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Black Friday: A Marathon of Sales, Lines, and Coffee

Kim Powell | Editor-in-Chief | 11-25-2011

Shoppers: Set your alarm clocks, get in line early, and trample your way through the crowd—it’s Black Friday. The one day of the year when moms and daughters and sisters alike rally to get their shopping done in record-setting time while the men sleep in, shaking their heads at such silliness. It’s the one morning where women will find themselves lined up outside of Menards an hour before the scheduled opening time of 5am, the one day where shopping will be done before noon, the one day where it’s okay to be rude to fellow shoppers.
The only men that dare to go out are the ones who wait at Best Buy for the newest video game or the best high-definition TV at its lowest price yet. Some venture to Gander Mountain to buy that new rifle that will guarantee them a buck. As long as they’re away from retail, it’s the manly way to shop.
Kitchen tables were swamped with ads on Thanksgiving morning, each claiming they had the best deals. Each store tries to beat the other out; if Target opens at midnight, Walmart will open at 10pm on Thanksgiving night—beat that, Kmart.
Macy’s, JCpenney, and Herberger’s splurge for a magazine-like catalog at this time of year, marking their jewelry down by 20% and warming your heart with that fleece jacket you’ve been dying for. Before you know it, your mouth is watering and it’s not for the turkey that’s roasting, it’s for the door-busting deals.

The goal is to eat a feast early and load up on carbs—you’re going to need your power. Fill up your thermos and pitch camp—but only if you’re among the most dedicated Black Friday go-getters.  Most importantly, map out your plan.

  1. Target at midnight—winter-wear, movies, electronics.
  2. Be at Kohl’s by 1:30—jewelry and whatever else looks interesting.
  3. Mall opens at 4am; get in line by 3am.
  4. Make sure you still have your wallet; apologize to someone you tripped.
  5. 6am, time to re-energize—buy coffee but don’t fall behind.
  6. The crowd at Walmart is probably dead by now, might as well check it out.
  7. Home by 10:30am—nap time.

And so the dedicated shoppers and sale-seekers wait in the cold to buy that one item they believe will never be that cheap again. They line the perimeter of the building, catalogs and coupons in hand, telling the people around them what they’re after. As the workers approach the doors, the cashiers sigh with pity. Cue the dramatic battle music; the shoppers take on their stance, purse in hand and a glare in the eye, and soon it’s a run for the Pillow Pets, fleece blankets, and half-off jugs of peanuts. The nice ladies you talked to in line are now ruthless, greedy, I-was-in-line-before-you kind of ladies.
The store becomes a marathon race to the registers, stopping at checkpoints in women’s clothing, shoes, electronics, appliances, and men’s clothing, and coming to a finish with a relieving sigh at the automatic door.

First, you zero in on your target and forget about everything else, darting across the aisles and cutting people off if it means you get those fuzzy socks. You take a look up and see a crowd gathering around a sweater rack, and decide you need one too. Black Friday helps you find deals and buy things you didn’t even know you needed, and you think to yourself, “what a steal.”

The shoe department is chaotic, but you know you must go. The Christmas-colored boxes of boots are the deal of the season and you’ll be darned if you miss out on it. The boxes are scattered all over the floor with the wads of paper that have been yanked out of every boot. The benches are occupied and it’s a maze to get to anywhere remotely calm enough to slip off your shoe and try a new pair on. It’s okay, you know your size. It’s the savings that matter, not the comfort. And so you walk away proudly, heading to the next checkpoint—you’re ahead of the race.
The electronics and appliances are hung from a shelf with care, conveniently listing their old prices with the new. Suddenly you think of someone who needs a stereo, your mom needs new pots and pans, and you’re sure to find someone who needs a picture frame because you’d be silly to pass up those bargains.
You head to the cash register, the final stretch of the marathon. Occupy Macy’s looks a lot like Occupy Wall Street. Carts and arms are full, clothes hang from fingers, every last pinky giving it their all. The poor cashier dares not to look up at the growing line as they stay focused scanning barcode after barcode; they’ll never get out of there. But you will. You grab your bags and a foot-long receipt and stroll out of the door like you’ve been doing it for years; off to the next store.
But first, it’s time for coffee. The sun still hasn’t even thought of coming up and you’ve already saved $80 on presents; you deserve a treat, splurge for that banana bread too.
The next store has no line outside, already a step up from earlier. You’re re-energized and feeling good, singing along to Christmas music and chatting it up to fellow shoppers. The shelves and racks have been picked over by the earlier morning crowd, but still you scavenge through the piles hoping to find your size as a sales associate looks on, tearing up at the pile that they eventually have to fold.
After being to several stores, you feel the crash coming on as the sun rises up. Your arms are weak and tired, your eyes are as heavy as the bags in your trunk, but you still have one more store. You can do it, push yourself. Don’t give up now.
The marathon you first began may have become a triathlon. You may have nudged others or stepped on toes. You may have maxed out your credit cards. But you did it. You shopped until you dropped.