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Black Friday Hell



I don’t know what came over me. I actually participated in the shopping frenzy called Black Friday and came out bruised and beaten. Actually, I do know what came over me. It was a 17″ LCD monitor for $80. The perfect excuse to upgrade to a dual monitor setup (”dual monitors have been scientifically shown to increase productivity,” I keep telling my wife). Never mind that I would have to be to Best Buy at 4:00 in the morning to get a ticket for their 5:00 opening time. 4:00??? YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! I have a hard time getting up at 7:30. To make it worse, I live about 20 minutes from the closest Best Buy which would mean that I would need to wake up at about 3:15 to get there in time. And yet, I succumbed to the siren’s call.

I really didn’t sleep, I just took a two hour nap. It eased the pain to look at it that way. I climbed in the car just after 3:15 fearing I would be one of a small group and feel stupid for getting there so early. My fears were unfounded. Instead, I was part of a very large group of stupid people who arrived even earlier than me. As I rounded the bend, the Best Buy parking lot was full and overflowing into the neighboring Home Depot. A line surrounded the store, almost winding back to the entrance. Why I didn’t just turn back then is beyond me. I’m sure the fact that it was quarter to 4:00 had something to do with it.

Because I hadn’t anticipated such a crowd, I also didn’t think I would end up standing in the cold for almost an hour and a half and didn’t dress appropriately. A short sleeved shirt under a medium jacket just barely held enough heat to make the wait bearable. The one piece of planning I DID do was to bring a book of Sudoku puzzles. But my choice of mittens rendered that piece of brilliance useless because I couldn’t write with them on, not to mention it’s hard to do a puzzle standing up.

I did have the good fortune of standing next to some friendly people and we entertained ourselves by chatting about the things that wouldn’t be available by the time we got in the store. Actually, there was really no need to entertain ourselves as there was plenty going on around us. The hot chocolate/treat cart went around, we had a guy on a little step ladder (I guess he was pretty short) preaching a sermon, and a number of foresightful, entrepreneurial-minded people handing out business cards. We even had a little fiasco with a car parked in the loading dock. Really, it was non-stop fun.

About half way through our wait, and still holding out hope for a ticket (kinda Willy-Wonka-esque isn’t it?), I noticed in the Best Buy flier that there was an interesting piece of information that had previously eluded me. Next to each item were two lines. One listed a maximum items per customer and the other listed a minimum items per store. At a glance I would normally gloss over these lines assuming they were both restrictions on how much a customer can buy. That’s expected for super-duper promotions. But on closer inspection I realized, in my foggy stupor that one line was a customer restriction but the other line indicated the number of items in each store. The number per store for my monitor read “5.” I panicked! I quickly started counting the number of people in line, estimating how many people there were in front of me. I estimated there to be at least 300. My chances of getting a monitor were about 1.6%?!?! And yet I stayed. It was no longer about the monitor. I wasn’t going to get up at 3:15 and wait in the cold for over an hour for nothing. If I didn’t get the monitor, I was going to get a great deal on SOMETHING! Hypothermia must have been setting in.

Well, I never even saw the ticket people coming around. I’m sure they ran out of tickets by the 114th person. Finally 5:00 came. By that time the line had grown another couple hundred people and I felt downright smart for getting there so early. As I entered the store, I would have run to the monitor section had there been space to run. Instead, I slowly inched my way there only to find my precious monitors taken. Unfazed, I figured I would at least get some of my shopping done. There were still some nicely-priced portable DVD players available and I could get a couple of movies for my son. As I got my items and went to get in line, the balloon of my early-morning enthusiasm finally popped. The check out line snaked from the front of the store through the music section, and ended, as far as I could tell, somewhere in the large-appliances section. I’m not quite sure because I never found the end of the line. I put my items somewhere in the mobile-phone department and left—defeated and tired.

Despite my negative experience, I’m still a believer in great deals. I’ve frequently found great rebate deals in the Sunday Fliers or sites with electronic versions like ShopLocal.com. But I will not ever again be caught dead participating in early-morning Black Friday mania. I sacrificed great personal comfort and sanity to try and save a mere $50. I could have earned that amount in less time by selling something on eBay, picking up a small freelance job, or working a little overtime. Had I not gotten caught up, I would have figured that out before I made a series of foolish decisions. I don’t know what came over me, but it wasn’t holiday cheer.


Posted in General, Spending | 5 Comments »

5 Comments to “Black Friday Hell”

  1. Tina Says:

    Black Friday can be done enjoyably, if you’re shopping for the right things. I go every year with my mom and get cheap gifts for friends and clothes for myself. It’s family tradition. :)

    The first rule of Black Friday shopping sanity is to avoid stores like Best Buy and Circuit City. Sorry you got caught in the mayhem.

  2. Jodi Says:

    Mike and I had a similar experience at Toys R Us. However the line was shorter and we actually got what we wanted as it was a small wooden trainset for a steal instead of the crazy popular Elmos, Nintendo Wiis, etc. We had a lot of fun hopping from department store to department store and picking up some cheap clothes, etc. The trick is to bring your spouse for company, and leave your kids home! Our other secret was staying up all night having a 24-fest so that we could arrive at Toys R Us at 3:30. Although I have to say the check-out line really sucked. One of us should have headed straight there while the other grabbed the trains.

  3. Take Back Your Brain! » Blog Archive » That perfect gift - part 2 Says:

    [...] The campaign to get you to buy Christmas gifts combines several strategies that are enormously effective, Together, they are able to create a mass trance that lasts for two months and causes people to do crazy things like go into debt, wait in line outside big box stores at 4am, and buy chia pets. [...]

  4. Getting Finances Done » Sunday Shopping Circulars Online Says:

    [...] Last week I mentioned in passing a great site called ShopLocal.com that allows you to see Sunday shopping circulars online. It’s almost a tradition for me to browse the shopping circulars every Sunday looking for deeply discounted items and rebate deals that allow you to save a lot of money. With a little patience, you can usually find the specific types of items your looking for. That is, as long as it’s not Black Friday. [...]

  5. Getting Finances Done » Blog Archive » The secret to saving money on holiday shopping: do it early! Says:

    [...] few years back I wrote about my experience participating in the Black Friday hoopla. To make a long story short I spent a miserable morning at around 3:15AM standing in the [...]

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