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Black Freaking Friday

11/28/2008 Leave a comment

I have worked retail for 8 years or so, and can recall what happend this day each year. Our particular company called it Hot Friday. I never understood why it was called Black Friday (BF), but think we should maybe change it to Dark Friday (and no not in honor of The Dark Knight).

Dark…

…stores open at 4 am. Well not all of them. Just a few insane ones. JC Penneys & Kohls come to mind immediately. At 4 am (which btw is the incorrect time to wake up for this event) – IT’S DARK.

…the coffee I am drinking BEFORE, DURING, AFTER 4 am……is DARK.

….the realization when you get to the store that has the DoorBuster Offer which is only good until the first ten minutes of opening LAST YEAR, leaves ones hopes and ambitions SOMEWHERE DARK.

…personalities of 80% of the people that stand in line at the checkout with 59 other people in front of them, ARE DARK. Oh…and the circles under their eyes – you got it….DARK.

…something I have discovered that IS NOT DARK….is being outside when you get through your first store…it’s NOT DARK.

Anyways, I think I have enough reasons to change it officially. On with my experiences for this morning thus far…

I am at Jimmy’s apartment last night after feasting at another mutual friends house and he sees me bring in the Ads for Black Friday. I explain that I don’t normally read the paper while visiting, but knowing I wouldn’t be leaving until late, I wouldn’t have time to actually go through them after getting home.

I open the ad for Nebraska Furniture Mart (actually it was one of 4 ads that they had), and immediately start spotting a Sony Vaio laptop that Jimmy is interested in for $299. Heckuva deal. Tell Jimmy about it. He’s excited about it, but then explains he will be sleeping. Showed him two other laptops…again, excitement, but now sprinkled with contemplation.

To shorten this part up, Jimmy expresses interest in the laptop, particularly the Sony. He goes to an ATM, withdraws cash, and gives it to me to purchase a laptop for him. “I prefer the Sony, if you can get it, but otherwise this other one will do.” No problem, after all I offered to do this for him. I think I would have been more successful offering to buy him the winning lottery numbers instead (hmmmm).

I plan this out. Go to my stores at 4 am or so, then go to NFM since they don’t open until 7am. I leave Jimmy’s somewhere around 3 am. I am on my drive home when the thought crosses my mind to drive by NFM and see if anyone is by chance stupid (DARK) enough to be standing out in 20 degree weather 4 hours before they open. I get within 3 miles of the store and change my mind….no, nobody could possibly be that absent (DARK) to be doing that. I would just go home, drop off some leftover food, make some coffee (DARK) for a thermos and head back out (INTO THE DARK). I do exactly this and am on the road at 4:45am (STILL DARK).

As I apporach NFM, the parking lot comes into view and there are cars parked out by the boonies areas. Naturally I assume these are employee cars. Not so much correct there, Sparky. The main entrance doors come into view as I enter the parking lot. OK…no problem, some people in line. I find a spot to park and I look back at the building again. Not good….this line is not single file. This line is 5-6 people wide….and I look back to see how far it goes…

…down the sidewalk…that’s about 60 yards. Around the corner of the building and up the sidewalk….that’s about another 100 yards…and that’s as far as I could see because ITS DARK. What time did these (DARK) people show up? Channel 6 news was right there at the entrance with one of their Live vans, satellite antenna mast extended high and proud, journalist and camera crew interviewing people at the front.

I make a mental note to myself to bring a mock news camera next year so I too can stand near the front and  get in the door ahead of everyone else…

I sit in my car, engine running, lights off and watch more people trekking the parking lot, jumping out of the way of cars, pulling their hoodies on tight, putting on gloves and then slowing down as they too finally see the line wrap the corner of the building…their pace slows, and then picks back up to a normal pace. The (DARK) realization that they were going to be freezing their ASSES OFF waiting for some awesome $5 gimmick Door Buster thing that they didn’t know they needed until 12 hours before when they accidentally glanced the BF (Bitching Fools) ads. If Uncle Merle woulda kept his mouth shut and not rambled on about how great the family gatherings used to be 30 years ago, they wouldn’t have tried to escape into the nearest distraction….the newspaper.

NFM Doors Open (It's Dark) - Omaha World Herald - Kent Sievers

The Mart Opens Its Doors - These people Gotta Pee!

So I sit and make some decisions. I decide to pour a small cup of my coffee. I decide Jimmy will have to do without the Sony laptop. Luckily, we had two other ones picked out from somewhere else, which happend to be very nearby. And they opened at 6am. Less than an hour to go for that one.

