Eye of the storm: An insider's account of Woodbury Commons during the Holiday Season

An insider's account of Woodbury Commons during the Holiday Season

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  • Photos by Aaron Lefkowitz A scene from Black Friday at Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets in Central Valley.

  • The challenge of getting into and out of Woodbury Common Premium Outlets on Black Friday.

By Aaron Lefkowitz

— Once more the Holiday Season is upon us and we all expect our wallets to be more than a bit lighter for a while.

Still, there are many things which I look forward to - hot chocolate made by the Keurig machine, being able to wear my colorful holiday sweater and those neat little cookies my friend’s sister makes in the shape of a little mug filled with chocolate and half a pretzel as the handle.

There is, of course, shopping, buying more gifts during this time of the year than most of the year combined.

One of the best places to shop in the area, if not the entire Northeast is Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, where hordes of tens of thousands descend upon the center like an invading army on a span of four days.

I myself worked at a certain anchor store, and I was ready for another turbulent holiday season, full of people trying to find the jacket that we sold out of in October.

Security guards, long lines and time and a halfOur goal for Black Friday was more than $1.2 million, which we somehow miraculously made.

Our security guards include cops, ex-Marines and even a Blackwater mercenary so they were easily able to keep order and safety as well as ensure that no merchandise left the store without being purchased.

Regardless of the time, there was a near endless line of people waiting to enter, braving the cold to get those goodies.

I had requested specifically to be placed on the 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. shift on Thanksgiving to avoid being given a 12-hour night shift and emerging in the morning like a zombie.

I have no particular love for Turkey and my mother will keep all of the excess meat for more than a good week in an old metal tin I call “The White Whale.” Besides, the time and a half pay sounded pretty good, too.

12-hour shifts, 16 cash registers always runningI work as a cashier, so it is not my responsibility to keep the war zone - as we call the sales floor - clean. I just have to ring people up and make them feel welcome.

As usual, I enjoyed many of the conversations which I shared with customers, most of them overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, which I kept telling them was nothing in comparison to what was to come.

For my entire 12-hour shift - and even with all 16 regular registers running as well as an extra two registers, we were busy. As I punched out, I could see that the line was getting longer as Black Friday was only two hours away.

TrafficEveryone will tell you that getting out of the Commons is most of the pain. But that was not an issue for me, as my father had been able to drop me off across the street at the Central Valley Elementary School.

It was bitterly cold as I charged up the hill out of the center, but I persevered thinking of the Toll House pie that I had waiting for me.

Returning at 2 p.m. on Black Friday, I thought that the worse was long over.

I was very wrong.

Despite being dropped off, I was still late as Route 32 was a mess beyond words.

Upon arriving in the store, there was a line stretching through the entire store and curving, easily more than 200 feet and containing hundreds of people.

Behind the cash registers, the floor was a maelstrom of receipt paper, hangers, pins and plastic clips, but that was to be expected.

We had stayed open from 9 a.m. Thanksgiving to 11 p.m. on Black Friday, and the condition of the store by night was absolutely abysmal, though this was the night crew’s job and I was done for the day.

Saturday and Sunday were more of the same, though less traffic.

By the end of Sunday, I had worked a total of 34.5 hours, not including my Monday shift, so I very much enjoyed sitting in my house and staring at the TV, by the day’s end.

I do enjoy shopping, though I prefer to go on quiet weekdays when the number of customers is far less.

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