Black Friday shoppers, beware!

“Over the Holidays, your soul belongs to Walmart”- Stephen Oliver, age 20, Walmart employee.


I have never been a Black Friday shopper. I have never understood, nor felt compelled to get up at the crack of dawn to fight my way through a huge crowd in a harshly lit store to (hopefully!) get a toy that’s on sale.

But this year we’re on a strict budget.

After the “Happy Thanksgivings!” were said, the turkey was carved, and the pies were snarfed, my father-in-law brought in several ARMFULS of magazines and newspapers filled with deals this weekend. I almost had a panic attack looking at the hundreds of toys on sale for killer deals at a thousand different stores. How do you pick? How do you know where to go? When to buy? What if you buy something, then find an even better deal on Cyber Monday?

After eating more pie and finding my happy place, I finally narrowed down my search to three stores: Walmart (unfortunately-remember my love/hate relationship?), Toys “R” Us and the Disney Store. The plan was for my husband to drop me off at Walmart at 6pm to “grab” a few things-while he waited in the car with our boys-and then we’d hurry home, put the kids to bed and I’d go back out and hit Toys “R” Us, then wake up at 6am and hit Disney. And then be done! Easy as…well, all that pie I shoved in my face!

Nope. Not even close. My first clue this was not going to be a quick grab-and-go was the parking lot. It was completely full. Completely. The entrances were roped off. People were already fighting. I nervously grabbed a cart and promised my husband I’d be less than 30 min.

Second clue I was way out of my element: five minutes into my spree, I accidentally ran my cart into some guy’s heel. He turned around very slowly…and said, “That’s the SECOND time that’s happened.” Yikes. I felt awful!

“From me?” I asked. I honestly didn’t remember bumping him the first time, but, well, there were about 1,000 people pushing from every direction. He didn’t respond. Slowly, he turned back around. What I wanted to say was, “Well, walk faster!” But I just maneuvered my cart around him and kept going. I had exactly TWO identical toys to get, the Disney “Planes” Dusty wing control crop hoppers. Best price to be found anywhere was at Walmart, easily $20 cheaper for both.

After wasting 20 minutes of precious time asking every frazzled employee in the store where this specific toy was (because someone thought it would be hilarious to mix up the entire store and move the movies to the meat section, and the electronics to the bakery, and the toys by the toothbrushes-WHY?), I finally found them stashed on the bottom shelf near the entrance. Success!

Not so fast. Now I had to wait in a line that wound it’s way through the entire store. At this point my panic level was dangerously high. And then something wonderful happened: this sweet lady saw me (almost) panicking and said, “You can stay here,” and moved to the side so I could take her place in line. I wanted to bawl. I still had to wait almost 40 minutes in line-I can’t IMAGINE how long that would have been had I tried to find the end of the line somewhere by the frozen foods! (I’d probably still be waiting.) I was so grateful to her. And really, really, mad I was out shopping on Thanksgiving. I felt disgusting. Like a total hypocrite.

Finally, I make it to the cash register and the lady said, “Ok. That will be $78.” My jaw dropped. “What?” I said. “These are supposed to be on sale.”

“For how much?” she asked.

“Twenty nine dollars!” I said. She raised one eyebrow and began flipping though the ads, trying to find the deal. Hundreds of impatient shoppers were glaring at me, as I was seriously holding up the line, and I don’t blame them AT ALL. But after waiting in line for so long, there was NO WAY I was not getting that amazing deal! I was too invested at this point.

The cashier couldn’t find the ad anywhere, so I pulled it up on my phone and was awarded the discount.

As I was walking to the car, I suddenly heard a loud, “MA’AM!!!!”

“Yes?” I turned around.

“You can’t go out those doors!” The employee said. “The exit is on the OPPOSITE side of the store.”

Now I had two options here: say, “Ok,” come back inside (I was exactly five feet from the door), fight my way back through a herd of people and maybe make it out in another ten or fifteen minutes.

OR…keep walking.

I broke the rules and went out the in. And I must say, despite making another person very angry, I do not regret the decision.

But I got the dang planes, and as I hurried out to the car to find a crying baby and two sleepy boys, my oldest snuck a peek in the bag before I threw my coat over the top and began to giggle uncontrollably.

He’d seen it.

Garbage! Well, I guess that gift can’t be from Santa anymore.

I hate Black Friday. Have I said that already? Hate it. I went home, turned on my computer, and finished my shopping in my jammies watching “Punkin’ Chunkin'” on Discovery.

My advice: online is ok, but unless you feel like crying, panicking, fighting, arguing, or having your heels smashed, I suggest you do what this holiday tells you to do, which is stay home and be thankful. Lesson learned: I will most definitely NOT be shopping on Black Friday in the years to come.

Check out this article from the New Yorker:


  1. citygrrl

    Carmen, I am so glad you included a post on Black Friday. I would like to know the appeal of why people go through this. If the answer is: “these are the best deals,” fine. To each his/her own. But I have a feeling there’s something more, that Black Friday, or Thanksgiving, or whatever it now is, has a deeper appeal, not solely related to economics. And what is that? I ask this because last night after our Thanksgiving dinner, a guest said, “Oh you know, it was fun, hanging out with the other moms…” and a friend whose wife used to shop on Black Friday told me that she no longer likes it, “…it just doesn’t have the spirit that it used to have.” Can someone please, PLEASE, explain what this spirit may be? Although it sounds like a horrible experience to me, I am truly not trying to bait a fan of the Black Friday shopping experience.

  2. Jane

    I love black friday sales! I don’t go every year but it is obvious that you are a newbie. My rule is to have no expectations. Do not expect to go in and be out in 30 min. That is just not going to happen. When you place unrealistic time expectations on yourself you are bound to become unhappy. Also realize that you might not get the item that you want. That way when you do it is alot more exciting. Carts are a big no no. Instead carry around like a big ikea or beach bag. You can hold a lot of items and your arms don’t fall off in the check out line. My other rule is LEAVE YOUR KIDS AT HOME. If I don’t have someone like my husband or mom to watch my kids then I am not going. No deal is worth bringing kids to the store. No kid should be out that late dealing with mobs and crowds. No kid shoud be asked to stand quietly in a line for 40 min. That is a complete unrealistic expectation. My other rule is to be helpful to the employees. Be polite and thank them. They are doing me a favor! I always offer to bag all of my own stuff. Offer to buy the cashier a drink from the drink section. Heaven knows the temperature heats up in those places. Leave the jacket home!!!

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