Black Friday shopping: The real news.
“If they're not pepper spraying each other or rioting over waffle makers, Black Friday customers are being tasered by cops and being violently arrested for shoplifting.” So writes the Huffington Post. The article makes it sound like everyone who went shopping on Black Friday was willing to pepper spray others or be pepper sprayed, trample, steal, stampede, shoot or riot over a waffle maker. Media outlets across the news are scolding shoppers and calling for “something” to be done over about 5 incidents nationwide. Some of the behavior has been appalling and regrettable.
Despite the dangers we started our Black Friday run on Thursday at 9:00pm. We drove by the crowds who had slept for days on the side walk in search of the cheap TV’s etc. They were sitting quietly, no rioting, no “occupier” behavior, just ordinary folks out for an adventure and a bargain. In fact as they were a captive audience a street preacher warned them about the ills of materialism and the joys of heaven. The line that wrapped itself around Toys R Us went on forever in the darkness, but parents will do anything to light up their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. My kids are too old for us to shop there now. But I did once, and on Black Friday. I was one of the first hundred in line so got the Furbee my daughter wanted, the purple one. Her eyes lit up.
This year we got unbelievable prices on quality goods. Yes the lines were long, the clerks incompetent but we chatted to line neighbors. The couple in front of us rose early to shop at midnight for toys. Their waiting in line a while gave the wife time to collect other items. The husband held her place and the goods. He had veto power over her choices. She could not decide, the red or the black motor bike toy. He decided. Black. They selected toys with the care of loving parents, and were shopping at 12:15 am to do it. They told me they were childless themselves, these gifts were for children they did not know, names taken from a giving tree. The children would have a quality gift at a price the givers could afford. No tasers, no riots, just ordinary folk doing extra ordinarily good things.
Our fellow nocturnal and early morning shoppers were strangers swapping coupons, holding a the place in line for the one who had to use the restroom, chatting and being in the party mood. With all the press about corporate Thanksgiving spoilers I asked those who served me if they were torn away from their loving family and Thanksgiving table and forced to work. None of them said “yes”. They volunteered for the shift or were otherwise happy to be there.
My daughter, the college student, works seasonal retail. She started work at 4:00 am, she signed up for it. She knew what it required. She said many of her customers were senior citizens out on Black Friday for the first time. The economy being what it is they needed the “ 50% off the last marked down price early bird special” in order to be able to give gifts this year. Some were buying necessary items for their own homes. These were not the greedy opportunists in the press. Some may be described as that. They stood at the plastic wrapped mountains of stuff in Walmart guarded by cops and staff. They were ready to grab as many of the cheap DVD’s and CD’s as they could when the plastic was removed. They would be sold on ebay within the hour. This is how they make ends meet and they are willing to get up at such an early hour and stand in line to do it. We saw the $2.00 waffle makers, they were on our list, but were not prepared to do what it took to get one.
Many news articles, facebook and blog posts rant about the nightmare and violence involved in such greed fuelled shopping. I have to tell you that the hundreds of thousands in the crowds we met were well behaved. Yes they cheered when Macys opened, but that is the harm in that?
The real news is that our incomes have dropped or evaporated, many are broke and these sales give them a way to be able to afford necessaries and gifts, and yes, items to sell on ebay to pay the rent.
My daughter and I have experienced Black Friday shopping for years. We have a strategy, we plan what and where we need to be, we clip our coupons and take some to give to strangers. She is setting up her own place, she needs items and it is “need” not “greed”. To get my attention in the store she calls me by my first name. It’s the only way not to have 300 women respond if she calls for “mom”.
So to all the staff who volunteered or who knew their job entailed this when they signed on and who did it willingly, to all the shoppers we met, those who held our place in line, to those we chatted to, I say “same time next year”.