Not many people escape from their youth without working retail of some sort or another, and as I’ve mentioned before, I was not one of the lucky few. In college, I worked at Best Buy for several years, including three Black Friday extravaganzas the likes of which most people have never experienced from the other side of the cash register.
I realize that there’s a bit of irony in the girl who told you how to successfully queue for Lanvin telling you to stay the heck away from the lines this week, but Black Friday is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish entirely. Because of my history of service to the consumer hordes, my post-Thanksgiving shopping advice could probably go on ad nauseum, but it mostly boils down to this: the Internet is your friend, and those lines already forming outside of Target are not. In case you needed more convincing, I’ve got five reasons to stay home and shop online.
1. The people who are getting the good stuff are already in line.
You know those $199 laptops and $4 iPads and whatever other bizarrely low-priced hunks of conspicuous consumerism that you’re eyeing in the Black Friday ads today? Well, that stuff is just there to get people into the stores. Most of those things have some sort of tiny print underneath them in the Friday ads that says there will be a minimum number of units per store, but really, that should say maximum. Take it from someone who’s been on the other side of that trick: no store is going to sell more stuff at that steep of a loss than they have to, and dangling that shiny carrot is plenty to get most people out of bed before dawn to buy things they don’t really need and maybe don’t even want.
Most large stores will give out tickets for those ultra-limited items before the store opens to prevent utter chaos and impending violence, and unless you’re reading this on your iPhone from a parking lot tent right now, you’re not going to be far enough up in the line to get one. But really, that’s not a loss for you. It actually says positive things about your personality. Pat yourself on the back for not camping in a parking lot on a family holiday like a homeless person for an opportunity to spend money on things.
2. Sartre was right: hell is other people.
Having worked three consecutive 3 a.m. shifts at Best Buy’s Black Friday sale during my college years, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to watch people show their asses (sometimes literally) for the sake of buying some cheap DVDs. Take, for example, the fully grown woman who form-tackled a pallet full of DVD players as soon as she was let into the store for no obvious reason. Or the middle-aged father who my then-boss chased through the store at a full sprint because he had a PlayStation 2 under his jacket. Not only did he hurdle a chest freezer trying to get away, but he left his toddler in the store by herself after the cops took him to jail.
Or how about the family of four who waited for one of my former coworkers outside the store so that they could try and run her over in the parking lot because their credit card was declined by the machine at her register? Wait, wait, that wasn’t the day after Thanksgiving. That was Christmas Eve. Don’t even get me started on why or how, but for some reason, we had to have someone arrested every Christmas Eve. And usually on Black Friday, too.
There’s a reason that the annual playing of “The Ride of the Valkyries” over the store PA system was always my favorite part of the day – it was before anyone actually got inside.
3. Starbucks isn’t open that early.
And really, you don’t need to be involved in any of the aforementioned situations without your latte, at the very least. Actually, I’d suggest a latte and a cattle prod if you’re going to ignore my advice but still want to be fully prepared.
4. And if you’re going to ignore me, at least go later.
The most surprising thing that I learned from those 10-hour shifts was that there are few advantages to getting to any store at opening. You’ll just have to stand in line, probably outside in the cold, and the people who were queued up two days in advance are the ones who will be getting all of the limited-quantity stuff. For all of the other deals, you can still waltz in at at 8 or 9 a.m. and pick up most things without standing in line to gain entrance and or waiting forever to get to the cash register. Go later than that and you get the regular shoppers, earlier and you get the crazies. But in the middle of the morning, Black Friday has a sweet spot.
5. But really, don’t go. Shop online.
News organizations with little to report over the holiday weekend will probably make many references to Cyber Monday, like “cyber” is a word that people still use, but online sales have changed to mirror the more traditional retail model over the past couple of years. You don’t have to wait until Monday – in fact, many online sales are going on right now, while most of America is still getting drunk to avoid spending time with their racist uncles.
You don’t have to get up early, you don’t have to stand in the freezing cold, and you don’t have to elbow your way past grandmothers and children alike for a shot at the last Furby or whatever it is that kids play with these days. You don’t even have to put on pants! (But seriously, put on pants, your relatives are visiting.) In fact, when I worked retail, I’d leave my Black Friday morning shift, go home, and buy the things I wanted from my store’s sale on the company’s website. The deals were almost all the same, the wait was nonexistent and I got to do it in gym shorts.
So go forth and learn from my experiences, PurseBloggers. And if any of you made sweet potato pie for dessert tonight, send some my way.