Friday, November 27, 2009

Evolution to Black Friday

The all-important, make-it-or-break-it, indicator of the year to come, retail big day - Black Friday!

Hype was almost unbearable last week, the anticipation, the sneak peaks and websites claiming to know which one of the cavernous cinder blocks of blue or red specials would tout the best deals, the recounting of horrendous tramplings, camping out, and wigs flying off circulating the website like the lines around the store.

In this wild, wild place I ventured this morning, armed with my perused ads and strategy - he to one store, me to another, both aware that since we did not forgo dessert and actually went to sleep last night, the bargains on the TV and laptops would not be our's.  But we thought, it is still early, only 5:22am, surely there will be one, maybe just one of the things on the list for our three youngest children.  Cell phones charged and ready, he dropped me off at Target and then headed over to Wal*Mart.

Were there really that many people in my little town of Kirkwood who needed, really needed a bargain this early?  My first thought.  Why didn't I make a latte.  My second thought.  Ok, this may be fun to see who snagged the big items.  My third thought.

I turned to my left as I was entering the store, and sure enough, the security was verifying the receipt of a smiling couple who had one of the coveted 32-inch HDTV LED flat screens!  Their waiting paid off (I think?) for only $246 and whatever else was in their cart.  I'm sure their breakfast talk would be congratulatory.

My meandering and peaking took me on a human snake walk through the store, every aisle to the left of me was filled with people, standing, some reading, all waiting to pay for their items.  And it was only 5:30am!  I decided to peak into electronics and the red cameras were gone.  Oh well, my daughter is really a Minolta film kind of five-year-old photographer anyway.

I ran into one of the Vice Principals, shared our joint joy over Kirkwood winning the annual Turkey Day Game.  Talked about how crazy this was even as her husband took their handful of merchandise to find his way in the line, all the way at the end of toys, hope he had his music on.  I then peaked into the toy section, noticed the few things I'd get weren't on sale.  Then that thumping buzz in my pocket signaled a call coming in.

"Did you find anything?"  My husband was asking about my success and regaling me with the lines and crowds over at big blue.  "No, but ran into some people though."  I kept looking and was almost tempted to get my laundry detergent but knew that this small purchase also would require the line waiting.  The dirty clothes could wait a little longer.  "Meet me out front."  "Gotcha," my reply as I scurried out the door, feeling somewhat triumpant that I did not succumb to any of the sale signs, seeing a caramel latte in my future.

Hubby and I headed over to St. Louis Bread Company for a light breakfast and conversation, a rare moment in our busy lives.  We decided to walk over to Game Exchange, peaked in, nah, we both said, and walked out.  It could wait.

A quick look in Toys R Us let us eyeball a few items we wanted but not bad enough to wait in another human chain of retail accomplishment.  Did see one of my young cousins on the way out, she on her feet at the register, a long day ahead.  "Hey cousin." "Hey cousin."  Our quick exchange of acknowledgment as I headed out the door.

We did venture into Best Buy and couldn't be convinced to buy their blue door buster camera, "No, she is a pink camera kind of girl."  I spent a few minutes educating my husband on the virtues of a 1080 versus a 720dpi on the flat screens.  "All I see right now is the extra couple hundred dollars, it can wait."  Out we walked, feeling extra proud that we still hadn't purchased anything except breakfast!

Kohl's did us in.  We found a pleasant store, helpful sales people, and a tolerable crowd, fast moving lines, and things we actually needed.  The girls have new symphony dresses and I picked up the picture frames.  We also made a pit stop at the jewelry department and the girls have new earrings (no one tell them!)  We also walked out with $30 in Kohl's bucks that we will use next week to get their shoes for the symphony.  The bags we carried out represented $250 in savings and we picked up that extra $30 - Kohl's reward was $10 back for every $50 we spent.

My hubby and I gathered snacks for his daddy and daughter day.  It was only 11:45am when we hit Schnucks.  He instructed me not to say anything about what was in the cart, the kilowatt smile on his face declaring his anticipated joy at spending a Friday with his princesses.

The girls were jumping up and down when we returned, earger to know if we bought them anything.  The youngest son was dressed and ready to hit the door.  Their dad was gieving out dollar bills like lollypops and the teenager was thankful and wide eyed at his bankroll.  The kid and I went back out after I replenished my grabbed a quick shower and a water.

Hanging out with a teenager in the afternoon of Black Friday was interesting, the things they let you know.  He listened to an old man talk to him about his high school days while I sipped a peppermint mocha at my favorite independent bookstore.  I was introduced to the virtues of a PSP while he and I ate cajun shrimp at Roadhouse 66, a Webster Groves independent restaurant.  After a scoop of Serendipity butter pecan, he and I headed out the Toys R Us.

December birthdays along with three booked weekends brought us to the place of shopping on Black Friday.  It made me smile today, the people we saw, the items my son and I decided to purchase for the girls.  This really is his only free weekend to shop so he, his sisters, and his dad are back out there, the crowds decidedly thinner.

How did we get to this place of Black Friday frenzie?  Especially in this second Christmas of the recession.  Maybe the bargains on outgoing models still signaled success to some who had a hard year.  I told my husband it was the hunter-gatherer in us, a primal need, that drove the masses out in the dark morning after Turkey Day.

It makes me laugh, this my fourth Black Friday in 23 years (such a thing did not exist when I was in high school).  I used to wonder about my former corworkers who returned on Monday to regale us with the bargains they snagged.  Sleep was too important to me in my former corporate life to waste it outside in the cold, I wouldn't have a chance to sneak in a nap the way I do now.  The other big change is that I had girls, when I had boys, I always knew I would find what they wanted.  Something about those girls.

My day was full and fun.  My crew is hanging out with their dad, the evening still young.  I showered, grabbed a lemonade, and will enjoy the new book from Pudd N' Head Books as well as the quiet.  This has been my evolution to Black Friday.

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