Black Friday. People seem to either love it or hate it.
The haters are staunch in their opposition. These are two recent comments that were in my Facebook stream about the subject:
"I can't believe people have to work tonight & miss time w/family so others can bow at the altar of greed."
"But the crowds of people that scream and run into the mall as the doors are opened...there's just something about it that is so representative of messed up priorities."
I am friends with both of these people and we're all entitled to our opinions, but when it comes to Black Friday, I am a lover.
I am devoted to Black Friday for the deals, yes. But for me, it's really about the experience.
There's a hum of excitement that bubbles through the crowd as we stand wrapped around the backside of the Target building waiting for the doors to open. Shoppers scan the ad and the map that shows the location of the doorbuster deals inside the store. There's conversation among strangers about who has already been where, what deals they're looking for and what store they'll be heading to next.
Then the doors open and there's a joyful whoop as the crowd starts moving forward. I've never been in a crush of people or feared for my life. I go straight to the deal at the top of my list. Then I wander the store, looking for other can't miss opportunities. I'm not there to shop just for the sake of spending money, but I'm happy to snag deals where I can.
Once I've gotten everything I need, I head to the check out. Sometimes it's a quick process. Other times I may as well get comfortable because I'll be there for a while. Most often there is happy chatter between shoppers. Sometimes there are some complaints. People are human after all. But mostly, the vibe is positive.
Black Friday is also the stage of many traditions between families and friends who travel the same route from store to store each year, making their annual stop at the Cracker Barrel or the local coffee shop along the way.
As for the assertions that Black Friday puts a magnifying glass on the greed of America or that people who shop that day don't have their priorities straight, I think it can be viewed in another way.
People have finite amounts of disposable income. There is nothing wrong with trying to stretch those dollars as far as they will go -- housewives have been doing that with the grocery budget for more than a century. If I have $100 budget for gift giving, I can shop any old day and purchase 2 or 3 gifts. Or I can shop on Black Friday and purchase 5 or 6 gifts.
I have a few rules I abide by that allow me to enjoy Black Friday:
- Go with a buddy. Deals are more fun when shared with a friend. Plus, the whole divide and conquer strategy can be key to getting what you came for.
- Start with low expectations. Life will not be over if you do not end up with a 42" TV for $200. There will be other sales, maybe not as great, but probably close.
- Go with a list and a budget and stick to both. This one is challenging to me, but I've learned from past experience that the Black Friday high is not worth the buyer's remorse low when I get home and think "What in the world possessed me to buy THAT?"
- Do not go to Walmart on Black Friday. I know plenty of people do, but this is my own personal rule.
- Do not go to Best Buy or the electronics department of Target within 2-3 hours of the store opening. Again, just a personal preference, but generally the deals aren't worth the masses of humanity trying to move through there.
- Be cheerful and express gratitude to store employees. From the security guards monitoring lines to cashiers who are ringing up countless shoppers, I've found everyone likes to be appreciated. A simple "thank you" and some conversation can make the experience happier for everyone.
- If you're stuck in a long line, acknowledge to yourself that it's just a line for "stuff," not a line for food or water, as thousands of people around the world often wait in.
- Take a copy of the ads with you. It helps keep you focused on what you wanted in each store and it can be useful at the checkout if the register isn't reflecting the advertised price.
- Wear comfy shoes. Black Friday is not for fashion.
- Don't wear a coat. Even if it's 30 degrees out, the rush of the crowd will keep you warm.