Actually, it was the oddest of times. I have looked into the heart of Chaos. I have seen the depths of depravity, selfishness, and cruelty. Beelzebub himself could not have crafted a more devious and despicable occasion.
Yes, I attended the Black Friday sale at Wal-Mart.
First, I learned something. The traditional reasoning given to the name “Black Friday” is that is when accounting ledgers for businesses go from “in the red” to “in the black”, in other words, if they haven’t turned much of a profit all year, that after the Christmas season starts, it’s all good. All, “in the black”. That’s because the real reason is a bit more depressing. Philadelphia policemen, sick of dealing with crowds and traffic, started calling it “Black Friday”, because they thought the day sucked, much like other infamous “black” days, like the Stock Market Crash, or the later named “Black Tuesday” – the day AOL let loose all it’s noobs on the World Wide Web.
I was not in attendance as a shopper, merely as an observer of sorts. There were a lot of observers. People ready with cellular phone cameras to record the goings-on. Maybe Wal-Mart should charge a cover. Ten bucks to get in, and a ten dollar Wal-Mart card on your way out, with a receipt. It’s better than a Katherine Heigl movie.
I’m not sure about Wal-Mart policy in other places, but here’s how it goes down where I live: At 10 pm there is the first sale. Kitchen Items, small appliances, toys, etc. Anything but electronics, TVs, cameras. They pull out pallets around noon, wrapped in plastic, with “Not for Sale until 10” signs everywhere. Some consumers play stupid and pull stuff through the plastic, intending on hanging out until ten, then checking out, earning looks of disgust from others. Some people camp out, even going so far as to hold on to the item they desire, through the plastic.
As ten approached, the place filled rapidly. Every buggy in the area was inside the store. An eerie hush descended over the crowd as the appointed time approached. Employees worried about getting in the middle of everything to remove the plastic. I was thinking, “why?” You tell 2000 Wal-Mart customers “go” and that saran wrap is coming off.
If you’ve ever seen a National Geographic nature show, or even an early James Bond film or two, you know what happens when meat (cow, pig, person) falls into water occupied by a school of piranha. This is the explosion of frantic activity that occurred when the ten o’clock hour arrived. I never heard buzzer, bell, or announcement. All was quiet, then, BAM! Plastic was shredding, people were screaming, crock pots went flying across the aisle like footballs to waiting hands. Just like the infamous hungry fish, it was all over in minutes. Some items were gone within twenty seconds.
Ever the efficient ones, the staff swooped in, removing trash and empty pallets while customers milled about. It took them all hours to get in, they had their stuff, and wanted to leave within ten minutes. Every register was lit, the first time in my life I’ve seen that.
Within the hour most of the rush had gone, new lines having formed up around the electronics aisles and pallets. Games, TVs, Cell phones and Cameras.
The biggest stuff, of course, was already claimed. Laptops, Xbox sets, Large TVs and Wii systems had queue lines set up all around the store. God help you if you just came for shampoo. If you got there early enough, you could get in line. Once there were enough people in line for the items available, they closed the line. Now you had to sit in the Wal-Mart until midnight. At the stroke of twelve, those in line got their vouchers or their items and could go pay. It cuts down on fights over the large stuff, and it means if you want two big things – you better bring a partner to sit in another line.
One of the biggest crowds formed around the camera display. Again, people had staked out their claim, holding on to $50 kodak cameras, or $150 fujis, along with Cases, Memory cards, etc. The crowd was ten deep in places. Those not caring to buy stopped to watch as midnight approached. Flanked by the Police, the Manager approached, and gave the crowd a stern talking-to. The mad grab and rush was avoided thanks to the staff handing out the Cameras instead of allowing a free-for-all. Disappointed onlookers put away their cell phones, unable to record the fist fighting and hair pulling they so desperately wanted to see.
Within an hour, everything was over. It was like any other night at the store. A few people were milling about, the staff sweeping and moving items, and restocking vacant shelves. It is an amazing thing to watch. If you like Hockey, you’ll probably like this. Looking over the crowd, it would be easy to say the economy is recovering, but maybe it is a bad economy that forces people into crowds to desperately try and grab hold of the promise of any savings, to satisfy their cravings that advertisers have drilled into their heads: “You need it, you want it you have to have it; if you don’t participate you are evil and un-American. There’s nothing else more important than finding the perfect gift and giving ‘the kids a good Christmas’”
I’ve said it before – maybe it’s time to step back and think about the lessons of the past five years. Is all this needing and wanting really helping? Or are we setting ourselves up for failure again? Screw it, Amazon has a lightning deal I just missed, I’ve got to quit typing before I miss…wow look at tha