Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Countdown to cooking

One of my favorite things about this upcoming holiday will seem peculiar to some, familiar to others and downright crazy to my husband. Working on the retail side of food for a good part of my younger life always had special days. Sundays, if you worked, you got paid time and a half. Holidays, such as, Fourth of July, Memorial Day brought triple time. You got three days off for working the holiday and still made the same amount that week because you did work the day of all days. Most of us clamored to work those days. Then if you were lucky enough to work the full week and the holiday - cha ching!

One holiday we always were closed was Thanksgiving day. Up until just a few short years ago even retail gave everyone the day off. I have noticed many grocers are now open until 3 p.m. That makes it really hard for a mom who's in charge of dinner!

My favorite day working in a grocery store was always the day before Thanksgiving. There is just something about the holiday that puts people in such a happy, friendly mode. Everyone is happier, more willing to wait in that long, long, line, and often exchange recipe ideas or traditions while standing waiting for their turn to pay for their foodstuffs and head home. I always was happy to work overtime, even, on this one great day. It put me in such a great mood and my customers loved the way we could make everyone's life happier just by being at the grocery store.

People spend a ton of money prior to Thanksgiving day. People save and scrimp and rationalize spending that extra dollar or two for that much needed traditional item. Women who would never think to go over their budget week after week, would now spend $6 on a coveted jar of spiced crabapples in Southern California just to be reminded of Thanksgivings long past with family back east. My favorite year of being a grocery clerk? Working at Central Market, Austin Texas. Normally I worked the grocery floor, or was in the buying office with the grocery buyer. But on this day of all grocery buying days, I got to man the express lane. I have lightening speed fingers and could check out people with ten items or less in a jiff still letting them know I cared, was interested in them and their gathering and could smile my way to the next wonderful customers. The funnest part was seeing just how expensive ten little items could be! One customer spent over $300, on less than ten items! He of course was in charge of wine selection for their meal and he bought some really great Joseph Schmidt Chocolates and a couple selections of our great cheeses. It was great.

Other retailers call the day after Thanksgiving black Friday. We loved black Wednesday. In 1976 in one store I worked at, in Loma Linda, California - which is the heart of vegetarianism in SoCal - a friend and I had a contest. Who could ring up the most business in 8 hours. We were both bookkeepers and hit the floor for the day. We both broke $30,000 that day. Wow! An average day for any of us was a good $8 or $9,000. That was the beginning of my love of working the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Not only could you have a really fun day, talking with friends and customers, enjoying their excitement of the next day, but you could stay there all day and not move more than four feet all day. I still love it. I miss the days of being there, but am glad I am on the other side of the checkstand now days. My best to you on your trip to your favorite grocer today!