|Posted by douggoodman on November 25, 2011 at 9:35 PM|
"Black Friday is like the zombie apocalypse. Either you're one of them, or you're inside hiding, hoping your loved ones haven't been trampled by crazy people." My wife posted this to her Facebook wall with the request that I come back alive and not undead. But really, my Black Friday experience wasn't all that bad.
Okay, so I heard that a woman trying to buy an X-Box pepper-sprayed the people around her like she was a wolf defending a recently killed caribou. And I have heard of people getting mugged for toys/money while out on Black Friday. But I have been Black Fridaying it for the past 4 to 5 years, and I've just had a different experience. It seems that instead of thugs and psychotics, I see mostly ordinary soccer moms and dads out looking for presents. The frantic behavior doesn't seem to kick in until after Black Friday when people realize they have shopping to do and that perfect ImagiNext T-Rex that they really wanted to get their nephew for Christmas is completely sold out in the continental United States and won't be shipping from China for at least another month. Yeah, that was me five years ago. I decided to start shopping Black Fridays or get used to looking for alternative gifts.
The crazy part is the before, actually. That's because on Thursday I sift through a bunch of Christmas lists and compare them to a bunch of flyers and look for the perfect fits. My relatives who have visited us on Thanksgiving can attest to this erratic behavior, and I freely admit it. But I gotta strategize. It's not just about which store to go to, but when will the toy be available? 9pm? 10 pm? midnight? 5am?
Once I have my strategy, it's time for a little nap (usually augmented by turkey and wine). Then I get in the car, grab a few Throwback Pepsi's (no corn syrup, just glorious sugar), and head to Toys R Us.
Call of Duty: Toys R Us
The line at TRU was lo-o-o-ong. It stretched a couple of blocks, and there were probably three to five hundred people in line. I got there a little early, broke out the cellphone, and started keping tabs on the progress of the final Texas/A&M game. A store member came around and let us know that Toys R Us would open on time and people would be let in 50 at a time.
I overheard people worrying about lots of things in line. They worried about how long they would be in line, whether the item would still be on the shelf, and whether or not all this was worth it. Nobody was worried about the alien invaders who took over the local Toys R Us, killed its crew, then sent out unbelievable Black Friday deals that would lure all the townspeople to the store, where they would stand in line and wait to be let in, 50 at a time, and then the aliens would slaughter everyone as they came in looking for game systems and remote-controlled cars. Or maybe that was just my overactive imagination hopped up on sugar and caffeine.
An hour later, I was inside and hunting for a couple of sweet deals. Everybody there was very nice and cordial. The lines weren't horrendously long, I wasn't killed by aliens, and no zombies tried to eat me (if they tried I would have beheaded them with a nearby Nerf sword). The only downside was I couldn't get a cart, so my arms were very jello-y (real word) by the time I got to the cashier. Otherwise, I left TRU having saved $70.
Scariest moment of the night was me walking to the van, Christmas presents in hand, and some guy walking out of the shadows with a big grin on his face. He wanted me to know "we" (I was wearing my Longhorns shirt) had won the game. Last minute field goal. I guess there are some things about this rivalry I will miss, like complete strangers wanting to share a victory in a dark and unlit area. If I had brought pepper spray, there would have been another case of customer "resource guarding" on Black Friday.
Battlefield: Best Buy
Best Buy was different. As soon as I got in line, I could tell the differences. For one, the crowd was younger. They also looked like they had been waiting in line a lot longer. There were lots of people in chairs and huddled together under ponchos, but it hadn't rained in 24 hours, which was weird. They also looked geekier and more fan-boy. It made me wonder if George Lucas was going to be at the store. Or Olivia Wilde.
Like the TRU line people, the BB line people had their worries, too. Most of it was Red Bull exageration I think, because the guy on the phone in front of me was calling a friend and described the line as being one thousand to fifteen hundred people long where we stood. He was probably right if you took away a thousand. Amateurs...
There was another key difference between the Toys R Us crowd and the Best Buy crowd. At Best Buy, there were a lot of chain smokers. At Toys R Us, there was very little cigarette smoke, but somebody was definitely smoking weed. Now that I think of it, maybe that was why everyone was so cordial and nice at Toys R Us! Maybe that was why I was thinking of aliens, too...
At Best Buy, there were a couple of issues. The way Best Buy had their lines set up, I had to enter another line and swim downstream through all the people waiting to purchase something that you needed an orange sheet to purchase. I left my cart in the aisle. By the time I got back, one of my purchases had been pilfered. (Because I don't want to reveal the present to anyone, I will refer to it as "Electric Cow Ears." I couldn't find it back on the rack, so I went to get back in line. But by then the general line pretty much wrapped all around the store. There was nobody from Best Buy manning the lines, and so I went to so many lines, it felt like FEMA after a hurricane. Then a Best Buy person showed up to fix the line problem. Fortunately, that meant that everybody AFTER me had to go to the back of another line (suckers!) and I could merge with the current one. I probably saved hours by not having to go to the back of that line. Of course, there is a rumor that those people are actually still in line, stuck in a kind of purgatory between heaven and hell, err...cashiers and the end of the line.
On the plus side, right before the cashiers was a row of Electric Cow Ears, so I was able to get the gift at the discounted rate after all. On the downside, I probably spent three hours at Best Buy and only saved $30. And there was no George Lucas or Olivia Wilde appearance. I think that disappointed me the most.
World of Black Friday-Craft
So it wasn't all that bad. I haven't done a dollar-by-dollar tally of the savings, but I probably saved a couple of hundred dollars by sunrise. I could have saved more if I had been buying big-ticket items like TVs and iPads instead of Electric Cow Ears.
If you look beyond the illegal drugs, the scary Longhorn fan, and the long lines of Shoggoth (I couldn't resist inserting a little Lovecraft), it was a very unpredictable and boring Friday night. Which is the part that affects people the most. "In a world of instant results" and all that. People hate standing in line for longer than thirty seconds, even if it means you can save money. I have a higher tolerance for it, I guess. Maybe it was all that ultramarathon training I did in my twenties. I got used to the idea of doing the same something for nine to ten hours, and let's be honest, my speed as an ultramarathoner was probably a little faster than standing in line at Best Buy.
Will I do it again? Probably. Will next year be as crazy as this year? Probably not. But there's nothing wrong with standing in line unless aliens are using the local Toys R Us to slaughter townspeople.