I just wanted to go to Greece. See the Parthenon and drink wine with my buddies in the Religious Studies department at the University of Oklahoma where I was in school. But I needed $1,200 to make that happen. Rather than ask my parents for the money, I applied to be a seasonal employee at JCPenney. They accepted me immediately—I’d just come off a summer stint working at another location. I was to work in the catalog department and my first day would be the day retail employees dread most: Black Friday.
The best thing about working in the catalog department is that you don’t have to deal with long lines of customers waiting to check out. Occasionally, some would trickle over when they realized we could perform the task as easily as any other checker, but mostly we only saw customers if they wanted to order an item or to get a free box. The latter was actually more difficult than the former.
Customers were allowed one free box for each item they purchased. There were three sizes: small, medium, and large. Small would fit a necktie. Medium would fit an average piece of clothing and large would fit a heavy coat or blanket. As you might imagine, medium boxes were by far the most popular. And soon enough, we ran out.