Been & Going

[HorroR Stories] Don’t Get Mad About the Madness

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My company has banned March Madness pools, brackets, etc. company wide. I’m wondering your thoughts on this?

Banned? I love the word banned. I love when grown adults walk around telling other grown adults “You are banned from doing that! Stop it!” I think that ALWAYS goes well. Really, I’ve never, in my 15 year career, ever seen that not work. Never.

You don’t believe me, do you? Well, you shouldn’t. Because it does go wrong. Oh, baby does it go wrong.

But, come on, we all know by now that anytime you ban something that someone really wants to do, they’re going to do it anyway, they’re just going to hide it from you. So I’m guessing that there are all sorts of secret March Madness pools whipping around your company right now. Those that banned it look kinda dumb, kinda like they don’t have any authority, don’t have any leverage, and don’t have a clue. I hate to say it, but kinda like Obama right now in this whole Ukraine situation, but that’s a different post.

Conventional wisdom and every single HR bulletin and newsletter sent out this time of year warns at the productivity loss that March Madness brings. And things like “The Hopper,” cell phones, iPads, etc. make it worse. But, come on guys, it’s like trying to stop the flood, or Putin, or Wal-Mart from selling cigarettes, sometimes you just gotta let it happen and then clean up the mess.

In my dream company I would advise managers not to beat ‘em but to join ‘em. And I’m not just saying that because the first 2 days of March Madness are as holy in my household as the first 2 days of Passover, or Lent, or Christmas, or whatever, which is to say, we take the days off, sit on our couch, eat chicken fingers and scream at the TV. Just like Passover, except the chicken fingers are breaded with matzo. Weird.

Anyway, why not embrace March Madness? I have found that competition is one of the best way to build cohesiveness in companies. So why not create brackets, have departments compete against each other, set up some TV’s in the break rooms? Sometimes you have to let employees feel like they are getting away with something. It builds loyalty, usually. I mean sure, it could also go horribly awry, but that’s life, right?

As with anything when dealing with employees, focus on the outcomes, the production, the performance. “Hey Jan, finish that report and then we can go watch the end of the VCU game for a few minutes.” It’s a bonding experience. It brings you all closer together. Hold hands, scream at the TV, wish for the death of the receptionist who chose her brackets based on mascots and is currently beating everyone else. But wish for her death together.

And for those companies who are terrified of the word “gambling,” and therefore “ban” anything that comes close, don’t approve or sanction bracket pools that have a buy-in. For the company wide competition just buy pizza for the winner. That’s not gambling, right? And then verbally tell everyone to keep their personal bracket pools at home, or in the lunchroom, during lunch hours.

I’m in la-la land, I know. Brackets are banned where I work currently as well. Sigh. But these are my thoughts, for which you asked. So good luck in your clandestine bracket pool. Hopefully you didn’t pick Duke. Horror- 032614-mercer

[Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] How to Beat Black Friday

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blackfriday2You’ve seen the commercials for at least a week, the Sunday paper was jammed full of ads, and now we’re only a few hours away from BLACK FRIDAY.  Well, that’s what it used to be until this year when more and more stores are opening tomorrow to ruin everyone’s Thanksgiving.  It’s not for me – and I’ve got a fool-proof plan that beat’s the system, every year!


Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, where stores have knock out sales to lure in Christmas shoppers that rake in a huge profit.  Most stores open in the very early morning offering blockbuster savings such as a giant 52” HDTV for a mere $99.  Bargain hungry shoppers, most of whom are non-retail workers that are off of work and school for the long holiday weekend, wait in line and rush in as the doors open to score the sale.


The stores have the complete advantage on this day.  Most offer rock bottom prices with very limited quantities that are often gone in mere minutes.  This leads to stampedes, shootings, injuries, and even deaths of both shoppers and workers.



Every year, the stores seem to open earlier and earlier.  A few years ago they opened at 6am, then 4am, and last year – midnight.  Now, many are opening on Thanksgiving Day.  The almighty dollar has finally ruined a great holiday with family and only the stores’ bottom line will win.


Will you see me out and about at Black Friday this year?  I say – screw that!



There’s no way that I am waiting in line in the early morning to cash in on a super limited sale.  There’s no way that I am leaving my grandmother’s Thanksgiving dinner to go buy some electronic device, Thursday evening.  But, I do cash in on these sales all the time and I’ve never once waited in a Black Friday line.  My secret to beating the system – THE INTERNET!


Customers camp out in front of a Minnesota Best Buy store for Black Friday bargains.

