Deconstructed Black Friday Traditions
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I remember going Black Friday shopping with my parents as a kid. It was the tradition. We’d go have family Thanksgiving dinner. Then, after we were done eating, it was time for cards (cribbage or euchre) and reading through all of the sales ads.
Everyone had their own notepad and we’d sit in sort of an assembly line1. Just look through each store’s ad, write down anything you might want – including the price and the store – then pass the ad to your left. Find the same item you already wrote down? Is it cheaper at this store? Cross that item off your list and replace it with the new info. And share with the group. No sense in anyone else having the same issue.
After everyone had been through every ad, we’d stop and compare notes to generate a master list with the items for each store, who wanted them, when the store opened, etc. Now we had a master plan, and could divide and conquer.
Things changed over the years. Looking back there’s one year that stood out as the peak consumption. I it was in 2010. After Thanksgiving with family, future Mrs. Kiwi and I joined some of my close friends from high school and went out shopping in the wee hours of the morning.
There was a sale at Target for 48″ TVs. I think they were $400 each, and there were limited quantities (so hurry in!). We went out to Target around midnight (they opened at 4AM). I’m not sure how I convinced my two friends to come, but I did. It was probably 20℉, lightly snowing, and windy. Windy along the side of Target in the dark snow and wind isn’t very fun.
I think I had promised everyone that we could bring folding chairs, play cards, and that it would be fun4. I wanted to buy four of these TVs (one for a gift, one for our apartment, and two to my family as my contribution to the master list5). Someone suggested that they’d come if we could bring a box of wine and a deal was struck.
We got to Target, set the chairs up, and immediately realized there would be no playing cards. It was way too windy and folding chairs are terrible in the cold/wind. Before we literally froze our asses off, we decided to take the seats out of the mini-van we drove to Target 6. It was a much better idea. But still, no cards. Way too windy and cold to have bare hands out to handle the cards, and they kept blowing away. So, the activities consisted of being cold and drinking boxed wine.
I was the driver and didn’t drink (plus I haaaated wine at the time). But the guy who suggested the wine? Oh yeah. He had wine. Between the three drinkers the box was gone by 3AM.
At one point in the night/morning, my sister actually drove by. Burger King had been giving out free coffees. So my sister, who was also out with her portion of the master list, was super nice7 and decided to bring us some. But when she got to Target she couldn’t find us8. She said she saw “some idiots sitting in chairs from a van. I think they were drunk,” she errantly assumed it wasn’t us and left.
Around 3:30 we tried to wake drunky up (he napped in the van for a bit). He was having none of it, but we needed him to come in so that we could actually get the four TVs (Limit one per person! Such a limited offer!). It took some serious convincing, but he eventually got up… and proceeded to throw up all over the car next to ours. We got the seats back into the van and were mostly ready when the doors opened at 4AM.
We had a plan – each grab a cart and bolt to the TVs. We made it into the store okay but when the store wasn’t allowing carts9, drunky got confused and just turned around in the crowd. I don’t really know what happened to him after that. Mrs. Kiwi and I stayed on task10 and got to the TVs. Luckily my other friend stayed back to help the drunker one find us. In the meantime though, there Mrs. Kiwi and I are – trying to hold onto four TVs (twice as many as we were allowed!) while people started to try to physically take them from us.
One of the store employees confronted me after a guy started raising his voice and told me I couldn’t have more than one per person, I said I was just waiting for my friend to catch up with a cart, she more-or-less yelled no carts, yadda, yadda. It got tense. Fast. I was surprised at how prepared I was to just yell that these are my TVs now (I saw them first!).
But luckily my friends showed up right then, and we each had a TV, and the situation de-escalated just as quickly. While we were waiting in line the more sober of my friends was talking to this shopper about our overly-inebriated friend.
“Yeah, he’s so drunk he threw up on someone’s car just before we came in.”
“Aw jeez. What kind of car?”
“A Chevy Cobalt11.”
“No way! I drive a Cobalt! It better not have been my car!”
“Oh. What color is your car?”
“Oh good. This one was white.”
Ron Howard: It was blue.
Good thing this guy was behind us in line. All we had to do was get to the car before him. Which we did.
I’m not really bought-in to Black Friday shopping anymore. I imagine most of you aren’t either12. Stores started opening earlier (which disrupts Thanksgiving for us and store employees). Ads leak early online (planning isn’t a community effort anymore). 75% off some new gadget started to look like paying 25% the cost of some crap I wouldn’t have been at all interested in if it didn’t feel like a “good deal.” Maybe I feel bad for being a jerk13 to strangers to get more than my fair share of TVs and creating a situation where someone ended up with puke on their car. And maybe corporations have decided to flex their muscle just a little too far and now I feel like a product rather than a customer too often. I dunno.
In any case it was fun, and I have a good story. I plan on holding my money a little closer and not really buying anything on Black Friday this year. I’ve realized I don’t need anything14. Heck, at this point I don’t even really want anything (which feels great!) (Mrs. Kiwi note – You need some better lights for your new bike). I may go out with friends and wait in line “playing cards.” But it’s not likely.
Instead, I’m planning to repeat our new tradition. For the past two years we’ve just gotten some sleep Thursday night and gathered with our friends at our favorite local brewery early-ish on Friday. They have specialty beer release parties on Black Friday. It’s different, but it’s still a tradition, and I think it better fits my more-grown-up-FIRE-y lifestyle.
Do you have any Black Friday traditions?
(This is the second post written by Mr. Kiwi. I hope you enjoyed! And psst, this post may contain affiliate links, if you buy through our links it won’t cost you any extra money. See our disclosures here.)