"I have met the enemy, and it is the eyes of other people."I have, for years, smugly slept in on Black Friday, as only a bachelor with no serious gift requirements could. I've been perfectly content to do my Christmas shopping on those last days before the big Holiday, rummaging through the dregs of what was left on the store shelves. I scoffed at those who would brave the elements, hauling their cookies down to the Wall of Mart at or other dens of iniquity at 6AM to spend hundreds of dollars on the latest toys that their bratty kids have been demanding since they first saw it in the August toy catalogs. Yes, it's another one of those "I'm glad I didn't procreate" moments. This year was to be the same, until fate stepped in...
"We have met the enemy, and he is us."
--Walt Kelly, "Pogo"
"I have met the enemy, and it is Black Friday"
Let me set the story. I have purchased two television sets since 1988. They have served me well. I don't need a new TV. The one I have is just fine. And I've mentioned here in the past that I don't watch much TV, because it's all pretty much crap. I've never really rented movies, and I don't buy many either. More often than not, it's simply on in the background. But then I saw it. Someone had leaked the Black Friday ad for Target. And there, on the top of the front page, sat that stupid white dog next to a 40" LCD TV for $298. I was intrigued. I checked the specs. I compared others' ads. There were cheaper ones available at other stores, but they were all smaller. No, fate had stepped in. This is the one that was meant for me (it had nothing to do with the 73" TV that BIL3 bought this fall that we watched the Grizzly/Bobcat game on in high def. Really...it didn't...). It was time to face my first Black Friday. No perusing the bargains. No looking around. Go in, buy my TV, get out.
I figured that if I got to the store about 45 minutes early, I'd be in good shape. Times have changed though. The early hour of 6AM has been moved to the obscene hour of 4AM. Which means getting up at 3AM. That's OK. Keeping my eye on the prize and all. I leisurely drive to the store, noticing that the traffic was light for 3AM (not that I know what traffic is usually like at that hour). As I turned into the parking lot, I saw why. Every car in town was already there.
That's a bit of an exaggeration. But 45 minutes before the doors were to open, I was at the back of what appeared to be a line of 250 people. And these people were PROS! These people had LISTS! These people had thermoses full of HOT COFFEE (it was a brisk 20°--springlike, compared to the past 3-4 days)! I stepped to the back of the line, and just stood in awe of their experience. But these were younger couples, here to buy toys, right? Certainly, out of the 250 people in front of me, only a dozen or so would be interested in the TV. I shouldn't have any problems at all.
Then I started listening. People started chatting as the big door-opening event was drawing near.
"I'm getting that TV on page one. I need to get one for the other kid's bedroom."Wait...what?? I started to get edgy, but I didn't panic. The girl in front of me seemed to be like me. She, too, was looking to buy the same TV. We both started looking around, trying to figure out who we'd need to elbow out of the way to get to the treasure. While we were deep in the line, there must have been over a thousand people lined up by this time (hard to tell, as the line wrapped around the corner of the building), and we felt fortunate to be where we were. And then the line started moving. Quickly. Our pace quickened, and we mutually decided to help each other find the area. TVs? Back in the electronics area. In the diagonally opposite end of the building. That's OK. I'd run interference, and she'd follow along with a shopping cart. I'd found an ally!
"We don't really need another TV, but how can you beat the price?"
"I heard they only had 20 of those TVs. I hope they're wrong."
We got closer, and security was making sure that the late-comers weren't cutting into line. Damned cheaters! We get in the door, and the only word that comes to mind is "cluster". Organized, and feeling like we were being herded like cattle, but "cluster". We sneak off the main aisle and find a fairly empty lane. Shopping carts are lined up throughout the store to avoid congestion in the front. She grabs one as I'm quickly walking ("no running, please"), deftly guiding her through the growing congestion. We get to the electronics area, and we find...nothing. Other than the rest of the TVs that only had $50 taken off or something. Not the big ticket item we were searching for. It was at this point that we parted ways. I head back to the front, as I'm noticing all sorts of people with my TV in their carts. I had to find out where they found them!!!
I ran into my second cousin's wife. She works for Target. She's a diminutive woman, and looked like she was shell-shocked. I said hi, she asked how the family was doing, and I asked about the TVs. She told me there were 80 of them in a stack, and they were gone in less than 2 minutes. AT THE FRONT OF THE STORE ON THE MAIN AISLE! I asked her how were supposed to know that. "Didn't you get a map while in line?" WTF??? Apparently there were maps passed out, but my little section of the line didn't get any. She pulled one out of her pocket and showed me exactly where they were stacked. Right about where the girl and I veered off the main aisle.
Obviously my partner was a neophyte as well. Neither of us realized that the best deals of the day would be available at the front. Looking back, after the fact, it makes total sense. And those who are longtime veterans of Black Friday know that. I am now a veteran. And I have nothing to show for it. Sure, I saved myself $300, but that's not like I won $300. I've been to battle, and I have lost. I'll check to see if there's any more deals in the next four weeks, but I don't anticipate I'll find anything quite as good. I'll continue to not pay attention to TV on my old set.
I have participated in my first, and probably last, Black Friday. And I'm writing about it at 5AM. "I have met the enemy..." I concede defeat.
Then again, there's always Cyber Monday...