Black Friday: Notes from the Frontline
My daughters and I have shopped Black Friday for quite a few years, and so despite the outrage at the earlier and earlier sales that required workers to miss their own Thanksgiving dinners we headed out again this year. After browsing the holiday ads, which seemed heavily loaded with electronics and sorely lacking in what I call "normal" gifts, we headed to Walmart at 8:15ish. Yes, I know the first "round" didn't start till ten p.m. but arriving early ensured us that we could weave our way around the heaping mounds of plastic wrapped items and locate the one or two things that we wanted to at least "look" at.
The picture above, snapped by my personal photographer, Kelsey Schenck, shows the waiting masses. I found myself with a bit of a problem because one of the items I was "assigned" to get (yes we each had our missions to complete) was located at the front of the store, while the other was at the back. Never mind that they were both toys, there are no truly defined "departments" on Black Friday. Since neither were "hot items" and neither were marked down enough to create undue stress, I stood patiently listening to the Black Friday chit chat.
Many people wandered by with one or two items in hand, taken from a mountain before the designated "start" time. A few people grumbled about the obvious lack of regard for the rules and a few tried to circumvent the rules by collecting items at their feet or on shelves next to them without "officially" putting them into their carts.
Suddenly at about 9:20ish we heard a commontion from another area of the store and people began racing by our area with their carts. It seems that someone had decided to start a tad early and once the masses started ripping into the mounds of stuff, the Walmart employees, probably wisely, decided it wasn't worth a big fight to even try to get them "under control." Yet they would have their "revenge" because even with your items in your cart no one could check out until 10:00. Even with that we ended up out of the store by 10:13.
Check Out Lines:
Total spent $108.00
Next stop Target Number 1. We arrived in the parking lot a couple of hours early so we tried to nap but ended up chatting and watching the line grow, and grow, and grow. We thought maybe Target was giving away sips from the Fountain of Youth. Wow, there were only TWO items in this store that we were even slightly interested in but hey we were already in the parking lot so we might as well watch the show!
Total Spent: $0.00
Target Number 2:
If there was a huge line at this store it was already gone by the time we arrived. We grabbed some PJs and a few movies. The checkout line wrapped around the store but it was very well defined and orderly. Some people stood in line while other members of their group looked at other items and then rejoined them. No one complained about it. It's the nature of Black Friday. We stood in line too long for PJs and movies but our next store didn't open until 5:00 a.m. so we had to hang out somewhere. :)
Total Spent: $20.50
The last bit of turkey and dressing drained from our system as we waited so a bit of breakfast at 3:30a.m. seemed the thing to do. IHop...packed. We waited about 30 minutes for a table, ate breakfast and headed to K-Mart.
Breakfast Total Cost: $33.50
Managed a short nap in KMart parking lot. Line was already wrapping around the building when we arrived so why shiver in the cold. Store opened at 5:00. The KMart "guard" was telling late comers to just wait until the line entered and then they could pass through the doors. However more and more people were running to the end of the line so in the end she snapped at everyone just to go to the end of the line. Frustrating to be told to wait and then to get in line. People were orderly but there were a lot of people for a KMart store at 5:00a.m. Entered the store found our two items quickly and headed to the checkout. The lines were short and it took about 15 minutes to check out. Again people's average purchase: two-three items. We were asked if we wanted to buy "extended warranty" on the video game we purchased. No, I expect it to work long enough to get my money's worth. It's a gamble today though.
Total Cost: $59.89
Words alone can not describe this chaos. Evidently the first 100 or 200 people received smallish shopping bags and they could put whatever they wanted in them and get 25% off. Needless to say, we were not in the first 200. The store was packed and the line chaotic, snaking its way back and forth around the store. Line jumping would be easy in this situation. We wisely decided to depart.
Total Cost: $0.00
What can I say? I wanted to pick up a few more Christmas Journals. Ended up getting a gingerbread house kit also. No lines and no crazy crowds.
Total Cost: $13.99
Target Number 1 Revisted:
It was on our way home and my daughter wanted to see if they still had a copy of a couple of DVDs she wanted so we returned to Target Number 1. They did have one of the DVDs and I picked up a nice set of sheets at the "door buster" price, plus a couple other little items.
Total Cost: $18.46
GRAND TOTAL: $254.34 (I'm pretty frugal so I don't consider that small change but it certainly isn't a HUGE amount either, especially considering that $33.50 is actually breakfast out.)
That's it folks, notes from the Black Friday Frontlines. Now for a few observations.
- People were NOT buying. Not really. Average 2-3 items per person. Still a lot considering the number of people but nothing like in years past.
- People were not friendly nor light hearted. This was SERIOUS business. In years past at least people joked about the craziness. Store workers were also disgruntled. I can understand it. Who wants to leave Thanksgiving to deal with the shopping frenzy. In years past, while not jovial, they have at least attempted to appear friendly.
- Doorbusters were not serving their purpose. What I mean by this is they are suppose to lure you into the store and then you stick around shopping and pick up additional items. With the times of the store openings, the crowds, and other factors, No one was doing that. They got their items and left the store. I didn't really see anyone actually "shopping".
- While electronics may be "hot items" and the lines at the first Target were crazy, there were still MANY of the items left at the second Target. Tom-toms, two versions of a portable DVD player and X-boxes were plentiful.
- While standing in line people often "talk themselves" out of the purchase. You could see "discarded items" all along the checkout line in Target. So as a store my goal would be faster check out lines!
- I haven't checked out online sales yet but I'm betting they are slightly better than in store. I plan to shop amazon sometime this weekend, so I'll let you know more details later.