Black Friday earned it salt again, pulling 212 million sleep-deprived shoppers out of their beds, packing them into seemingly endless lines, and plucking a very respectable average of $365.34 out of every Black Friday shoppers’ pocket, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. When pooled, Black Friday sales added up to a shocking $45 billion, the kind of money big enough to make even our debt-addled government jealous. But, although the numbers paint a portrait of Black Friday as a boon for shoppers’ savings, the story of Black Friday shopping looks a little different from this shopper’s point of view.
5:30 a.m. — It’s an hour you should only see whilst briefly fading out of a sound night’s sleep. It’s not the sort of hour that belongs on the face of a blaring alarm clock. But, alas, it was Black Friday, and, like those 212 million other shoppers seeking sales, I dragged my turkey-bloated body out of bed, shuffled into the kitchen, and greedily grabbed a cup of lukewarm coffee.
After luring my mother out of bed with the promise of freshly brewed espresso, we were off to the black Friday sales- and surely early enough to beat the crowds.
The words “beat the crowds” managed to rattle around my head like a mocking play-back loop as, for the next hour, we kissed bumpers in traffic on a still-dark Route 202, apparently not the only shoppers hoping to make a killing from Black Friday savings.
Eventually, after going through the parking lot with a fine-tooth comb, we found something vaguely reminiscent of parking space and shuffled quickly into King of Prussia Mall.
You’d think the world was ending. Were these frantic customers seeking out rations for an impending nuclear holocaust? House boats for a global warming-induced great flood? No. They were looking for Black Friday sales.
And sales there were. 50 percent off hot pink sweaters, 25 percent off big screen TVs, 75 percent off thigh-high women’s boots. But, in spite of how affordable those snakeskin boots might have been, I found that my mother was drawn toward only one, quiet and unpresumptuous little product.
It was a rather fine example of a crocheted woman’s sweater, deep maroon and just her size. As it was the last lonely relic on the rack, we grabbed it without hesitation and bolted to the line. Although “line” would be an understatement. A true Black Friday behemoth, this serpentine expanse wound its way through practically every hallway, even down the aisles, exposing us to panties and brassieres as we endured our slow march toward our sale- the penance of the Black Friday shopper.
After our hour-long wait, in which we observed some classic breakdowns -at least three customer explosions, and one instance of a bag-burdened woman’s near collapse from exhaustion- we were there: the cashier’s frazzled face smiling a forced-grin smile, all-powerful barcode gun- wizard of the sales- at the ready in his right hand.
We scanned the sweatshirt.
“That will be $62.” He said politely.
“How can it be $62! $62 is what the price tag says! Doesn’t that mean it’s about half-that? It’s Black Friday!” I exploded.
“Oh, well no… you see… that item’s not on sale.”
We bought it anyway, and perused the mall for sometime longer, hoping to strike gold. Of course, by now it was 7 a.m., the sun was starting to poke through the windows, Black Friday wasn’t black anymore, and, we realized, whatever sales there had been, whatever hot new items had existed within the range of affordability, were gone now. The craze was over. There was the maroon, crocheted sweater, with its $62 price tag, clasped within my hand, and, grinning at us from a big, reflective window, were some snakeskin boots, 75 percent off.
Sources: Linda Wilson Fuoco, Black Friday Declared a Success, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10333/1106849-28.stm