Written by David Vogel Tuesday, 29 November 2011 16:03
I’m writing this column using a brain that has been deprived of two nights of sleep within a four-day period.
The latter of those nights—last night, to be specific—was the unintended tag-teamed result of a 9 p.m. espresso ice cream drink and a restless imagination cooking up assorted future self-employment schemes.
One of those schemes might have been Professional Interior Home Christmas Decorator, but I’m too tired to remember it exactly.
The sleepless night before last, however, was from my family’s traditional Black Friday shopping spree.
That’s right: I just sneak-attacked you with my annual Black-Friday-in-Review column.
I’ve been writing the post-Black Friday review for several years now—recounting each year’s events with sarcasm usually reserved for cafeteria-style chicken—and those five people who read this column regularly have come to expect it.
While wandering around the mall in the middle of the night, it occurred to me that despite always writing about Black Friday, I have failed to recite to you the fascinating historical backdrop on which it is set.
And I’m not going to this year either. My guess is that 37 percent of you already stopped reading at the word “historical.” Myself included.
The tradition of going to the Black Friday hysteria began several years ago when Dad wanted a leather jacket. He and I ventured out of the house around 4 a.m. to the nearest Wal-Mart to get one, and—poof!—the tradition was born.
It’s grown to include the whole family, including my unsuspecting wife, going to as many stores as possible despite the fact that (a) some of this year’s sales actually started two hours before Friday and (b) we weren’t really looking for anything in particular.
That’s right: We shopped all night despite not having any clear-cut strategies or objectives.
This isn’t to say we came back empty-handed. I, for example, grabbed a two-pack of Colgate at Wal-Mart.
I was much more productive than it sounds, however. I developed a Black Friday line-waiting ratio that stacks the amount of time it takes for the store-opening line to get inside against the amount of time it takes to get to a register.
This equation is based on the fact that it took 10 minutes and 40 seconds for the entire line outside of Kohl’s to get inside once the doors were opened. We joined that line right before it got inside, shopped for about 30 minutes, and then got in line for the register, which took an hour and 20 minutes.
Considering the Kohl’s case, here’s what I found: A person toward the back of the outside line for the store’s opening will spend roughly 7.5 minutes in line for a register for every one minute it took for the line to get inside.
Based on these facts and the fact that the line for the register was one and a half times longer 30 minutes later, we can extrapolate that if the same person shopped an hour, for every minute it took for the line to get inside they would spend roughly 11.25 minutes in line for a register.
(My calculations say that another 23 percent of you stopped reading at the world “extrapolate.”)
So how can we apply this? Next year when you go Black Friday shopping you’ll be able to predict how long you’ll wait in line to check out.
For example, let’s consider the insanity that was the Menard’s experience, which occurred six hours later.
I’d estimate the parking lot at Menard’s was three times the size of Kohl’s lot, and it was packed. Assuming that means there were thrice the population of shoppers, the outside line took about 32 minutes to get inside.
Which brings us to the conclusion—let’s see: multiply this by this, divide by that, move the decimal point, carry the one—that the average Black Friday shopper is absolutely nuts.
But, as you’ll see from this formula, the common denominator in the equation is that we’ll all be doing this again next year.
I’ll see if I can catch up on my sleep by then.