Customers camp out in front of a Minnesota Best Buy store for Black Friday bargains.

Stores are so desperate to get your dollar this time of year, that most offer the same or better sales online.  While you can’t go to the store and view the item, just look for those that offer FREE SHIPPING and/or FREE RETURNS.  You’ll be surprised to find that most do.  Many will allow you to return an item to a physical store, if need be.  I always stick with either the traditional big box retailers, small town stores that have been around for a while, or


Buy it online and get it shipped right to your home.  So, you go ahead and stand in line… I’ll b doing my shopping at home, nice and cozy, while watching Star Trek.


Before Black Friday existed, stores would often use big Thanksgiving Day or early Christmas parades to show off their goods and sales.  Most Thanksgiving parades feature Santa at the end, to officially kick off the holiday season.  Another big ad lure was for departments stores to create elaborate holiday window displays with a grand unveiling, but that practice has gone by the wayside, since most mall locations don’t have display windows.


In 1939, order to get an additional week of shopping, President Truman moved up Thanksgiving by a week, but all he really did was tick everyone off leading to that year’s holiday to be called Franksgiving!


Customers volley for a Black Friday sale.

Customers volley for a Black Friday sale.

The name Black Friday was first used to describe the financial crisis of 1869, but the current meaning originated in Philadelphia in the early 1960’s, where it was used to describe the large amounts of pedestrians and vehicle traffic that would clog the downtown streets the day after Thanksgiving.


Retails have an alternate use of the term.  Traditionally, they operated at a loss from January through November and these big after Thanksgiving crowds would be the day their books go “in the black.”


In 2011, Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Best Buy, and a few others opened their stores at midnight for the first time.  The crowds came and last year, Wal-Mart decided to open their stores at 8pm on Thanksgiving and the crowds came.  This year, many more stores and even shopping malls are following suit.


That is except in Massachusetts, where blue laws prohibit stores from opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Applause to you fine people!


While stores and shoppers will no doubt benefit from the extra hours, the big losers are the store employees.  Sure, they may make a few bucks more on this day, but most are forced to leave their family dinners and celebrations to run to work, just to be there for money grubbing shoppers.  Those that volunteer to work win – but most stores require a full staff and extra security for the crowds, so you can bet that many are not so happy to be there.



There are certain jobs where you understand that you will be working on Thanksgiving and that’s usually known well in advance.  Hospital emergency rooms, fireman, cops, TV news, movie theatres, Dallas Cowboys players, etc.  Now, we have to officially add retail workers to the list.


Opening stores a few hours early on Black Friday is one thing as some families actually enjoy getting up early and going together for all the excitement.  But, opening on Thanksgiving is just wrong.  Everyone loses the family time, employees are forced to work.


A few stores have vowed not to open on Thanksgiving, which is now unofficially Black Thursday.  PC Richard & Son, a New York electronics chain, is running ads on how they refuse to open on Thursday so employees can have the day with their families.



Thanks to Black Friday’s success in America, other countries now have Black Friday’s of their own including Canada, United Kingdom, and Mexico.


An entire website,, is devoted to finding the best department store deals for the day to help shoppers plan their store to store shopping sprees.


And since 2005, the biggest day for online shopping is now known as Cyber Monday, or the Monday after Black Friday.  Small Business Saturday has been around the following weekend for the past couple of years, to encourage shoppers to support their local stores.


And by the way, all those long Black Friday lines at the door = long Black Friday lines at the check-out.  Double Whammy!


Black Friday shoppers wait in a long check out line at a Wal-Mart store.

Black Friday shoppers wait in a long check out line at a Wal-Mart store.

THE 411


Name: Black Friday


What: day after Thanksgiving where stores offer mega discounts to lure holiday shoppers


Origination: Philadelphia






Take advantage of the Black Friday deals, but do so from the comfort of your home.  Buy what you need online and look for the stores that offer FREE SHIPPING.


I get all of my Christmas shopping done in about an hour that way.  This is the 21st century, let technology do the work.


When the stores open at 8pm on Thanksgiving, my grandmother will be passing out the wine and baked goods.  Our family’s celebration will keep on going for hours and it certainly not involved standing in line at a department store!  But, it’s up to you to make your own family tradition.


It’s not worth ruining the lives of retail store employees – just to save a buck.  I really think it’s shameful what Black Friday has become and the videos posted in this blog prove that point.


If you do decide to partake in the Black Friday madness, just remember one thing – manners.


Image credits – Michael Muni, Wang Shein, David Haines, Beth Rankin, and laurieofindy