Friday, July 21, 2006

Black Friday - to shop or not to shop?

I have always refused to go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. The TV reporters go out into the madness and show us how bad the parking is and how long the check out lines are. I worked in a department store years ago during the Christmas season. Working on December 26th gave me my first eye witness experience of the throng rushing in at 6 am to grab all the left over Hallmark ornaments (75% off). The cash register didn't stop for an hour. I kept wondering why the security guard had showed up at my post before they opened and then stayed around. He knew what I didn't - I was the one to be most swamped. It really soured me to holiday shopping and I have continued to eye anyone suspiciously who says, "I love to go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving!"

My first Thanksgiving as a Mrs., I find myself at the table with my husband's female relatives discussing when to leave for the mall the next morning. I traditionally avoid shopping the day after Thanksgiving - the worst day of all to be out in the mess with the crazy road-raging bargain hunters. And here I’d married into a family of Black Friday shoppers.

There was some sale at Best Buy until 8 am, so they wanted to go at 7 am. I just had to tell them I could not do 7 am. They said, “We'll come back for you, how about 9?” “Great,” I said shooting a look at the Mr. that said, "Save me!" but he just grinned back, ignoring my plea. Later I asked if I couldn't just stay with him and his brother and his kids and watch football and clean out their mom's gutters. He said, "Go on - it won't be too bad (this from a man whose longest shopping trip to the mall was 17 minutes). Besides, you hardly know my sister at all. You should spend some time with her."

I had the worst memories of Christmas shopping: rude drivers cutting you off in the lot, people grabbing scarf and mitten sets off a table at Penney's when a sale price was announced, having to circle the food court like a vulture to get a table, impossibly long lines at cash registers. We set off for the mall at 9 as planned with Lora and Sue telling tales of their early morning door buster experience at 7 am. (Whatever they had wanted at Best Buy was gone by 7:15 when they arrived.) In the van, I gave my self a stern lecture: You are not having to drive in traffic or purchase anything - You do not have to be hassled today - You are not in a hurry - You are here for female bonding - Put a smile on your face and have a positive, patient attitude. We pulled up and easily got a parking place. I internally chanted, "Serenity Now" a few times. It turned out to be a pretty good day, but I don’t remember buying anything. We got home and Bill was happy I'd spent time becoming one of the gals.

Thanksgivingthe next year. We are again with my husband’s family. We go to the mall at 9 am. This year, I am buying. I had decided that if I had to spend the day in a mall and waiting on them, I might as well be getting some shopping done, too. If a line is too long, then forget it. It is still 25 days or more until Christmas. We hit strip malls and Target and Best Buy; we hit some small specialty stores; we attacked the mall; we sent Lora to Chik-fil-a with our orders while the other five roamed the seating area staring down people camping out at their tables. By 3:30, fatigue had set in and someone suggested going home. I said, "But wait, we haven't been toMacy’s!! Or The Gap!" Lora looks at Sue and says, "Oh, no, we've created a monster. Come on, everyone - two more stores to go."

So, I guess my advice is to go later in the day on the day after Thanksgiving and don't get in a long line if you aren't going to make up your mind to be very patient. The crazy, frustrated shoppers seem to come out more on the weekends closer to Christmas. Desperation and hurry kill their holiday spirit. I do remember some really dead time while working the department store that one season. The last hour of the shopping day, was always dead. Being alone in a department store, you can admire the decorations and shop at leisure. You can actually hear the piped in Christmuz Muzak. The clerks are bored and glad to actually have a customer to ring up to break the monotony.

Thanksgiving the following year. I am home with my family. I say to my mom and sister, "What time do we want to leave for the mall tomorrow?" They look at me as if I just suggested that we stuff the turkey with Jello. Heh, heh, heh, I think - two more to be initiated into this holiday ritual.

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