Did you ever plan something that seemed like a good/fun/adventurous idea at the time, then once you were in it, realized “Never again!”
At 5:00 a.m., the day after Thanksgiving, I (along with my husband, daughter and niece) entered our first—and probably last—Black Friday experience.
It was my daughter's idea to go in the first place. All the family gathered at my in-laws’ thought she was crazy, but I agreed to join her, as did her cousin and surprisingly my husband as well. We scoured the circulars and picked Target as our first stop. I’m not a morning person and not much of a shopper, but I do love Tar-jhay. Plus, they advertised a keyboard I’d had my eye on for my daughter at 50% off. I figured it’d be fun.
Well…it was lots of things. Fun wasn’t one of them.
Observation #1: Early bird gets the plasma screen. Only the amateurs show up at 5:30 a.m. when the doors open at 5:00 (As we learned later, the real pros started lining up at 2 a.m.) By the time we arrived, the parking lot was completely full. People were already leaving the store, carts overflowing with big ticket items. The place radiated an aura of survival of the fittest.
Observation #2: Be prepared to be completely overwhelmed. I have never seen so many people in a store for any reason. Like ruthless hunters, thousands upon thousands of shoppers filled the aisles, sights laser-focused on prized door-buster kills. The check out line snaked through the ENTIRE store—through housewares…grocery…electronics… boys’…shoes…women’s…and lingerie. I started counting, but eventually gave up at about 250. I guess over 750 people waited in line!
Observation #3: Don’t give up too quickly. I struggled to navigate the aisles as the crush of people, carts and stuff impeded my progress. I finally made it to the music department in search of the keyboard. A shelf tag announced I’d found the right place. A bare spot told me I was too late. Feeling defeated and claustrophobic, I said aloud, “I’ve gotta get out of here!” Problem was I’d lost my family almost as soon as we entered the store.
Eventually I found my daughter and niece. They looked as shell shocked as I felt. As we formulated our exit strategy, my phone rang. “I found the keyboard and am waiting in line,” my husband announced.
“Where’d you find it,” I asked.
“In the boys department. Of course. Why didn’t I think of that? “Can you find me a cart? It’s getting really heavy.”
Observation #4: Be patient and pay it forward. With a deluge of bargain hunters descending upon limited low-price merchandise, the tension was palpable. I sensed we were one cut in line or one snatched item away from total pandemonium. The scene teetered precariously between control and chaos. Thankfully, Target shoppers chose “goodwill toward men” over “win at all costs.” Case in point, while I searched in vain for a cart to bring to my husband, a woman noticed him struggling with the massive box and gave him a cart she’d found sitting empty. Later, he offered to buy her a coffee at Starbucks.
Thankfully the Target staff tipped the balance toward civility by providing excellent crowd control. Rumor had it shoppers didn’t fare so well at the nearby Walmart where reportedly punches were traded and an ambulance was called to the scene!
Observation #5: Make a list. Black Friday is not a time for casual browsing. As soon as I entered the frenetic scene in the store, my brain froze. Besides the keyboard, I couldn’t remember a single thing listed in the sale circular or anything I wanted to buy for Christmas. As I walked around dazed and confused, I noticed several battle-hardened Black Friday vets armed with detailed procurement lists working with focused efficiency.
Observation #6: Recession? What recession? I’m not passing judgment (since I was among the participants) but we are a materialistic bunch…and suckers for a deal—especially on electronics. I have never witnessed such conspicuous consumption in one place at one time. I don’t care what the analysts say, consumer spending is alive and well in
In the end I did Black Friday, got a few good buys and survived to tell about it. But the whole experience left me feeling agitated, stressed…and tired. Do I feel like I got a jump start on Christmas? Not really. Would I do it again? Probably not. I love a bargain as much as the next person, but I’m left scratching my head, asking “Why?” Why lose sleep? Why waste hours waiting in line? Why enter the crush of humanity. And why do we need so much of this stuff in the first place?
I wonder what sociologists make of Black Friday. Or Dave Ramsey. Or Jesus.