One Crazy Lady

On the first day of Christmas…

Posted on: December 10, 2010

M. Nickelson is standing outside in the cold in a long line of people waiting to get into WalMart. Some of them are prepared to spend hundreds of dollars. It’s 2 a.m. It’s Black Friday.

The day after Thanksgiving has been considered the kickoff to the Christmas season since the start of the Macy’s parade in 1924. The term Black Friday is a more recent addition, but refers to the massive amount of pedestrian and vehicle traffic for some. For store owners, it means the beginning of the season when they are in the black, as in black ink, meaning profit.

Store owners all over the country offer desperate deals, some of them extreme loss leaders, to bring consumers in the door and hopefully send them back out with full carts. Consumers are hoping to fill their carts without emptying their wallets.

“I waited 35 minutes at midnight and then 4 hours at 1 a.m.,” said Nickelson, who ventured out in the cold for a shot at a steeply discounted Nintendo DS. Nickelson said she wouldn’t have come out at all if the stores hadn’t offered big discounts to make it worth her time. Other shoppers echoed her sentiment.

“It’s the excitement of getting a great deal,” said Don Johnson, another shopper.

“I saved over $300 for 5 hours of time. That is $60 an hour in savings. I can’t make that much working!” Nickelson said.

For several years, stores have been opening their doors and starting sales earlier and earlier, constantly trying to beat the competition, and attract customers. Toys R Us gave out free Crayola crayons and coloring books to the earliest shoppers this year. WalMart gave away energy drinks and donuts to their customers who were waiting in line.

The mass of people pushing and shoving to be the first in the front door is an issue store owners have attempted to resolve as well. After a mob of shoppers trampled an employee and busted through the front door of a New York store in 2008, attempts have been made to keep things more organized. Security is tighter and single file lines are more enforced. This year, one WalMart was open 24 hours, but draped black tarps over the items to be unveiled at the start of the sale. They have started to form organized lines within the store, and put up signs directing shoppers to line up for specific items.

This is the final article that I wrote for Journalism j315. Thought I would share it with ya’ll, so you could see what I’ve been up to.

“When they advertise ten available, and I can see twenty people in line for it, I know I don’t need to bother waiting,” said one shopper. The limited availability is the driving force to get people out of their beds and into the doors early. Nickelson didn’t get up early, she was still up from the night before, shopping at midnight for one deal, and back in line at 1 a.m. to wait for a 5 a.m. sale. This is her first year shopping Black Friday sales.

Johnson, who’s been searching for deals for years, went to bed as usual, and got up at 12:30 a.m. He visited 4 stores, didn’t wait in line at any, and only bought the bargains he had set out to get. He was home and back in bed by 4 a.m. He suggests studying the ads in advance and being prepared. He says in his experience, the items that people fight over just aren’t worth it.

Local restaurants offer breakfast specials in hopes of luring tired, hungry shoppers in for a relaxing meal. But, Black Friday shopping is exhausting. Nickelson “went home and crashed into bed.”

IN A SIDEBAR:

Ten practical things I’ll do to SAVE money this year…

  • I’ll wrap presents in paper that I have saved over the years, by very carefully unwrapping gifts that I receive, folding and storing the paper.
  • I’ll ask a friend to take a photo of my family with my camera as we arrive to church. I’ll upload this photo to a discount printer like Vistaprint or WalMart photo center and order the sizes I want.
  • I’ll buy nice frames at rummage sales and thrift shops to put the photos in as gifts for grandparents.
  • I’ll keep the thermostat at 60 (unless we have company)
  • I’ll knit slippers for everyone in the house.
  • I’ll sell stuff we no longer use on Ebay, and I’ll search there for great deals on auction – such as a power cord for my daughters cell phone ($20 at Best Buy $4.36 on Ebay including expedited shipping.)
  • I’ll buy textbooks and educational materials that we all need at Amazon, Half.com, Half Priced Books or Goodwill.
  • I will walk or carpool whenever possible. I may even take advantage of the Citilinks FREE Saturday rides this year.
  • I will sew hems in pant legs so they can be passed from one child to another.
  • I will ask for practical gifts, as in things I would have bought for myself, like a year’s supply of toilet paper, or coffee and coffee filters – writers go through a LOT of coffee.
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