Blog #9: Black Friday 2015 – Bargains or Busts? (Advertising and Shopping)

Miss me and my blog last week? As Gossip Girl once said for Thanksgiving, “I’m trading my laptop for Stovetop. And for the next 16 hours the only thing I’m dishing is seconds.” (1×9 “Blair Waldorf Must Pie!”)

Since it is officially December 1, let the ugly Christmas sweaters be received and worn; let the non-stop 24/7 Christmas music be played; and let the “25 Days of Christmas” on ABC Family be finally aired. But before you do take part in those fun festivities, let’s rewind back to this weekend, aka Thanksgiving.

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While Thanksgiving, for some, is a time for family, football, and food, it also signifies one of the most iconic annual events in the American economy: Black Friday. (Blog #6 briefly mentioned how Black Friday & Christmas ads began to circulate even around Halloweentime, giving consumers plenty of time to plan and prep for those purchases.)

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A little bit of backstory — seven years ago, my family and I spontaneously decided to go Black Friday shopping at the outdoor Woodbury Common Outlets in Harriman, NY while we were eating dessert at Thanksgiving Day dinner. Now mind you, this was when the all the stores began opening at midnight and when people were just as crazy as they are today. My family of nine all witnessed some pretty bizarre things prior to midnight in the parking lot – fist fights for parking spots, people using walkie-talkies to communicate what stores would open at what time and what parking spots opened up, U-HAUL trucks parked on the grass, people lugging around their luggage bags, people jumping out from their cars on the NYS Thruway and jumping the guardrails!! And someone even tried buying the jacket right off my cousin’s back while in Spyder! Fourteen-year-old me was hyped on adrenaline because it was just so exciting to be part of the mad rush with no map, no coupons, no flyers, no game plan at all – all we knew is that we had to try to survive the below freezing weather and stick together as one big family while making whimsical purchases.

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But our first Black Friday adventure didn’t end there – we finally left Woodbury around 5 am Friday morning and then decided to hit up the nearest Walmart right down the road because their doors were opening up at 6 am. We ran through the parking lot with our carts, charging for the doors, as if we were gladiators in the Roman Coliseum. To say it was a madhouse was an understatement; people were fighting for products, swearing and flipping the bird at other disgruntled customers. The greatest part about this Walmart trip was the products were not in their typical locations – for example, I distinctly remember that the TVs were in the shoe section and the GameBoys were in the gardening section. So our group took two carts and were scourging for the “desired” products (as I’m writing this I actually remember looking for discounted GPS systems and cameras because those were two of the hottest products back then) in the most obscure places we could find. I remember my second eldest cousin had 2 TVs set in between his feet on the floor at the shoe section, and a woman freaked out and just stole it from him right there in front of all us. PS – We ended up coming home at 9 am, nearly 12 hours later.

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Looking back on that first Black Friday trip, it was the only fun one we had in the last few years. In comparison to this year, my trips to Target (Staten Island, NY) and Kohl’s (Brooklyn, NY) were very dull (maybe because we had prepped from the advertisements and flyers). Both these stores opened up at 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day, which took the fun out of waiting on line and rushing in the store in the middle of the night. My family of four went to Target at 8 pm Thanksgiving Day, and it was kinda, but not really crowded – it was like any other shopping trip on a regular trip with a handful more of people dressed in their Sunday best. The only other thing different was the disheveled shelves and products that showed the remnants of the initial 6 pm rush. Then we got to Kohl’s at 11:30 pm and it was an absolute madhouse. Who would’ve thought people would go nuts over clothes of all things? Certainly not me. Yes, we bought a lot of things before coming home at 2:30 am and got some pretty good deals this year, but nothing will ever compare to that first Black Friday adventure.

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