Black Friday shopping: my story

I’ve talked about my love of Black Friday here. And I was able to share that with the entire Valley this weekend. Here’s my first-person account, with some photos:

It was 10 minutes to 6 Thursday night and I was feeling the adrenaline coursing through my veins as the Walmart associates ripped the cellophane off the cardboard DVD displays. I turned to my 17-year-old sister, Allison, who was about to begin her first Black Friday shopping experience.

“Now, I want you to know: if you fall, I’m not stopping for you,” I said. 20131202-093310.jpg

“What? Ashley, why would you do that?” she said.

“I just want you to know. This is the Hunger Games, and I can’t be held up,” I answered.

“Whatever,” she said.

It may seem dramatic, but in my 13 years of Black Friday shopping, one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t slow down for stragglers. Bargain hunting is a fine skill, one I look forward to honing every year following my Thanksgiving meal.

Back when my mother and I started our yearly Black Friday shopping session, the deals began at 6 a.m. Friday and involved you huddled outside a store in the cold, waiting for someone to unlock the store doors.

The deals were worth the potential hypothermia, especially when considering that it was the only way to afford that new Game Boy Advance that Allison, then 5 or 6, wanted. Plus, my mom and I enjoyed the time together, chatting and enjoying not being at work and school.

This year, the deals started earlier than ever — Walmart’s first “event” was at 6 p.m. Thursday — and mostly you just stand in line in the store, thanks to 24hour retail cycles.

But it’s still exciting.

20131202-093322.jpgThe Walmart in Buckhorn, our first stop of the evening, was packed, with shoppers pushing carts full of goods around.

The key to a successful trip is to plan ahead: have a list of what you want and be prepared to stand either in a line or next to a pallet to secure your item of choice. At the start of the “event,” or the start of the deals, you’ll be allowed to pick up your items, and that’s when the fun begins.

The big items are always televisions and/or computers. You can’t mess around when they’re on your list.

After getting your primary item, you then get to run around the store, fighting hundreds of other shoppers, to get the items you want before they run out.

We wanted DVDs and the $98 television that went on sale at 6 p.m., so we — my mother, sister, fiance and I — left my parents’ house at 4. Thanks to this planning ahead, we were 20th in line for movies, a line which grew to about 300 strong.

I read my Kindle while we waited and Allison listened to music. Then we met up with the others and organized the items we had secured in our travels, putting some back and debating the merits of others.

Following the Walmart trip, we headed to Kohl’s in Shamokin Dam, which has some good items, but has a killer line — which wraps around the entire outer aisles of the store. My strategy was to get into the line and allow everyone to look while I waited, moving us closer to the checkout.

We were also successful in getting the two items on my list there.

The third stop was the Susquehanna Valley Mall.

Anyway, those hoping shoppers would rebel against corporations opening their doors on a holiday and stay home will be sorely disappointed to hear shoppers were out in droves Thursday. I have never seen the Susquehanna Valley Mall as crowded as it was at 10:30 p.m. Thanksgiving night.

We hit a couple stores before wrapping it up in the Bon-Ton around 11:30. As we checked out, exhausted and broke, we chatted with the salesperson about the crowds.

“Yeah, you wouldn’t believe the people when we open the doors that just come running in here pushing each other,” she said.

Oh, we would.

We’ve been them. And I look forward to it every year.



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