This has been the longest weekend ever.
It’s bad enough when you have a holiday based around having as big a meal as possible. But when you add the biggest shopping day of the year into the mix as well, and then mix in a little familial gathering, you have a recipe for a weekend that seemingly stretches on infinitely.
Thanksgiving Day itself was kind of nice, really. It was me, Danie, Shawn and his mom all together, and Danie went really out of her way this year to prepare food for our little feast. Instead of turkey, we had a really yummy glazed ham. I’ve found out the secret to Danie’s ham is that she actually uses coffee in the baste. Whatever she used though, it was delicious. Combine that with your traditional Thanksgiving victuals, including stuffing, veggies, cranberry sauce, and, of course, the ever so evil candied yams, and it was a fantastic evening all in all. We followed up dinner with some traditional card and board game playing, and then started preparing for one of the craziest things I’ve done in a long, long time.
The plan was to get to Best Buy early enough to not miss out on a few critical deals we were trying to get. The main item we were going for was a 32″ LCD TV, that was about half off its regular price. This is basically me and Shawn’s Christmas gift to each other. The other item I personally wanted to get was a 7 mega pixel Kodak digital camera, mainly so I can start posting pictures to this blog.
So, doing our calculations and thinking things through, we figured that if we left no later than 1 AM, we would be okay. That would get us to Best Buy at about 2 AM, and not many people would be that crazy to wait in line for that long, right?
Whenever I try to judge just how crazy people are, I always sorely underestimate in my calculations.
Sorely, sorely underestimate.
By the time we walked up to Best Buy at 2 AM, the line not only went all the way along side the store, but ran across the Office Depot that was right next to it, across a ritzy clothing outfit next to that, and around the corner. When we got in line, we couldn’t even see the entrance to the store.
For some reason, though, I was in good spirits. It was amazingly cold, which always makes me happy. And I was optimistic that we would still be able to get something, though I was starting to doubt that we would get the major items we had came for. Danie was smart and had brought her Nintendo DS, and proceeded to spend that first hour playing the new Super Mario Brothers. Shawn, on the other hand, was just tired, and was already starting to complain about aching muscles. I think he had already written off the whole enterprise at this point, because when I mentioned that we could just go back home, half jokingly, his eyes seemed to light up.
There was no way I was going back home at this point. I was on a mission. I would not be deterred by some measly line.
So… the first hour passed by fairly quickly. Shawn and I talked to pass the time and Danie played her DS. At one point we decided to pull the folding chair and thermos of coffee from the car. This is why going in a group of at least two is an absolute must. You need someone there to hold your spot in line while one of you goes to do simple things like sit in the car to warm up for a few minutes. Though it never came to that for us. We’re professionals. We just winge and moan and hope the time goes by faster. While sipping coffee from a thermos.
3 AM rolls around. There’s some activity ahead of us, but we’re mostly frozen in spot from the cold at this point. At this point, we have just an hour to go before the Best Buy staff start handing out vouchers for the limited quantity items. We look over the flyer and confirm the items that we want to try to get a hold of. An hour waiting in line can do odd things to your optimism, though… and I was doubting whether we’d be able to get any of the items we came for.
But something miraculous started happening. The line began to move. Now I knew something had to be up because the store didn’t open for another hour and a half. But low and behold, not only were we moving forward, but we moved past the corner of the building! We moved so far forward that not only were we past the corner of the building, we had moved past the ritzy clothing store and were standing in front of the Office Depot! You could even see the entrance to Best Buy. It seemed too good to be true.
It turns out that a good portion of that line ahead of us were people with tents. And once the time drew close for the vouchers to get handed out, they started breaking camp. So things weren’t as dire as we thought, and suddenly my optimism was renewed.
But damn. Tents? I found out these people had actually started camping out the night before. Some of them had likely even skipped Thanksgiving dinner entirely, just to get the best deal possible on a desktop computer or LCD monitor.
And I thought I was crazy for wanting to be there by 2 AM.
The next half hour went by relatively quickly, and soon the moment of judgment was upon us. It was 4 AM, and the handing out of the vouchers began. This was a fairly simple process, with Best Buy staff starting at the start of the line with manila envelopes full of color coded papers calling out for certain items and people in line holding up their hands if they wanted one. This is where one of my theories in regards to the campers was proven in full. Most of the people there were waiting for computer equipment. Desktop computers, laptops, LCD displays… these things went fast. Vouchers for these items never made it anywhere close to our spot in line. TV’s and cameras, on the other hand… they were hard pressed to even get rid of some of them. Shawn got his voucher for the 32″ LCD TV we wanted, Danie got a voucher for the 5 mega pixel camera she was going to get for her grandmother, and I got my voucher for the 7 mega pixel camera I wanted.
