[Photo: Chris Blincoe]

As we all know, most touring musicians generally have to have alternate sources of income to come home home from tour to. Before I started touring full time, I spent years of my life working in retail management for a store called Zumiez, a specialty store that sells action-sports-related clothing in hundreds of stores nationwide. Zumiez was a great place to learn and grow personally, while living the culture entailed with the store and its people. I loved working there. It was the platform that enabled me to focus on music when I decided to leave college and go after my dreams. It never felt like it was a job, but it did have its interesting moments, as would any customer service-related job. This time of year is a time I can reflect on my past experiences with the insanity referred to as Black Friday. These are my brief recollection of the five favorite Black Friday stories I experienced. To all you kids in bands working toward your dreams, hang in there this week.

1. The good ol' fashioned "things actually cost money?" at the register routine. Customer bring items to counter, lets you scan them, waits for the total, then proceeds to complain about how much they cost in hopes of you just handing over everything for free. Very interesting approach, I agree, but never quite effective if you expect the person behind the register to still have a job when you're done. Customer verbally abuses you and leaves, no matter how nice you are to them. Those are the people that you can't and will not make happy. Just have to let them do their thing. Classic.

2. The only thing worse than a thief is a really, really dumb thief. One year I watched a kid go around the store putting items in his girlfriend's purse, one by one. Good plan, but next time make sure the purse isn't clear! I had to wait until they tried to leave the store after walking around inside for more than 20 minutes to bust them--in a polite and calm manner, of course.

3. I would like to believe that a store like Zumiez is a welcoming place for kids to feel like they belong, maybe grab a seat on the couch and play video games or watch a skate video; that's what I always pushed as a store manager. But sometimes, kids use the mall as their place to show their peacock feathers and fight one another. Of course, we had in-store confrontations and a flat-out fistfight right outside of our store. The only thing that could have made it more exciting is if that one weird train that drives around the mall drove into them.

4. Things get crazy on Black Friday but you always tell yourself, "It couldn't get much worse than this." Well, it can when an air conditioning's coil is frozen and breaks, spewing out water all over the store. This caused an electric spark which set off the sprinklers in our back room, flooding into the entire store. Thousands of dollars of products were damaged and we spent hours cleaning that mess up in the middle of the complete chaos known as holiday shopping.

5. Okay, I'll just go ahead and tell this story as straightforward as possible. Shopper comes into the store and takes a bunch of clothing into a fitting room. Shopper then comes out of fitting room, addressing the two female associates, Alli and Mari, to buy her the items because she looks great in them. Shopper then returns into the fitting room and, uh, defecates all over all of the clothing, ruining it. Shopper then tries to leave the store. Mari follows her. Keeping a safe distance and avoiding any conflict was Mari's goal, which unfortunately failed miserably. The shopper noticed her following and turned around and charged at her. Mari was physically assaulted until police and an employee came to her aid. Technically, that didn't happen on Black Friday, but it is way to good a story not to tell. Mari, you are a trooper.

To all my friends and the kids in bands perusing their dreams while grinding it out in wonderful world known as retail, hang in there this holiday season. I understand not all of you get to work at a store as cool as Zumiez, and for you I truly sympathize.

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