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Growing Up With Black Friday

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Alexis is a special education teacher and a Jacklyn of all trades. She enjoys traveling, writing, and playing the violin.


In the Beginning...

Picture it, the early-90s, 5:00 in the morning, on the day after Thanksgiving. Things were different back then, although not as different in some ways that other. We did have cellphones, but they were giant bricks and next to no one had them. Social media was virtually nonexistent (there was ICQ, AIM and chatrooms if those could count).

You didn’t go online to find out about a sale, instead we relied on these things called newspapers and sales paper. Say for instance, Black Friday was happening, then there would be at least 20 different pamphlets in the newspapers for different stores advertising their sales. Sales also started only on Friday mornings, with 4am or 5am being the earliest a sale would start. Sales on Thanksgiving were unheard and never considered.

My mom, aunt, grandmother and I went every Black Friday into the city. My aunt and grandmother helped run a non-profit organization that bought Christmas gifts for children whose families wouldn’t be able to afford gifts otherwise. Many children asked for gameboys, bikes, games and small electronics. Typically they would exceed the limit ($50), and would not be purchased. On Black Friday, however, things changed and these items became buyable. This prompted my aunt, grandmother and others who were in the organization to stake out local stores on Black Friday to buy those coveted items.

Shoppers, including my aunt and grandmother, were always success. There were no exceedingly long lines and there was always enough merchandise. There were purchase limits on some things, but it didn’t inhibit anyone from getting the items they were trying to get. There were no stories (none that I can recall at least) of fights breaking out, theft or severe shortages. Black Friday was just what it was, a day of sales to kickstart the Christmas shopping season for those who wished to participate.

I Watched You Change

I remember the year in the last 90s that things started to change. In previous years my aunt and grandmother had no problems obtaining things like gameboys. I remember my mom and I arriving at 5am at a local Wal-mart to find my aunt and grandmother coming out dismayed that they’d only gotten two items from the shopping list the organization had given them. It only escalated from there. In my hometown (less than 4,000 people), sometime in the early 2000s, a man was robbed after getting a video game system on Black Friday. Stories like it only became more commonplace and some people have died as a result of being trampled (or shot).

The last time I participated in Black Friday was in college, either 2007 or 2008. There were dense crowds and I remember waiting in line to buy a video game on sale for thirty minutes in Gamestop. My mom and I went to a few different stores to get deals, but at the end of the day, after eating a late lunch, we turned to each other and agreed not to do it again.

It’s hard to pick the time when people began lining up earlier and stores decided to open on Thanksgiving Day instead of the Friday after Thanksgiving. At some point a trigger happened and people began to take note of the sales. The internet may have helped move the process along as more people caught wind of what Black Friday was. Here we are on November 4th, 2017 and sales are already being announced! It used to be you didn’t hear a lick until two weeks before at most!

The Present

Personally, I refuse to participate in Black Friday anymore. It has become dangerous, demonstrates how much consumerism has its grips on society and the deals aren’t really deals. I have seen very few sales that aren’t equivalent to other sales held at other times in the year. When I was a child, I was able to use my money to buy things at good prices and could go at any point in the day and find what I was looking for. Also, do we really need all those extra things? Just because you get a good deal doesn’t mean you need it.

Black Friday in the 90s was a fun time, coupled with the fact it meant being able to get toys children had asked for that otherwise were too expensive. It’s an organization that still exists (in case you were wondering) and one that my family and I actively participated in for over 10 years. Now another organization runs it, but in a different capacity. Back to the point, I almost dread Black Friday because of what it represents (I won’t go into people who have to work and be aware from their family against their choice). As in previous years, I plan on staying in and baking or going to a friends house to hangout.

Black Friday, you aren’t what you used to be, but thanks for the sales that made buying Gameboy Colors, toys, clothes and more possible for many children who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten them.

© 2017 Alexis

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