Monday, November 30, 2009

Only 31.2% of Black Friday Shoppers Are REALLY Crazy

By Jennifer Spitzer

An article published earlier today by The New York Times reported that, according to the National Retail Federation, 31.2 percent of Black Friday shoppers were waiting in the parking lots of their favorite stores before 5 a.m.

I'm one of those crazy consumers.

I don't know what it is that compels me to get out of bed hours before the sun comes up after eating and drinking way too much the night before. I certainly do not need a $20 microwave and I would still buy my dad that Blu Ray DVD player for Christmas, even if I had to pay a few dollars more because I chose to sleep in. My family thinks I'm nuts, but the truth of the matter is that I get just as excited about Black Friday as I do Thanksgiving itself. Within my family, I am alone in this sentiment but I'm sure 31.2 percent of you can appreciate my experience.

In preparation for my shopping event, I traditionally take my father-in-law's Thanksgiving Day newspaper and strip it of all the ads. By the time I'm done, my stack of ads is about two inches high compared to the actual newspaper which would now be flat on the table. My in-laws have been retired for several years now and as a result, cancelled their newspaper subscription. I make my brother-in-law drive me around to find a store open on Thanksgiving Day so I can start my Plan of Retail Attack.

After perusing what my favorite retailers have to offer, I decide to start my Black Friday at Target. After all, who can pass up a $17 razor scooter? I'm buying two! I go to bed that night with my clothes laid out so I can get dressed in the dark without waking anyone, but I can't sleep because I'm too excited. I'm dozing in-and-out throughout the night and finally I see the clock hit 4 a.m. That's good enough for me. Target doesn't open its doors until 5 a.m., and they're only five minutes up the road, but hey - I can stop and get breakfast at Cracker Barrel or Starbucks before I shop.

I pull into the parking lot of Cracker Barrel with thoughts of hot coffee, biscuits and eggs on my mind. Closed. Surely, Starbucks is open. And, there happens to be one right across the street from Target. Closed. Now it's about 4:15 a.m. and I'm without coffee on the biggest shopping day of the year so I decide I'm just going to pull into the parking lot and wait for Target to open their doors. I get there and I can't believe my eyes... the lot is full of cars and the line of people trails the full length of the shopping center. Normally it would not shock me to see a line like this 45 minutes before the doors open but I honestly expected fewer people - not because of our economic recession, but because of the freakin' weather! I think to myself, "look at all these crazy people out here... it's dark, it's drizzling and if it were just a few degrees colder it would be snowing!".

I park my car and walk up to the entrance to get a better look at how long this line really is. I can't help but notice the two people at the front of the line. They're sitting in chairs with their blankets, umbrellas and coolers. "Wow, I bet those two have been here all night. Now that's really crazy". Apparently I'm not as hard core as I thought... I cannot stand in this line for 45 minutes. It's just too cold. There's only one thing to do: wait in the car until the doors open and then rush in as fast as I can with the rest of the crowd.

Black Friday has the potential to cause major mayhem. If you recall, last year someone was trampled at a Wal-Mart. I think most retailers were much more careful this year. Target certainly did a good job herding shoppers into the store and the other retailers I visited, like Victoria's Secret and Old Navy, had good bargains and organized checkout. A woman I met while shopping (who, by the way, had already been shopping for six hours because the Toys R' Us opened at midnight... now that's really crazy), described an incident that made me cringe. According to her, the local Toys R' Us wasn't prepared for such a large crowd. They let everyone through the doors at midnight and it turned out to be too many. She said the fire marshall and police had to come to remove people from the store and by the time they did, four children were already lost.

All-in-all, it was a successful Black Friday for me. I found every item on my list and I didn't have to push anyone down in the process. And, best of all - I found a great deal on a new microwave for my sister - 20 bucks! Next year I'll do better... there's a 24 hour GoMart just up the road and they serve some very strong coffee.