Success. All our plotting and scheming for the past two weeks paid off. We were basically guaranteed to get the big ticket items we wanted.
We just had to wait another hour to get into the store.
That was probably the slowest hour out of all of them. Having the vouchers in hand, a little bit of that anticipation and adrenalin slips away, and all you’re left with is the cold. And the wait. Danie brought out her iPod shuffle and started listening to music. Shawn just looked dead on his feet. I just tried to keep busy looking around. We were still in front of the Office Depot at this point, and it was amusing how much smaller the line of people was for their opening sale. I began to envy them in a way. They seemed to know what they were doing, waiting at a store that was much less in demand, even if the bargains weren’t as good.
Of course, most sane people would consider going out on Black Friday a crazy thing to do at all. Myself included on most days. I would of written the whole thing off if it wasn’t for the deal on that TV. We had been looking at a TV very similar for a long time, but could never justify the cost. But for half price?
I think there’s a logic center of the brain that handles things like basic finance and money. When this logic center is presented with such sundry deals as ‘half-off’, it seems to seriously affect other portions of the brain that deal with such things as knowing that waiting in line for three hours in the cold is a crazy thing to willingly do. Some people are more affected by this than others.
5 AM approached. We got excited. We went over our game plan. We were going to split up, get the few additional items we needed, make our purchases, and meet close to the entrance.
The doors opened.
The line moved forward.
We entered the store.
I have never seen so many people packed into a small area. What seemed like a manageable line of people ahead of us turned into a traffic jam of crazy shoppers as individuals headed for deals and begun waiting in line for items they had vouchers for. It was literally impossible to get to certain portions of the store without being presented by a wall of shopping carts and people. This was the craziest thing I had seen in a long time, and is the one thing that would keep me from doing a Black Friday sale ever again.
I don’t like people. People packed in a store like sardines in a tin? Probably one of my least favorite things.
I valiantly made my way to the computer section of the store, though… I had made Jim a promise that I would try to get him a 17″ LCD display for a computer he was building for his family. By the time I actually got to the monitors, though… they were gone. I was in the first group of people let into the store, and they were still already gone. I toyed with the idea of getting a larger display, but none of them were sale items, so would be twice as much as he was expecting. I came to the conclusion that it was a lost cause and resigned myself to calling him later to give him the bad news.
Everything else I wanted to get I had no trouble finding.
Danie and I got in line to buy our digital cameras while Shawn stood back and watched for the most part. The line for the televisions didn’t seem too long, though we would find out later that was a major deception. After we had our cameras, we grouped together in one of the less populated aisles (computer software, ironically) and decided to start the long wait for the television.
And my god, it was a long wait.
The TV line had to be the slowest moving line in the store. Many of the people there were buying large televisions on the order of $1000 or more. And were woefully unprepared. They were applying for credit at the counter, which can take 5-10 minutes or more. Some were smart and had applied for credit the day or two before, but were finding they hadn’t given their bank enough time to process everything, and their cards weren’t working in the store. After waiting for an hour and seeing Shawn barely move up the line, Danie and I decided to go purchase the rest of our items and see if we could head into another part of town so that I could complete another mission: floss.
Not only were we able to snake our way through the 8 aisle line of people waiting to buy their items at the main counters, but we were able to head to Joann’s Fabrics, assemble together all the floss I needed to get, wait in line there, get checked out and head back to Best Buy… all before Shawn was done with his transaction.
The poor sod. I actually feel quite bad for him. He had the worst time out of all of us I think, with having to wait in line for nearly two additional hours just so we could get our hands on a TV.
Though, admittingly, it’s beautiful.
Even Shawn thinks it was mostly worth it at this point. All he had to do was hook up his DVD player using component cables and pop in Serenity to be converted. Who needs high definition DVD’s when just watching them in progressive scan is a major leap in viewing pleasure?
So that wraps up Black Friday, 2006. I apologize if this post is tremendously long, but it was quite the ordeal all in all, and giving it a paragraph or two coverage didn’t seem to do it justice. How did we make out in the end? You be the judge:
Having a frightful story to tell about the evils of Black Friday – priceless.
Next year… stereo audio equipment! *shoots himself in the head now*