Monday, October 1, 2018

The Golden Quarter

From back in my retail days many moons ago, I remember that October through December is known as the Golden Quarter.

If you work full-time in retail, then the rule is no time off during these months. Being the industrious worker I was raised to be, I took this literally, and did not see any better option job-wise.

If you don't live near your family, then this is a problem for the holidays, the season of high expectations. Black Friday work requirements mean it's impossible to travel out of town for Thanksgiving while still reporting to work by 5 AM the next day. Calling in sick on Black Friday was tantamount to calling in fired. The same was true for the days leading up to Christmas.

In truth, the Golden Quarter was not all that special from an employee standpoint. Those three months were largely like the rest of the year, especially if management knows what they're doing in terms of scheduling staff hours to match floor traffic patterns. Black Friday was busy for the first few hours, but even before the “doorbuster” 6-hour window was finished, foot traffic was already down to what we had many other weekends.

The last two days before Christmas were the other days when traffic was noticeably higher than normal, but even then, we should have closed no later than 6 PM on Christmas Eve. Instead, we didn't, and then we had to stay even later to reprice many items for after-Christmas sales. The day after Christmas was supposedly like Black Friday part 2, but with lots of permanently lower prices.

The best time I ever had in retail was when my boss was prepared for the unprepared. Hurricane Isabel was coming, and we were among the only stores prepared with a huge supply of D batteries. That paycheck for September beat any I ever had working sales in the Golden Quarter.

I was not a fan of the no time off policy. It wasn't just the known big holidays when this was a problem either. Years ago my parents graduated from college, and I did not have the maturity to see the difference between “no time off” meaning random days off vs. special life events for family members that weren't during high traffic times anyway. Life events for family members are more important than a rule, and I should have asked for time off anyway.

These days I would guess seasonal hires would face similar pressures—or would avoid those kind of jobs for these kind of reasons.

The other big difficulty these days during the season of high expectations is for delivery drivers. There's more pressure on those last mile drivers than just about anyone, especially for the procrastinating shoppers. I don't know how their business model is set up or how much control they have over their time during this season.

Lots of businesses seem ready to lure people in with promises of “flexibility” and adjustable hours, but I have found it doesn't always work out that way.

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