I hate shopping.
I don’t even really like Internet shopping.
There is absolutely nothing appealing about Black Friday to me. I don’t believe in its philosophical underpinnings. I don’t understand its attraction. I don’t acknowledge its existence.
But like someone chasing a ghost or questing for grainy 8 millimeter footage of Big Foot, I set out Thanksgiving night in search of a genuine Black Friday experience.
I didn’t have to go far.
Hearing and reading about the controversy this year of Target opening at midnight on Thanksgiving, I started my epic journey outside the Minneapolis-based retailer’s Snellville location. At 10 p.m., the line stretched 100 yards, and all seemed calm.
I met Gabriel Ortiz, 20, and his brother, who had been at the front of the line since 1:40 p.m., eagerly anticipating the purchase of a 46-inch Westinghouse high-definition television for $298 instead of the usual $600.
He told me this was his first time to ever shop on Black Friday, and as a relative brought him some food, he shared what he had learned. He started at Best Buy, but at 1 p.m., the line, containing several tents, was already wrapped around the building. The Target scene was more his speed, and depending how his experience went, he would consider doing this again. I determined for certain at that very moment that I would never consider doing it. Ever.
Like Andrew Zimmern in search of exotic cuisine, I continued in my pursuit of the Black Friday experience, and Black Friday, I hear, is not Black Friday until you’ve been to the world’s largest retailer, Walmart.
I knew I was in trouble as I drove up Highway 124 and saw the line of traffic just turn into the parking lot. It was 10:32 p.m., and the parking lot was chaos. In about five minutes I managed to snag a spot at a bank in the out parcel. The walk wasn’t bad, and it gave me time to steel my nerves against what I was about to experience.
As I stepped in through the automatic doors, I could not have entered a more alien scene had I been dropped into the Mos Eisley Cantina. Everywhere I turned, there was a long line, emanating from a Mylar balloon with a product printed on it. Remembering that we were out of pull-up diapers, I spent 20 minutes meandering through the store, avoiding the blocked off aisles and walls of people waiting on everything from HD televisions to video game systems to bicycles.
I found the Huggies pull-ups just above the head of a woman sitting in the floor.
“The line for diapers starts back there,” she quipped.
“Seriously?” I said, an obvious Black Friday novice.
“No, it’s for the laptop,” she said, pointing to the balloon. A 15.6-inch Hewlett Packard laptop to be exact.
Out of luck or ignorance, I ended up in the “10-items or less” line. A woman with a Wii and another with a Xbox Kinect chatted brightly in front of me.
“That’s all you’ve got?” the Wii woman said.
“What are you doing here in this mess?” her friend asked.
“You must be a really good husband,” Mrs. Wii said.
“You should’ve just gone to CVS or Kroger. They’re open today, too, you know,” Mrs. Kinect said with just a slight hint of condescension.
The beleaguered clerk rang me up and laughed.
“Is that all?”
“It’s all I need,” I said, and as she handed me my receipt, I offered “Hang in there. I hope you survive.”
By this time, it was still an hour until Target was to open. Just for laughs, I drove back by Target. Gabriel and his brother were still at the front of the line wearing hopeful smiles, but now the line stretched at least a quarter mile.
When I got home, I put the diapers on the counter, brushed my teeth and climbed into bed. The clock said 11:30. I thought about the Walmart scene and how it was about to be repeated at Target.
For any other skeptics out there, let me assure you, Black Friday is real, and it is dangerous.
Please shop responsibly.
What’s your view? Do you love or avoid shopping on Black Friday? Are you a line camper? What’s your best deal you’ve ever gotten? Help continue my education by sharing your experiences below.