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Friday, November 25, 2011

In defense of Black Friday

Best Black Friday Deals Pictures, Images and Photos

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:
  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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?"
  4. Do not go to Walmart on Black Friday. I know plenty of people do, but this is my own personal rule.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.
  8. 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. 
  9. Wear comfy shoes. Black Friday is not for fashion. 
  10. Don't wear a coat. Even if it's 30 degrees out, the rush of the crowd will keep you warm. 
I know that Black Friday is not for everyone. I'm not saying it should be. But I also don't think the fact that I happily participate in the annual ritual means that I have to hang my head in shame.


CWMartin said...

Unfortunately, for everyone that goes with a sense of fair play like you, there's one like the woman in LA who sprayed the crowd with pepper spray as soon as they lifted the cover off the x-boxes. 20 people hurt in the melee, and cops are viewing the video to figure out who she was. Bonus: had her 3 kids with her. Frankly, I wouldn't want a gift from THAT woman. Or anything else.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

To open, I buy very few gifts because cash is that tight, but even if money was more "disposable" I wouldn't go out today. I worked on the other side of the counter for too many years. And while I rarely resorted to surly, I can tell you many of my customers were truly unkind.

I know it's fun for you, and that's fine, but I also know that my brother couldn't come for Thanksgiving because he had to be at work at ten last night--at a store. That was not fine.

The demands these businesses make on their employees are getting greater and greater. And while you go into it with a healthy attitude, the news coverage (stilted, agree) does paint a picture of greed. Seriously, is anyone buying something they need?

Eileen said...

Love Black Friday too, Amy, but we break a couple of your rules :) We like the deals on electronics. I much prefer the days of going out at 6 a.m. the day AFTER Thanksgiving. I remember one year smiling and saying Merry Christmas to the man opening the Target doors and he was quite taken aback.
Too bad some people have to be mean and greedy.

"The Queen of Free" said...

Fabulous tips, Amy. :) I have to admit that I didn't care for the 10 PM openings this year. It was a different crowd {I actually shop Walmart but that's because we're with family and there's no Target here}. I'm much more of a 3 AM sort of girl. :)

I typically shop for household items on Black Friday - sheets, towels, etc. - and coats. We don't do the electronics/toys scene at all. It's a tradition with the King of Free and our niece and we have a great time {last night's treat was coffee/hot chocolate from White Castle for my niece and I}. Haters gonna hate {whether they're anti-Black Friday or pro-pepper spray/ridiculousness over a waffle maker}. So I always encourage people to do what they're most comfortable with and forget the rest.

I'd of course add "use cash only" to your list. It'll keep your costs down even more.

Nancy said...

I shopped for the first time in over 20 years and had so much fun! I went in with the attitude that if I got something, I got it, if not no big deal.
As for the people upset about the workers having to work on holidays, it is nothing new. Lots of stores have been open on Thanksgiving for years. When someone works retail, they should know that they might have to work holidays.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

Nancy, I understand that retail workers often have to work on holidays, so do many other people with other occupations (like the firefighters who worked to resuscitate my mom when she died on a holiday). But I also hold dearly to my want to see my brother.

I don't hate Black Friday, to each his own. I just miss my brother. Though we often all work around his schedule and have alternate celebrations, just once it would be nice if he didn't have to work on Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter. That's something I have been forced to get accustomed to. Obviously he needs his job.

Don't we all?

kimybeee said...

oh black friday! i have been - i went yesterday afternoon to petmart and bought a trunkload of cat food and cat litter and treats for the cats and dogs lol lol

we just don't buy for each other or our family - so we have no reason to be out snagging deals. we will get the kids a few things and that is all.

i think some people like to behave badly because the day has a reputation they think they must follow - and some people are just jerks. i heard on the radio today that a woman sprayed mace into the crowd at walmart to get an edge on xbox games. that is about as nuts as one can get! i agree that many people see it as an adventure and enjoy it every year with family and friends. i too think that letting the employees know that you appreciate them is very important. i think i had 13 different transactions on my trip to the petstore and used the same girl for them all (3 trips to the car) and she was great and i expressed my gratitude multiple times in dealing with coupons and separate transactions.

if everyone would live by the do unto others attitude,the whole world would be a better place!!

Rachel said...

I love this! Totally explains the adventure that my mom and I take every year - just to spend some time together doing something crazy :) Oh, and this year we were stuck in line for an hour behind four completely STONED customers. That was a riot ;)