STEUBENVILLE - For the past 38 years, Sears merchandise customer assistant Pam Threet has spent Thanksgiving Day much like a student preparing for the first day of a new school year.
She lays out the clothes she plans to wear, sets and double checks her alarm clock for fear she'll oversleep and has what's a restless night of slumber, nervous about what's to come.
But there's no "classroom" in this case for the Steubenville woman whose post turkey day tradition isn't about shopping on Black Friday. What's in store for her is the retail side of this super bowl of holiday shopping.
READY FOR THE LAST ONE — With retirement on the horizon come February, 38-year Sears merchandise customer assistant Pam Threet is ready for her final Black Friday, which for Sears begins early this year, starting today at 8 p.m. -- Janice Kiaski
For Threet, it will be her final one with retirement on the horizon come February. This year's Black Friday, however, has a new twist.
While past years have meant reporting to work at the Fort Steuben Mall store at 4 a.m. on Black Friday, she'll be on the job from 8 p.m. today through 8 a.m. Friday as Sears and other retailers bump up the store hours to accommodate eager consumers looking for deals.
"Normally I would come in to work at 4 o'clock in the morning on Friday," said Threet, noting with a laugh, "I was always afraid my alarm wouldn't go off, and I'd be late for work."
Having to be on the job so early has meant an abbreviated Thanksgiving Day celebration and less time spent with family, but Threet has adapted.
"Now maybe next year, I'll be able to kick back," she said. "Anybody who's been in retailing knows how it is. You just learn to accept it."
Threet's approach actually is to have her work clothes ready for the whole week of Black Friday and her Christmas shopping already done, knowing the busy retail season will mean less time for her personal to-do list.
"It's a habit that your brain has formed, and that is just how you work with it," Threet said.
Just as she prepares herself for the high-energy day that Black Friday is, so do the shoppers, who fall into different categories, she has observed.
Some shoppers are super organized, arriving with lists and a strategy. "Some are out there just for the thrill," Threet said. Others like the socializing opportunity that Black Friday affords, a forum in which people run into friends, relatives and acquaintances.
And many shoppers, through the years, have become like friends, she said. One male shopper who recently passed away would bring doughnuts for Threet, knowing there'd be little time to stop and eat. "He was such a sweet guy," she said.
Others have brought cookies, too.
But by the end of a Black Friday work day of keeping fitting rooms tidy, putting merchandise out and giving approvals, Threet is beat.
"It's just a busy time," she said, noting she looks forward to going home and relaxing when it's all said and done.
"You take your phone off the hook," she said. "Everyone in the family knows not to bother me," she added.
But Black Fridays have been fun.
"Through the years you make a connection with people," she said. "There's a lot of joy with it. You run into some people who have such a kind heart, and so many people have told me that they're going to miss me," she said.
Threet said her retirement will include some relaxation, some time to herself and some time to enjoy her 5-year-old grandson, Jaki Threet. She also predicts she'll help her aunt, Connie Vinson, in the family funeral home and eventually get a part-time job somewhere.
Threet said her advice to bargain-hunting shoppers this Black Friday is to be patient and friendly.
"It's a busy, crowded time, and if somebody hasn't seen someone in a while and they're gathering in the middle, understand it's just the season. It's just love and joy and peace, you know. You only get it once a year, and that's it," Threet said with a laugh.
"I'm so thankful this is my last one."