Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Black Friday

This past holiday weekend I explored new territory: shopping on Black Friday. For years now, I've watched people on the news brag about getting a DVD player for $30 or whatever, and resolved never to set foot into the fray myself.

But this year Steph and I were feeling adventurous, so we made our Xmas gift list and decided to get up around 8 or 9 in the morning and check it out. I ended up waking up at 3:45 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. I knew if I finally fell asleep, I'd sleep til noon. But if I ventured out...

The first store to open was Wal-Mart at 5 AM. Then, Macy's at 6 and the rest of the mall at 8. Normally I relish any chance to sleep in, so if I didn't go then, I probably never would in my entire life. I'd die without the knowledge of what getting up early for Black Friday shopping is like. A sudden, chilling sense of mortality made the decision for me: I grabbed my list of presents and drank a strong cup of coffee and departed into the frigid morning air. Steph was not afflicted with insomnia, so I went alone.

Keep in mind, I normally refuse to set foot in Wal-Mart. My main complaints are that it kills your soul and the crowds are really annoying. But we naively figured if I got there right at 5 there would be hardly anyone there, I could just walk in and walk out.

I got there at 4:45 and there was a line of roughly 1000 people. They were chattering about $250 laptops, but by the time I got to the front of the line - which took 22 minutes - someone came out of the store saying, "Laptops are gone."

Inside there were boxes of sale items stacked practically floor to ceiling around the store. The women's underwear section had a huge pyramid of $98 DVD/TV combos by some brand I never heard of. The boxes were so big and cumbersome they made the shopping carts teeter, but people grabbed them and threw them in like packs of gum at the register.

I learned something about Black Friday: not everything is on sale. On the contrary, it's just a small group of items that are probably overstock or available to the retailers really cheap, generally rather questionable off-brands. I watched two customers get in a fight over a cart, considered whether I needed a $20 electric griddle, and left.

Next stop: Macy's. I arrived just as the doors opened at 6 AM. The sky was still dark. It was the polar opposite experience of Wal-Mart. There were two or three customers, including me. Everything was quiet and peaceful. Hootie and the Blowfish gently wafted from the speakers. Once again, only a small percentage of the inventory was on sale. And I learned something else about Black Friday there: a lot of sales only last until 11 AM or noon. But no matter - I was there at 6, and when I grabbed items off the sale rack and used the courtesy scanner to price-check them, they rang up at crazy discounts - $5 for an Izod dress shirt.

I wandered the rest of the mall, but it was pretty uneventful. Like I said, a lot of stores had deals that ended at 11, at which time they went up slightly in price - shirts that were normally $50 at Express were $19.95 until 11, then went up to $25 for the rest of the day. And the crowds weren't that bad. The Apple store didn't have shit on sale, and at one point it seemed like the mall was playing the same lame song for over an hour. "Bla bla bla save my soul, bla bla bla rock and roll and drift away..." What a turd that song is.

Overall, I would say it was worth it. Avoid Wal-Mart and big retailers like that, don't get up super-early unless you just feel like it. But if you like buying stuff when it's really on sale, then this Bud's for you. I ended up spending $180 at Macy's on an impressive pile of shirts, ties and sweaters. My receipt said, "You saved $685.45 shopping today..."

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