Last year I vowed to never go shopping at 4 a.m. on Black Friday ever again. And this year I managed to stick to my word.
Instead, I left at 2:30.
For the uninitiated (read: intelligent) Black Friday is an unofficial holiday that takes place mere hours after the turkey leftovers have been put in the fridge and the Detroit Lions players have all gone home to put on their pajamas.
In the wee hours of the morning, harried shoppers with bloodshot eyes and bed head stand in lines outside of large retailers in hopes of acquiring at least one of the state-of-the-art, brand-new, never-been-in-contact-with-terrestrial-air iGadgets, of which that store has maybe five actually in stock despite heavy television and print advertisements that lead consumers to believe that they just might have a chance of actually purchasing one.
What results are the chilling headlines that read something like this: “Soccer mom trampled by stampeding herd of heavily fed Thanksgiving consumers.” The article then begins, “She was still clutching a highly collectible Malibu Celebrity Veterinarian Bride Barbie Doll to her heart as she clung to life….”
Perhaps, if you have never participated in Black Friday, you think I am hyperbolizing. I could also be exaggerating. And a year ago, I probably would have agreed with you because I had never done the stand-out-in-the-cold thing. And I never planned to…. (Cue “Psycho” theme.) Until this year.
You see, there was the matter of the television. I needed one to start my future.
By the occurrence of a series of certain events to which I am most grateful and fortunate, I am now engaged to a beautiful young woman named Hanna.
Our summer wedding means that it’s time to start thinking about acquiring the essentials, by which I mean TV. (This is how we get back to the subject of Black Friday.)
Thanks to approximately 3,000 hours of commercials and two tons worth of newspaper advertisements, Hanna and I became excessively aware that Wal-Mart would have a rather nice television on sale for less than its standard Rollback Savings.
(This begs the question, if Wal-Mart claims to always be rolling back prices, won’t stuff eventually become free?)
So we made plans to hitch a ride with my parents to secure the success of our future entertainment.
But also by way of print and broadcast advertising, my parents found an even better sale on an even better television that they wanted at Target, which went on sale an hour earlier than the TV Hanna and I wanted.
So at 2:30 a.m. Mom, Dad, my brother, his girlfriend and Hanna and I traipsed out the door under varying levels of grogginess for Target.
This was the first time my family ever attempted to get to a store before it opened on Black Friday, so I was nearly traumatized to see the line stretching all the way across the front of the store, down the entire length of one side, and then snaking out into the parking lot.
But as the pilgrims did on that fateful first Black Friday at Plymouth Rock 389 years ago, we bundled up and stood in line for 20 minutes until they opened the door. Time ticked by slowly. Tension built. Adrenaline pulsed. Cliche rhetorical excitement builders accumulated. Coffee got cold. And then the doors opened, and….
Well, nothing really.
It was kind of like bracing yourself for a surprise 40th birthday party when you’re 10 years old: Something will happen at some point, so you’d better be prepared, but it’s too far away to actually make a difference.
After a while our section of the line finally started moving. Slowly at first, but gradually speeding up as we went, like the little engine that wanted a TV. By the time we got to the entrance of Target, it was a mad house. People were running every possible direction, carts were getting slung around like weapons and merchandise was dropped on the floor just as quickly as it was snatched off the shelves.
The six of us ran to where the TVs were supposed to be, but we were too late. Next to the soccer mom clutching a Barbie was a giant void that had once been filled with heavily advertised televisions.
Dejected, we walked back to the car as people jabbed shopping carts into our Achilles tendons.
Our next stop that morning was Wal-Mart for the TV Hanna and I were after. This turned out to be much more successful.
However, I vow never to do Black Friday ever again, which really means I’ll be writing this column all over again in 12 months.