Good grief! I have never been shopping on “Black Friday” before and I suppose in some way that record is intact because, for the first time, I joined the girls and went shopping on Thanksgiving night.
This was all but un-thinkable not that long ago. Everything was closed on Thanksgiving. That day and Christmas Day are just about universal days when everyone but restaurants are closed in respect for the holiday.
But then some wiseacre marketing guy had to go and upset the equilibrium by opening their store at 5am instead of 6am on Black Friday and the one-upsmanship has now deteriorated to where some stores open at 6pm on Thanksgiving. (Some are open all day) Others open at 7pm or 8pm…so there was a strategy.
Not having done this before, I was doubtful there would be all that many people out; come on, it’s Thanksgiving! All that food and drink, the family in town, no way it’s going to be all that crowded, right?
At least on social media, there has been some apparent backlash with some calling for boycotts of stores not permitting employees to have the day with their families and others upset at some of the wages paid by Wal-Mart specifically.
I can’t speak for any other city, but in Atlanta, where I am for Thanksgiving, the boycott was a rousing failure. I have never seen so many cars parked outside a store. It looked more like a U-2 concert with opening acts Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. It was crazy! They had police directing traffic, the lot was jammed, cars in the aisles searching in futility for a spot, some parking on grass, others overflowing into other retail space nearby.
This was full-contact retail therapy on an epic level.
This was the big leagues
My shopping partners for the evening were my daughter, Sarah and her neighbors Alison and her husband, Chad. Men would be outnumbered this evening about 80-1. Our first stop was Old Navy. Everything in the store was half off! The doors didn’t open until 7 and a line had already formed. It was just after 6pm and cold. Low 30’s. The line consisted of only about 100 people, stretching back to the neighboring shoe store. We had intended to get coffee drinks at Starbucks, but imagine the irony – Starbucks was closed! So, leaving Chad in line, we returned home for home-made coffee. When we returned to Old Navy the line was now about 500 people!
The doors open and the crowd flooded in. The store was instantly packed! If you have any issue with claustrophobia, this would surely trigger it. It was sensory overload. Everything was on sale. Sarah bought some clothes for the kids as did Alison and we eventually escaped. Upon leaving we noticed a line still waiting as they were only letting people in as others left. It was that crowded, Old Navy had reached critical mass.
Next stop: Target. The process was repeated except on a grander scale. The line was huge. Numbering in the thousands. Here is a picture:
This was just the number of people behind us. There was an equally large number in the other direction. They controlled the crowd like lines at Disneyland, zig-zagging through ropes until finally reaching the store entrance. Once again, the crowds in the store were simply epic, but well-behaved. Once you had your prize door-buster items you had to get in the check-out line. It was insane. We were directed up and down every aisle in the grocery section of the Super Target before finally reaching the register.
Kohls featured the longest checkout line of the night. Well over an hour! So I volunteered to get in line while the others shopped. (Fortunately the Starbucks inside Target was open so I had a coffee drink to sip while I chatted with our fellow line standers.) Sarah, Alison and Chad soon joined me and we danced and goofed until finally making it to the checkout where the clerks were in amazingly good spirits! They were fun and very helpful.
My favorite part of the evening was in Best-Buy. We arrived well after the initial push so it was only insanely busy, not like the other stores. At one point, Sarah and I were waiting for Alison to check out and we were sampling headphones. A store associate asked if we needed help and we thanked him and said we were waiting on friends. He then asked Sarah if she and I were sisters! I love that man! Give him a raise. Sarah graciously said “yes” and left it at that.
After Best Buy we grabbed a bite to eat at a Taco joint that served beer where I was carded! I am having the time of my life now! Hell, I’m closer to 60 than 50. You can card me all day long!!
We hit a few more quick stops and ran out of gas (us, not the car) near midnight. We returned home to Sarah’s with just about all of her Christmas shopping done for her kids and husband and some really great deals.
Looking back at it, it was one of the most fun times I’ve had doing Christmas shopping. Black Thursday or whatever you call it, was a mad house to be sure, but nearly everyone was in good spirits. Plus, shopping with a group is way more fun than shopping alone. Ordinarily, Christmas shopping is more of a solitary sport because the people you are shopping for are somewhere else. Having friends with you turns it into a social event. Time flies by!
On the surface, it doesn’t look or sound fun waiting in mammoth lines in sub-freezing weather to save $9 on a coffee maker. But while the prices were pretty attractive if you hit the right store at the right time, for me that was all secondary. Sharing this experience with my daughter was so special to me and important in ways I can’t express. Besides, shopping is something I love doing now, even if I don’t buy a thing.
I’m still more of a purist when it comes to the start of Christmas shopping. I say, let’s get Thanksgiving out of the way first and be thankful for what we have before we dash out the door to go get more!
But if my girls are out in the cold on a chilly night waiting for that first store to open and it’s still Thanksgiving night, well, there is no place I’d rather be than right there with her.