If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 37 years on this planet, it’s that every choice I make is accompanied by a plethora of opinions ranging from “You’re my hero and I want to be like you when I grow up” to “You miserable vomitous mass. What were you thinking?“.
That is why, I suppose, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that every person in the USA seems to have a strong opinion about Black Friday shopping. This time of year, the topic frequently surfaces in conversations, both of the real-life and of the social media variety. It comes out in a plethora of magazine and newspaper articles, as well as talk shows and news features. I wrote this article about my experience with the madhouse back in 2007.
I began shopping Black Friday sales in 2005, and after 7 years of participation, here’s my take on Black Friday shopping (which I will henceforth abbreviate as BFS): the Evils of BFS, the Exhilaration of BFS, and some Essentials of successful BFS.
First, The Evils of BFS:
Gratitude becomes a wallflower. As if we needed something else to take the focus from Thanksgiving . . . The one day we set aside to thank God for the blessings He has lavished upon us has undergone a gradual deterioration, from “the forgotten holiday between Halloween and Christmas” to “the day that kicks off all the Black Friday deals.” Sales used to start around 5 or 6 am on Friday. Then, some moved to 3 and 4 am. Two years ago, Toys R Us and Wal-Mart, among others, began offering BF deals at midnight. This year, some sales began at 10 pm on Thanksgiving Day. Wal-Mart offered different deals: 10pm, midnight, 4am, 5am. Other retailers, such as Walgreens and Elder Beerman, offered their Black Friday sales online beginning at 6am on Thanksgiving day. (I took advantage of at least 2 of these, but we’ll get to that later.) Not surprisingly, the general focus has once again shifted from Christ to . . . ourselves.
Injury, idiocy and death. OK, Black Friday frenzy has, on occasion, resulted in individuals getting trampled and even killed. It has, in my experience, caused people to act like spoiled, selfish children (I’ve had 2 large R/C Hummers ripped from my arms). It has facilitated selfish, childish responses from me as well (I may or may not have responded by grabbing said Hummers right back and retorting, “Excuse me, ma’am – I had those!”) Two years ago, Toys R Us employees at a Dayton store let extra people in, illegally, through a back door, resulting in a near-inability to move, which resulted in several hysterical meldowns. Fortunately, I and my MIL ended up toward the front of the check-out “line” and escaped with our sanity intact (and with 3 Leapsters at $29 each).
Twin divas, Materialism and Greed, take center stage. BFS, if I’m not careful, can become an over-buying spree. The frantic, grabbing crowd, together with the sheer quantity of great deals can be overwhelming, giving full reign to lurking greed. There are just so many stores, with so many great deals! And then you add the apparent need to become Crazy Target Lady . . . aaagggghhh! All of this can add up to some serious imbalance.
Now for The Exhilaration of BFS:
Two words: Proverbs 31! This infamous woman we all love to hate is described as someone who makes the family income stretch. She is enterprising, thrifty and shrewd, making sure her husband and children are well-dressed and happy. She rises while it is still dark AND stays up late at night! These verses do not specifically refer to BFS, but still . . . she does what is necessary to come alongside her husband in providing for their family.
BFS allows me to take advantage of superb, once-a-year deals and doorbusters, which, when combined with additional coupons result in HUGE savings. I buy things like winter coats for the kiddos (This year I scored an $80 coat for around $12 and a $100 coat for $35), jeans, boots, and other items that are normally difficult to find good deals on. This allows our kiddos to stay warm in good quality, brand new coats at prices barely higher than what you’d find at a thrift store. It also allows us to stay on budget, which is hard to do when you’re trying to clothe four rapidly-growing kiddos!
Also, I purchase gifts for birthday parties, weddings, and baby showers for the upcoming year, which for our family can add up to 25-35 events involving the purchase of a gift. This can obviously become quite expensive; but by searching out deals on toys, clothes and small appliances we are able to obtain $30-40 gifts for around $10-15 each. It seems like a lot when you buy them all at once, but ultimately saves a significant amount of money and allows us to give nicer gifts.
A sense of community: The simple fact that we are out at an ungodly hour together in pursuit of the same goal seems to have a unifying affect on most crowd situations I’ve been part of during BFS. We chit-chat as we wait in line; we discuss things great and small and even help each other out. It’s a sort of bonding experience; and I’ve found that most people are quite considerate and friendly in these situations.
Finally, some Essentials of successful BFS (if you want to bring out the exhilarating rather than the evil):
1. Know what you want, and go after it. If you take some time to hunt through ads and come up with a plan, BFS can be relatively painless. Decide which stores you want to hit and in what order. I write out a list of potential birthday parties and note the age & gender of each. Also, know where the items you wish to purchase are located in each store.
2. Pray. This may sound silly, but I take time to pray each year before hitting BF sales – that God would protect my heart from greed and give me wisdom in purchases I make.
3. Divide and Conquer. It helps to shop with a friend; that way you can both wait in different lines and get twice the deals.
4. Sleep in and go later in the day. If it’s not a “hot” item you’re after, you can still find some amazing deals later in the morning, and up until Saturday evening. JC Penney offers door buster deals until 1pm, for instance, and there are plenty to go around. Other stores, like Old Navy, do a 3-day sale and you can save until close on Saturday.
5. On the other hand, waiting in line is not the devil. It can be worth the wait if you’re really saving the big bucks. I do think camping outside Best Buy for nine days is more than ridiculous. But a 1-2 hour wait in order to save $100, in my opinion, is perfectly reasonable.
6. Take advantage of online deals. I spent some time on Thanksgiving evening shopping online at Walgreens and Elder Beerman, instead of going to the actual sale from midnight – 1am. It was so worth it! I was able to purchase a much-needed set of knives, Wii games, a nice (and kid-friendly) camera for Karis’ birthday in August, a play house for Mr. Moo’s birthday in October, and many other random birthday gifts for a fraction of the normal price. Most places also offer free shipping, so why not go for it?
7. Keep perspective. Celebrate Thanksgiving, and make sure to keep Christ first. If BFS takes over your day, or weekend, and you spend all day obsessing about deals you’ve gotten or can’t wait to get, you may be turning into the Crazy Target Lady. It’s all about your heart, and that’s between you and God. BFS can turn into a grab-fest, or it can be a fun way to stretch your family’s income.
8. Write a really long blog post about it afterward. Ha! Honestly, though, I welcome your input. What is your take on Black Friday? Maybe you completely disagree with me on all of this. If so, I’d love to hear your reasons why.
Most important, Thanksgiving is not something that should be limited to one day a year. May you find yourself grateful for God’s many undeserved gifts on the fourth Thursday of November and on every other day of the year.