Do you remember the first time you went shopping on Black Friday? Did it give you warm fuzzies knowing you got yourself out of your warm toasty bed into the frigid cold morning? Did you leisurely stroll the mall finding the best deals amongst other friendly early bird Black Friday shoppers?
(Note: As I previewed my post before hitting the publish button, my post was also inundated with Black Friday shopping ads that I could not delete. My apologies for the discrepancy of what I wrote in conjunction with these ads.)
Growing up, I don’t remember shopping on Black Friday with my parents, because they were small business owners and worked on Black Friday. However, I remember when I used to read the Sunday paper, happily clipping coupons. I enjoyed perusing each page looking for deals on products our family used. But my absolute favorite coupon clipping session was the Sunday before Thanksgiving because I could look ahead to see what deals were available on Black Friday. (Remember, this was back in them days before a thing called the “Internets” took control our very lives. Ya hear that southern drawl come out, y’all?)
Then in the 90s, I vaguely remember waiting in line at Michaels, my favorite craft and hobby store, because I saw a great deal on some wrapping paper and Scotch tape on Black Friday. My dad looked at me like I was crazy. “Really? Scotch tape and wrapping paper?” My dad amused me though. He must have realized I needed to learn this lesson. I noticed middle-aged women pushing and shoving their carts around like they were roping cattle at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, just to scoop up the last bit of 50% off Christmas decorations and some fancy gross gain ribbon. No one brushed their teeth, wore make-up, or looked like they even bothered to brush their hair at 6 am. My shopping experience on Black Friday was not a pleasant sight.
My dad thought that was the end of Black Friday for me, but that day invigorated my passion to find the best deals. I continued my tradition of Black Friday shopping through college, single working days, first year of marriage, and even when our firstborn was a few weeks old.
When the economy tanked in the Midwest, much like in other parts of America, brick and mortar (B&M) stores like Circuit City, a few Starbucks, and several restaurant chains closed down many of their stores. I thought I was helping our economy by buying this or that, but truth be told, I became a Black Friday Shopaholic.
Like a slow creeping addiction, I signed up for email notifications from my favorite Black Friday hunting website, BFads. I read over each relevant ad and took copious notes for items that our family “needed.” I told friends about the site, and then they got excited about some of the same items that deals that were too good to pass up.
A couple of years ago, Toys R Us moved up their Black Friday start time to begin at midnight. In fact, many other B&M stores were doing the same. We were hosting a potluck style Thanksgiving dinner at our house, when I gently told friends and family, “You can stay at the house with Prof, but I am going to go out for a bit.” Our friends and family thought I was nuts to leave the house so early, but after some discussion, a few of them came along to see what all the fuss was about.
We got to Toys R Us at a reasonable hour, 10 pm. That’s a respectable 2 hours before the store opened and 2 hours after our kids went to bed. That year, like every other year in the Midwest, was brutally cold – the icy wind in our faces, no fire-pit to stand next to as we waited around the back of the parking lot. Yes, folks, I said it – back of the parking lot! The line snaked around like a long coil behind the building all the way to our parking spot. Surely, people must have waited in line during Thanksgiving dinner.
Because the store had a maximum capacity of about 250, sales associates herded us like cattle into the store, section by section. That meant we were going to be the 12th wave of shoppers. Once we got in and thawed out from the cold, we broke up into two groups and went about our business, making our way through the store with other competing shoppers, some with carts (who were obvious inexperienced Black Friday shoppers) and others with more athletic partners who could bench press a Step 2 play kitchen over everyone’s heads. After 45 minutes of shopping, we made our way back to yet another line, the dreaded check out line. You know the one, where sales associates cleverly barricade each shopper into single file lines wrapping shoppers’ eyes around junky knick-knacks that no one really needs, like more Scotch tape and even more wrapping paper. (Like anyone needed more Scotch tape and wrapping paper). Friends and loved ones held spots in line as their shopping partners went back to find a last-minute item or three. By the time we all made our purchases and exited the store, the madness had slowed down at 3 am.
In the quiet of my car, I assessed the items purchased. Really? Was it worth the wait in the cold, pushing and shoving through large crowds, and then waiting in line again to buy this silly little toy for Piano Man? I was already pregnant with baby #2, and I felt like I was setting a poor example with him in the womb. That was the night when my Black Friday shopping craze ended.
Since returning from living overseas, there’s been less and less a feeling of urgency to hunt for the best deals. Even my coupon clipping routine has been reduced to a bare minimum.
On Wednesday, I walked into Michaels to pick up a couple of craft supplies, and I waited in the familiar wrapping paper and Scotch tape aisle. You could feel the buzz of holiday shopping with Peanuts music playing in the background. I watched a couple in front of me debate whether the diameter of the plastic evergreen wreath was really 37 inches. Her husband picked up wrapping paper that was labeled 40 inches, and the wife sighed in a wave relief that the wreath was indeed 37 inches (Well, at least that wrapping paper was useful for something).
On Thanksgiving morning, I opened up my email inbox, and lo and behold, more ads about Black Friday door buster deals popped up. Toys R Us opened their doors on Thanksgiving at 5 pm. 5 pm! People, that meant sales associates had to come in hours before that to prep for the sale. It also meant shoppers would have to scarf down their Thanksgiving turkey at lunch and head straight out the door. No time spent with family and friends.
As a family, we were already on a downward trajectory with Black Friday shopping, losing interest as deals seemed to be less appealing to us over the years. And though I gave Black Friday shopping one last try at the Toys R Us midnight opening a few years ago, I couldn’t justify the time spent shopping over quality time with loved ones.
Maybe it took our move abroad last year to really take a step back and look at was really important. We learned to live with less and on less, and we had the best year of our lives. We weren’t tied down with a ton of stuff that we rarely used.
Recently, I enjoyed reading the Huffington post article about shopping on Thanksgiving because the author made some very good points about what’s truly important into perspective. However, based on the comments posted at the bottom of the article, I cannot assume that we all have this addiction. There are those whose livelihood depends on Black Friday shopping. My parents have never shopped on Black Friday their entire lives in America because they have always worked on Black Friday. They’d probably echo some of the same comments about benefiting from the buzz of Black Friday shopping. Perhaps it’s not about a complete abandonment of Black Friday; after all, Black Friday is inherently a part of American culture. What bothers so many of us is the timing of all it, and thus the change in timing of Black Friday now sheds light on our hearts of what it means to be truly thankful.
No matter where your opinion lies regarding Black Friday, let’s be honest with ourselves. I am not saying to completely boycott Black Friday. I am not saying go nuts and spend like crazy to help fuel our economy. There’s got to be a moment where we make a conscious decision about what to do with our time. For some, it’s quality time spent shopping with a girlfriend. For others, they get time and half to work on Thanksgiving/Black Friday and support their family. For me, it means spending less time on shopping and more time with family and friends. Maybe it means shopping online. Maybe it means shopping on Friday night when it’s still Black Friday but not during the crazy morning hours on Black Friday.
I’ll be honest with you. I clicked on the Toys R Us email, and after looking at the deals, I said, “Pass.” I looked through some boys’ clothing online at my favorite stores, but I didn’t hit the buy now button. Don’t get me wrong. It’s all tempting stuff, but I am just not sure if it’s worth all the hubbub.
Maybe Black Friday shopping bleeding onto Thanksgiving Day is here to stay. If it is, let’s make an honest assessment and figure out how Black Friday shopping and celebrating Thanksgiving works best for you and your loved ones.
From my hometown to yours,