Sunday, December 12, 2010

Black Friday

By Wilfred Bereswill

You've all heard the term Black Friday.  You know, that day when stores hoped to go from the red into the black for the year.  And yes, my wife and I woke at 4:30 AM on Friday and went out to a couple of stores.  As it turns out, we missed most of the crowds, since many of the stores opened at Midnight.

But all that is another topic.  The Black Friday I'm talking about refers to December 12th, 2008.  If you check your calendars, you will indeed verify that December 12th, 2008 was indeed a Friday.  For me and almost 1,400 other employees of the once mighty Anheuser-Busch it will live on as Black Friday.  That is the day the cutthroat businessmen of Inbev decided to cut many United States jobs, including mine.

I remember the day like it was yesterday.  For me, it was a bit of a relief.  For almost a year, we knew we were the targets of a takeover.  The year was an emotional rollercoaster, running the course of highs and lows.  2008 was the year I had my first book, A Reason For Dying published.  I should have been estatic, but the day before my launch party we were told for sure that Inbev was making a run at us.  That news kind of dampened the party.

The worst day in that roller coaster year, surprisingly was the day BEFORE black Friday.  Thursday, December 11th, we arrived to an email that said we would receive an email with an appointment time for the following day.  We were not to come into the office until the appointed time.  Rumors swirled that if you received a 15 minute appointment you were going to be spared.  If you received a 1/2 hour appointment, you were being let go.  My email came at 4 PM.  It was the longest day in my career.  Turns out, there was no length to any of the appointments.  Those who were being spared already knew it and were under strict orders not to say anything.

Friday was a blur.  They shuffled us through a process.first with HR, then with outplacement, then with the head doctors (AKA Employee Assistance Program.)  That afternoon all us Environmental folks gathered at a bar near the brewery and drank to better days.

Last Friday was our 3rd gathering (if you count the original Black Friday.)  Everybody has moved on.  Many have retired permanently, some took early retirement if they could and then found either part time or full time jobs and others like me found other work to finish our careers.

There was a lot of beer consumed (all A-B products and no Inbev crap "Stella") and lots of reminiscing. The mood was much more upbeat proving time goes on.


Gina said...

Will -
I'm curious about how the folks who kept their jobs are faring.
I got downsized out of a job in 2007; now I'm semi-retired and working part time in a building a half-block from my old office, so I see a lot of my former co-workers on the street. Oddly enough, you can tell immediately who were downsized and who were kept just by looking - the ones who stayed still look as stressed as we all were when we worked there, the ones who left are relaxed and smiling. Don't get me wrong. I liked the job when I had it; it's just so much nicer to work without the constant struggle to cover the work of those who'd already been removed and not replaced, while wondering when the other shoe will drop on you.

Ramona said...

Wil, gosh, how awful about the timing. I hope the launch party went bravely forward.

My husband went through a nail-biting year with his employer, a newspaper giant. His position was safe, but some of the people who got laid off did some creative career changing. Nevertheless, it was all not a good thing.

Good that you guys meet on the anniversary. That's taking power.

Joyce Tremel said...

It's always harder when you actually like your job and they dump you. I look at my job loss as a blessing in disguise. I recently ran into someone who is no longer there and was told I wouldn't recognize the place--the work environment was horrible.

There's a reason for everything. Sometimes it just takes awhile to figure out what it is.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Gina, though most won't say much of anything, they admit that it's not the same company. Inbev is infamous for slashing costs. There are a lot of rumors out there about how Inbev conducts business. The people that stayed on are happy to have a job in this economy. But when things get better, who knows?

Ramona, the launch party went on as planned. When I saw my books on the window of the store, my problems got swept away.

Joyce, I loved that job, especially my international travel. You don't realize how good something is until you don't have it.

Unknown said...


I grew up in STL. At nine years old, I took a tour of the downtown A-B plant. Bright shiny kettles filled with roasting hops. Dark brown bottles dancing down the bottling line. I asked our tour guide, "See that man up there? The one checking the pots? What did he study in college?"

"Chemical engineering - he's our brew master."

My fate was sealed. Got the degree but never got the chance to work at the brewery.

You were part of something special. My hat's off to you.

May your future be so bright that your love for A-B serve only as the spark to your successful writing career.

And to misquote Mac Davis, "Happiness is the day job in the rear view mirror."

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Thank you, CL.

If I remember correctly, most of the A-B Brewmasters tended to graduate from U.C. - Davis in Fermentation Science or something like that.

Unknown said...


Leave it to the tour guide to steer me in the wrong direction. :)

So will you be changing your beverage of choice? I've developed quite a fondness for Guinness...

Wilfred Bereswill said...

I like some of the Michelob Specialty products and have always been an Amberbock fan. I just finished up a few Jack's Pumpkin Spice.

After getting free beer for 17 years (those 2 cases per month), it's hard to pay for beer. But I've been working my way through some of the microbrews. The problem with the micros is they tend to vary in taste slightly from batch to batch.

A beer that seems appropriate for this blog is Rogue's Dead Guy Ale
( Actually, it's quite good.

Joyce Tremel said...

I've developed a fondness for Sam Adams lately. The Winter Lager is out right now. Very tasty.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Joyce, Winter Lager is very good.

If you can find Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale, give it a try. I think the alcohol content is up there compared to lagers, but it's worth a try.

I'll have to do a beer blog in January. In the meantime, I'll brush up on my research.

Joyce Tremel said...

Yes! A beer blog! Why didn't I think of that?

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Joyce, that's why you ladies keep me around on this blog.

Joyce Tremel said...

No, we keep you around because you look good in a dress. Heh.