Ever wonder what it's like for a hard core Black Friday shopper on the day after Thanksgiving? Here's a first hand account from a local freelance writer who braved the lines and cold this year to score some fabulous bargains!
The following is an article by a friend of mine who happens to be a freelance columnist here in the Raleigh area. She also posts here on the blog every once in a while. She hits the Black Friday sales well before the crack of dawn every year, so I asked her to give us a first hand account of her Black Friday adventure this year. Here are her thoughts and observations about the night (and morning) and the game plan she used to save big.
Black Friday: A First Hand Account
By: Jennifer Konkol
The first thing that you need to understand about me is that I'm a loyal Black Friday Shopper. There are two kinds of Black Friday shoppers as far as I can tell; there are the crazy people who will stop at nothing to get the deal they want, and then there are folks like me.
For me, BF is tradition. It's all about the thrill of the hunt. I am perfectly aware that I won't score every deal. I really don't expect to. Nonetheless, I have to admit there is some sort of natural high that comes from standing in line at 2 am, with people from all walks of life, anticipating whether the stores might open the doors just 30 seconds earlier than promised, rushing to grab the one or two things you showed up for, and speeding through the checkout line so you can get to your next stop. There has to be something scientific about it. How else can you explain overcoming a turkey coma in order to stay up all night shopping?
My BF shopping always starts at CVS pharmacy on Thanksgiving morning. I know, call me insane, but as soon as the turkey is placed on the grill, I'm in jeans and a sweatshirt heading out the door so I can get some free razors and shampoo. It's now become a running joke with our local Smart Shopper and I. Who can get there first? CVS this year was great. I was there first (Ha ha! Take that Faye!), and by some miracle of the BF god's, actually scored everything on my list. This year I'd been hoarding my ECB's and made a detailed list of the three transactions I wanted to do. In total, I scored about $80 worth of free merchandise, including two Christmas presents. I spent about $5 out of my own pocket, but walked out with the same amount in ECB's, and a $10 gift card to CVS. If that doesn't get your blood boiling at 7 am, I don't know what will!
Retailers really tried to put a kink in my BF shopping this year. In years past, stores opened with staggering start times. I always had time to get from store A to store B, because they had different start times. I knew it wouldn't be so easy this year.
Our first stop was Wal-Mart. My husband (who loves this hunt as much as I do, but would never publicly admit it), my teenage daughter (who had some birthday cash and thought she could hang) and I arrived at our local Wally World around 8 pm (No, we didn't get a nap). I needed two of the items that went on sale at 10 pm, and he was after a television that didn't go on sale until midnight. So while he got in line to score his electronics, Mini Me and I did some actual shopping after we figured out where our coveted items were.
Checkout here was pretty easy, we grabbed our stuff and checked out, and I was back in my car (sans husband who had to stay for another two hours) leaving the Wal-Mart parking lot by 10:15.
Next on my list was Target. We arrived at Target around 10:30, and were probably in line somewhere around the 100th person mark. We quickly made friends with those standing near us, which is most definitely part of the process. Face it folks, if you're going to be standing in line with these people for the next hour and a half, you might as well find some common ground to talk about. Our common ground at Target was that we were all in shock and disbelief at the woman standing 3 or 4 back from us toting a baby in her arms. The child was probably no more than 8 or 9 months old. I'm sorry, and I may offend some of you by saying this, but if you can't find a sitter for BF, it's probably in your best interest to just sit this one out. Small children have no place amongst all that craziness, not to mention it was thirty degrees outside. The money you saved on those $3 pillows won't be worth it when you miss 3 days of work next week because your little one is sick. Target wasn't quite as easy as Wal-Mart, and I didn't score everything on my list. However, I would not be discouraged! I grabbed what I could, made a few adjustments, and got in line to check out.
I suppose we finally made it out of there by around 12:45 am, and by that time, my husband had scored his prize and met us in the parking lot. Obviously hungry from our adventures, we all headed over to Chick-fil-A to "charge up". Speaking of which, Bravo Chick-fil-A! Staying open to feed hungry shoppers in the middle of the night was an excellent marketing idea! You probably made your month in one day. Brilliant!
Next on our list was Belk, which was touting a 3 am opening and offering gift cards to the first 250 people in line. When we arrived, it was clear that the 250 limit had not yet been reached, so we slipped into line, and starting chatting up our neighbors again. There's another important reason for doing this other than suppressing the boredom. When the doors open, and people from the parking lot try to rush the doors and push their way past the folks who have been freezing for two hours, you've got allies who help you keep the line secure!
The gift cards had been advertised to have a value of anywhere between $5 and $1000. I'm not stupid. I knew we wouldn't score the big one, but that's okay. When the doors finally did open, between the three of us, we had $15 off anything in the store we wanted to purchase.
Now if you want to talk about crazy, these women at Belks were crazy. I have never in my life seen grown women get so worked up about boots! People were running all over the store, carrying 5 or 6 boxes of boots, trying to find a spot to sit down and try them on. We almost left with nothing. My teenager had taken just about all the pushing and shoving she could and I could see that a meltdown, teenage style, was on it's way. Thankfully, I shoved her towards something sparkly and told her to just stay put until I could fight my way through the crowds to find some boots for her.
Somehow, by some miracle, I was able to grab two pairs of boots in her size, which she tried on, in-between racks of jeans in the juniors department. We'd scored, it was time to go. After paying for our find, we caught up with my husband who'd kept himself entertained watching the security guards chase down a man who tried to shove a television in a shopping bag and run out of the store. Really, man? A TV? You tried to steal a TV on Black Friday? Here's your sign....
When we left, I knew my husband and daughter had taken all they'd intended to take. They were tired, they were cranky, they were ready to go home. Hmph, lightweights!
So I sent them packing, and hit two more stores before I finally headed home myself. I'll have to say, shopping at Ulta and Five Below at 3 am was actually quite pleasant. The midnight rush was over, shelves had been restocked, and the cashiers were laughing.
I finally rolled into bed around 5 am. After a marathon day of shopping, cooking, and eating, it was nice to kick off my shoes and relax. I knew I had to restore my energy reserve; I'm already planning for Black Friday 2012....
Jennifer Konkol is a North Carolina Press Association award winner who has freelanced as an editorial columnist for over ten years. She wrote a story about my little couponing business back in 2005 for the Cleveland Post. We have been sharing coupons, deals and friendship ever since.