “We all feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, and no one likes to be left behind.” And that brings me back to Sophie’s story.

Because department stores and big retailers don’t want to be “left behind”, the executives and managers are willing to do what they feel is necessary to ensure that there is staff even when the customers don’t show, say at 2:00 a.m.  Sophie told me that she has never been asked to work on Thanksgiving in the past but has always volunteered to work on “Black Friday” because she gets “time and a half” also known as “holiday pay.” For someone on a fixed a budget, she explains “I can make a lot more working the day after a holiday than at other times of the year.”  But this year, she was told that she HAS to work on Thanksgiving and that all employees are expected to take a shift.  As a way to compensate their employees, the store will offer “box lunches” to the staff.  When I reacted somewhat sarcastically to her explanation, Sophie told me that this was the first year that store has ever given ANYTHING to the staff who work the graveyard shift on Thanksgiving.

I have to be honest, until this year, I never really thought about how staff feel regarding Black Friday.  I figured, like me, there was a certain excitement to shopping at midnight.  And Sophie agreed that being in the store when it opens at mid-night is thrilling but after the first group of shoppers have completed their sales, the store is basically “dead for a few hours.”  She admitted that the next wave of enthusiastic deal seekers will appear around 5:30 a.m. I may be one of them.

I know that this year’s shopping excursion will differ from the ones of the past.  This year, I commit to being more thankful and grateful to the many workers who give up their holiday to work on Black Friday.  Maybe I will give them an extra “thank you” as I complete my transactions?  Or ask one or two people if I can get them a cup of coffee? Even if they decline the offer, I want to be sure that the many clerks, security guards and other staff  like Sophie know that I see and appreciate their willingness to work even if I am buying just a pair of gloves or a toaster at 4 o’clock in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving.  As for Sophie?  I intend to call her at 2 o’clock this morning (yes, I will be setting my alarm) tonight so she knows that she is not alone and is loved by many.


Peace, Love & Cupcakes: Making Cupcakes At Jilly’s

Peace, Love & Cupcakes: Making Cupcakes At Jilly’s

Cupcake Jillys

The Perfect Cupcake

American Girl dolls. American Girl dolls is all I have been hearing for over a year.  Our daughter can’t get enough of them and when asked what she would like for her birthday, the holidays, or on a Wednesday (joke), she doesn’t pause to take a breath or give the question any additional thought: An American Girl something.

Luckily, she also has quite an imagination and makes up humorous and somewhat gruesome stories for her dolls.  K can be found in her room setting up a Tier 3 ER for her American Girl dolls who have recently been in a deadly helicopter accident and were then “mauled” (aka sniffed) by the German Shepherd, who for the sake of the game is now a Saber Toothed Tiger.

Imagine my surprise several weeks ago when I discovered the American Girl dolls had been left by the wayside and K was parked in front of the television watching the Food Channel’s latest dessert show: Cupcake Wars. When I tried to distract her, she promptly told me: “Not now Mom!  I’m about to find out who won this season’s competition!” Uh, huh?  What exactly was she watching?  It seems that K is hooked on a show that, like Top Chef (on the Bravo network), pits chefs (Pastry chefs in this case) against each other for the honor of winning an award and monetary compensation.  In K’s case, she was watching the final episode of the 3rd season in which Chefs Casey Shiller, Certified Executive Pastry Chef, and Dana Holland, executive chef of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Cafe competed against several other teams on the episode entitled “The Final Frontier,” an outer space theme.  The winner’s cupcakes would be featured at a VIP party honoring the first man in space.  Guess who won?  And guess who was screaming with joy and jumping all over our living room furniture?  Yeah, it was Jilly’s and K was THRILLED!

So it seems that the competition had been re-run in preparation for Season #4 beginning in January, 2012 but K didn’t know (or care).  When we told her that we decided to go to St. Louis for a winter break holiday, K’s first questions were  “Can we go to Jilly’s?  You know their in St. Louis too?”

So off we were to visit some wonderful friends in St. Louis and go to Jilly’s.

K Outside of Jilly's: Day 2

We showed up at the bakery a bit later than we had intended: 4:30 p.m.  The bakery was scheduled to close in 30 minutes.  How were to know that we were about to experience Divine Intervention in the shape of Jill Segal and a fantastic cupcake?  When Jill saw us taking pictures, she sadly told us that they were OUT OF CUPCAKES! OMG!  We came all this way (from Chicago to St. Louis) and they were out of cupcakes?  I couldn’t help it.  I swear that the words just slipped out of my mouth: “Oh No!  And we drove all of this way!  From Chicago to St. Louis just to try your cupcakes! And she (my daughter) is such a fan! You can’t be out of cupcakes now?!?”

Jill just melted in front of us.  This wonderful woman who owed us no more than an “I’m sorry but what kind of dummies show up at a bakery 30 minutes before it closes expecting prize winning cupcakes?” explanation, stopped everything that she was doing, grabbed K’s hand, took her to the back room and introduced her to Casey Shiller and Dana Holland, the chefs who created magic and won the contest!  K was speechless, and it looked as though she was having trouble breathing because she was so excited to meet her culinary idols!  Casey asked K if she was interested in designing her own cupcake?  And the rest of the story can be shared through pictures–they are much more interesting and tasty:

Casey and K choose the cupcake


Yum! Cream cheese fills the cupcake


Pink Cream Cheese Icing


Now? Which toppings to choose?


Carefully applying silver balls


More design


Add an Umbrella or No? Choices, choices


Cupcake Jillys

The Perfect Cupcake



The Finished Product: Boxed


Dana consults and declares it a "Good Job!"


We get our pictures taken with the famous crew from Jilly's


What a way to spend a phenomenal afternoon in St. Louis!  Adam, K and I had different favorite parts of the trip.  Visiting with new and old friends absolutely made the list of highlights.  But I think that we can all agree that there is NOTHING like a cupcake to make your day and bring a smile to your face.  I cannot thank Jill enough for her hospitality and enthusiasm.  Carey and Dana were fun to work (and play) with and I know that K cannot wait to make it back to Jilly’s again for a repeat performance.  Be honest, if you had a chance to design your own cupcake with an award winning team, wouldn’t you?

Brings a smile to my face every time I see this pic. Must be a Mom thing?

I know that she would!


Willy Wonka's or Jilly's Cupcakes? Yummy!