Years ago, when my kids were small, I was one of those shoppers out waiting for the stores to open at 7 AM on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I did that for years and I’m happy to say I almost always got what I was waiting for. Mainly, of course, it was toys. Every year there were a few toys that were so desirable the kids were sure they would die on the spot if, come Christmas morning, they weren’t under the tree.. There was a boy’s toy and a girl’s toy. There was one for between the ages of 4 and 8 and another one for ages 9 through, say, age 12.
Through the magic of TV commercials, every kid was made to want the toy that was projected early on as the one and only one boys and girls between those ages had to have. It was the job of all moms everywhere to make sure those toys were under the tree.
That’s what Black Friday meant to me. I had to get them what they wanted! Chatty Cathy! Rock’Em Sock ‘Em Robots! Easy Bake Oven! They were on sale at low, low prices that one day only and if we got there early, we might just get one.
There were sad stories everywhere about the mom who let them get away. Once the stores sold out of the Toy of the Year, that was it for that Christmas. We had hot lines going everywhere, where if a mom couldn’t find her kid’s toy in her neighborhood she would call everyone she knew, hoping they might come across one in their shopping travels.
But Christmas could be cutthroat, even way back then. My husband was in a Toys R Us once with our littlest one when a fight broke between two dads with their eyes on the same toy. They lunged so close to our little one they almost knocked her over. My husband swept her up and got her out of there, leaving the things they went in for behind. Our daughter, around five at the time, wouldn’t go near a Toys R Us for years after that. (Which was fine with me. Saved me a bundle.)
Black Friday was always a gimmick foisted on us by the merchants, but at least there was what seemed like a good reason to get up early and storm those doors.. Now it makes no sense. The internet has changed everything.
We drove by the mall on our way to somewhere else today and it was, as I expected, a zoo. But why? What is there that isn’t available in a dozen other places, including on the net, where we can shop without ever leaving home?
What is there today that won’t be there tomorrow and the day after that? With infinite sources on the internet, shortages on most popular gift items are a thing of the past.
Now I either shop online or wait until just before Christmas, when prices have dropped even lower, to finish my shopping. I haven’t shopped a Black Friday in more than 20 years and I doubt if I’ve missed anything. Racing from department to department, pushing and being pushed, jostling and being jostled, and waiting in long lines to pay for it all is the stuff of after-Thanksgiving nightmares.
Unless you’re a merchant. Then and only then does it make sense.
We’re spending Thanksgiving weekend in the Detroit area and early this morning the local news had their camera crew set up outside a K-Mart store somewhere on the east side. The parking lot was nearly empty and the reporter stood talking in front of the camera for a full minute before someone in the background finally went through the double doors into the store. But out here in the western ‘burbs, by this afternoon the malls were hopping.
News Flash: “Were” is apparently the operative word. Just heard on the Five O’Clock News that the parking lots at most stores aren’t as full as in years past. Can’t wait to see the numbers tomorrow. I can only hope Black Friday mania is finally over. It’s one of those throwbacks to the good old days that makes less and less sense with every passing year.