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Black Friday Stories, Tactics and Warnings

Catie is a Black Friday survivor, she's waited in lines, hip checked old ladies and made friends along the way.

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Ah yes, when the turkey leftovers are put away and you’ve sobered up from your two o’clock Thanksgiving feast blackout, breaking out the Black Friday Ads is always the next step. Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, JC Penny’s, Bath and Body Works. A smorgasbord of irresistible and ridiculous deals that keep moms with pixie cuts across the world lying awake at night all year. Imagine them just salivating in anticipation of the traditional sales the day after Thanksgiving. In my family, shuffling through stacks of Thanksgiving Day ads is just as nostalgic as the first song in fantasia. My two sisters, my mom and I would circle price cuts with bright orange highlighters and dog ear definite Christmas presents that we would try to beat the crowds to.

Because most stores begin their sales at ridiculous hours of the morning, they used to be two, three in the morning (now they start around six AM). But over the years the rules of Black Friday shopping have remained the same. No shopping for yourself, and no whining. Whiners get left at home or in the car while the rest of the crew wages war on iPod hungry teenagers whose curfew was six hours beforehand.

A piece of advice, if you wear similar colored clothing to the employee’s uniforms (navy for Walmart, red for Kmart) people seem to get out of your way faster.

On my first Black Friday adventure, a store called Microcenter was selling five laptops for $200, first come, first serve. This was beyond a steal about twelve years ago. My sister and I sat outside all night as numbers four and five. It was cold, we were tired but there was a 7-11 near by and we would take turns making hot chocolate and potty break runs. We made quite the posse of friends while we waited. We had brought a table and cards which made us pretty popular amongst the temporary squatters. You bet your little blue bippy I had that laptop in my hot little hands by the next morning.

As a family we made every effort to stay out of the grumpy bunch on Black Friday (See rules above). The crazy people waiting in endless lines often chatted and got along swimmingly, sometimes even teamed up and made strategic plans for when the doors finally screeched opened at the local K Mart. This was always great fun. “You need a four-dollar mixer too? Okay, I’ll throw as many as I can in my cart if you grab me two cases of the ten-dollar mason jar storage sets on isle 17… Midway down the aisle… No no! MIDWAY… The packaging is light green and yellow.” Every last kitchen six degrees away from anyone in my family currently has a four-dollar mixer from Walmart and will be receiving a new one wrapped up under their tree this year.

Walmart was a fun place to go Black Friday shopping, but it was also where the wolves lurked on the edges of the frenzying rabbits diving into shrink wrapped palates of cooking utensils, video game accessories and those super soft microfiber throw pillows for only $9.95! I’ve met a couple of wolves in my Black Friday shopping career (which if my sisters read this will shout that it is not nearly as long as theirs), but I will never forget the old lady I had to hockey check for a twelve-dollar microwave. Look, everyone is up at ungodly hours, running full steam ahead on caffeine, duct tape and hope. Some people can turn a little green, grow a second head that shouts insults really REALLY loud and every once in a while, warts will appear on lady’s noses (there is absolutely no chance that I ever was this lady… nope, not me). Okay maybe once. This lady was in a whole other dimension of crazy and the group around me had had it. At Walmart, most stores are open twenty-four hours a day, so people can still enter the stores before the deals begin. Walmart’s solution to people not grabbing items that will go on sale early is to wheel out palates of crap, still shrink-wrapped, assign a Walmart person to a palate or an aisle or something to keep order until the clock strikes B-Day. Side Note: people get into those shrink-wrapped things early all the time. Again, I was never one of those people. No way. Not me. Back to the old lady. Generally, at Walmart people are fair and form a line at their desired palate, this lady did not follow this custom. She strolled right up to the front of the “line” and after being told that we were waiting in order, she said something flippant like she didn’t care or something. Well an old man in a wheel chair told her she wasn’t being fair, and then the lady started making fun of the fact that he was in a wheel chair! The whole crowd oohed but nobody did anything or said anything further. Luckily, she arrived just before the bell was to ring. But I was fiery red, not just at her, but at myself for not saying anything or doing anything after she was so disrespectful and cruel to a complete stranger. It may not have been the most public way, but I got my revenge. The count down started, three. I eyed the old lady and decided what I was going to do, two. I poised myself to pounce like a velociraptor, one. I leaped! I jumped right in front of that old lady and checked the crap out of her, bouncing her to the outer rim of the descending waterfall of people reaching out to grab those twelve-dollar microwave. I never saw the old lady again, but I did my best to make sure that she had to wait in line after all.

But I was fiery red, not just at her, but at myself for not saying anything or doing anything after she was so disrespectful and cruel to a complete stranger.

Sometimes when check comes to hip, old ladies gotta go, feeling get tangled in shrink-wrap and if it gets bad enough, someone takes a four-dollar mixer to the kidney. I’ve seen my oldest sister grab a lady’s cart that now held some of the contents of what used to be in her cart, point her perfectly manicured nail right at that lady’s nose and brutally say “Listen Bitch!”. At that point I lost it and can’t remember much more other than my sister got her stuff back and the lady’s shame that slimed behind her like a snail when she walked away.

A piece of advice, if you wear similar colored clothing to the employee’s uniforms (navy for Walmart, red for Kmart) people seem to get out of your way faster.

Recently, stores have been having Cyber Monday, Black Thursday and opening up earlier and earlier. There aren’t as many nights full of planning the obstacle course of stores in the order that they open. I can’t remember when the supplies didn’t actually last, probably the Microcenter night. It must be better for the stores, but it sure does take some of the challenge out of it.

The best part of Black Friday is the adventure with the people you love (you have to love them or you’ll kill them). Don’t forget why you’re all there in the first place, to see your loved one’s reaction to that perfect present that you tripped some soccer mom to get to first.