I’m in *it* for the chaos.
*It* being most things. The best stories to tell around the table or in a blog post decades later come from those wacky and wild and utterly ridiculous moments; the more ridiculous the better, in my opinion.
I should really put that on a shirt.
And so, in the spirit of the holidays, and all the joy, excitement and utter chaos they bring, let’s take a deep dive into to the mother of all shopping experiences*, one that is upon us now…BLACK FRIDAY.
*Filene’s Basement’s Running of the Brides deserves a chance to argue its case here, which I will do at a later date; there are brides, and they do run. And they yell and they sweat and they develop a bartering system to score the perfect 90% off dress.
Early aughts Stacie was keepin’ it real, keepin’ it authentic. I had the idea to enter the wild world of predawn shopping at the same time I realized (gasp!) I was an adult and could spend my money on whatever I wanted, leave my home whenever I wanted, and eat dessert whenever I wanted.
Mind you, I was already fully employed, paying taxes and health care premiums at this time. #latebloomer
So on that first Black Friday morn of my newly discovered liberation, I packed up my youngest sister and our friend and at 2:30am we cruised in style in my dad’s hand-me-down Caddy to the store that opened up earliest in our town: Best Buy. Home of the best buys on that day, for sure. You want a 50” plasma TV for less than what you spent on yesterday’s Thanksgiving dinner? Come to the Best Buy, but you’d better get there early!
We got there early, but not early enough. No matter, we weren’t there for a dirt cheap plasma TV. We weren’t there to get a sound system or refrigerator either. In fact, we had no plan and almost no money as we stood there, frozen to our place in line like the hundreds of people in front and behind us.
No doubt they all had a list, checked it twice, compared it to the flyer they got with their newspaper the day before and brought money.
After the first round of shoppers entered, shopped, paid and filtered out, we made our way into the store. It was a scene; people bustling around, DVD players under their arms, a look of terror and rage in their eyes knowing the fate of Christmas Day rode on this very moment. I stood there and took it all in. Then I grabbed a $5 movie and stood in line.
It was a really long line.
Too long, I eventually realized, to wait for (insert 2007 relevant movie title here), so I put it back and asked my sister and friend if they were ready to go.
I’m gonna be honest: there was fire in their eyes. It was a quiet ride back home.
We all learned a valuable lesson:
1. Have a Plan.
The next year, I knew to be ready:
- know what the deals are
- bring money.
The sense of adventure in my DNA salad came from my dad, so he jumped in on the fun, replacing my sister and our friend, no surprise there. We scoured the Thanksgiving Day flyers. We made spreadsheets with rows and columns listing stores, doorbusters and opening times. We knew where we needed to be and when to maximize our time and our dollars.
It felt good to be ready! To know that my 3am wake up call was going to result in the most efficient use of Black Friday time.
2. Use Your Brain.
With the help of flyers and spreadsheets, my dad and I determined the absolute BEST place to be at 4am was in front of JC Penny for their doorbuster deal on slipper socks we wanted to snag for my mom.
On the spreadsheet, “JC Penny” and “slipper socks” were bolded AND highlighted. For good measure we added our own drawn in stars. At the appointed time we strolled through the doors of the mall; breezing past the line already formed at Old Navy, second guessing ourselves only slightly, we hustled on down to our starting point, fearful of what we might find formed there.
They did have doorbuster slipper socks, after all.
We were a line of two. At 4am. Until the doors opened at 5am.
Apparently, slipper socks were not the hot ticket item we expected. Graphic tees were all the rage at $5 that day.
Friends, use the sense God gave you. Black Friday shopping has morphed in so many ways, but efficiency and time maintenance in spending is alway in style.
These days, my Black Friday shopping looks a lot like my Cyber Monday shopping: jammies and coffee on the couch. I talk about my days of pre-internet shopping the same way my parents talk about life without cell phones, with fondness but also with gratitude that I never ever have to do that again.