On my way over there, I drive down the side of the building that the line is stretching down. My estimate is that there were probably 1500 people in that line. There are two guys wearing orange vests pushing a beverage cart . The cart contains the orange beverage coolers like you see get dumped on football coaches. They appear to be making their way down the line and are handing out coffee. I thought that was awfully nice of them to do that.

I pull into the (DARK) parking lot and see a line there as well. Not as long, but still a line. I get in line and wait. Only about 30 minutes to go. Not bad. I listen to the stories of those around me as they talk about shopping at the 4 am places and at of course, Wal-Mart. Crazy crap they are telling everyone about.

10 minutes goes by, and the little cart with the two beverage guys is working its way up from the front of our line. They are handing out hot chocolate and coffee (Both Dark), for Free. Wow, someone is on the ball today. As they get nearer, we determine that the retail store where I am at is not affiliated with these gentleman. They are doing this solely on their own…for free. One of them starts talking about how they served 300 or so of those in line at NFM – until security made them leave the property. Ummmm…HELLO NFM!! 1500 people outside your store for multiple hours in a row, and two people having the holiday spirit give out free hot beverages to keep people warm (which BTW you weren’t doing) and you send the security force over to make them leave? WTF BBQ? And no restroom facilities? Couldn’t spring for some Port-A-Jons because of the loss you will be taking on the Sony?

From the Omaha World Herald:

At Nebraska Furniture Mart, the line at the electronics entrance stretched from the front of the store around the corner and out onto 72nd Street. Jim Cahill, a manager at the Mart, said he’d seen more people waiting to get in this year than in any previous year. He estimated the bigger line to be 900 to 1,000 people, with a second line on the east side of the building of approximately 600 more people.

From Channel 6 News:

At Nebraska Furniture Mart, around 2,000 shoppers were waiting when the doors opened at 7 a.m. The line wrapped all the way around the electronics store, and it took nearly 25 minutes to allow customers to file in.The hot item? Sony Vaio Laptop Computers for $299. The first 100 people in line received vouchers to guarantee they would be leaving with the computers.

Wow. wish I could have read that before hand…lol.

Let’s talk about this voucher crap. Read again Channel 6…the first 100 people in line. It didn’t matter if they were there for the computer or not….they got the voucher. Leaving up to 1900 others behind them hoping to get one. If you only have 18 of an item, but you mass insert into a circulation of 250,000 newspapers, that is wrong. You may as well randomly insert the vouchers into the papers, it’s pretty much the same affect. The retailers suddenly have their own version of the Wonka Golden Ticket… Charlie had better odds…

Something similar happend at the next place I went to. At 5:45 the manager of the store is out front, almost seeming to have a huddle with anyone within conversational distance of his voice. I find out afterwards, that he is handing out vouchers….to those that can hear him. (This is Office Depot btw). The $349 laptop they had…gone. Before the doors even opened. The $487 laptop…also gone. Almost 40% of the line walked away to their cars disgruntled  and left.

Here’s the bad thing about vouchers. Once you hand out the voucher promising one of those items to a customer….they can leave and come back later. Meanwhile, there are several others with cash in hand willing to buy the damn thing (right out on the sidewalk outside if you let them), but can’t because professional voucher collector has his elite Voucher Commando Team crawling all over Omaha. They probably met up at McDonalds to share their Scavenger Hunt winnings on who collected the most slips of paper. Absolute crap.

They do this I know, to prevent stampedes, like the one in NY this morning that took the life of a Wal-Mart employee that was in the way when the buyers literally busted the doors down and then trampled him. He died later at the hospital from the injuries. Sad when you really think about how this has turned into something bad.

I did pick up one item for Jimmy, and sadly, it was not his laptop. I recalled him mentioning something else he needed and just happend to get my hands on one before some guy came in with his shoppng cart and grabbed the last 4.

I wonder if retailers would get worried next year if the buyers lined up outside showed up with one of those SWAT tactical vehicles and start chanting “WallBuster…” ?

Help Me Save Some Money…and Yourself as Well

11/25/2008 Leave a comment

I have been a customer of Vonage Internet Phone for 3 years now, and swear, I will never go back to tradiotnal phone services.

They are running a promotion right now that allows my referrals to get the first 2 months free. All you need is high speed internet (DSL, Cable). I get all the extra features for free (voicemail, 3 way calling, caller ID, callwaiting, etc, etc.) and my number is unpublished (also free). Long distance in the US and Canada is free…and you can take your phone number with you when you move or travel. My favorite feature is the ability to have my calls ring my cell phone and my landline at the same time, so if I am not home, I can still pick up. Its only $24.99 a month for unlimited. There is also a $14.99 plan for 500 minutes, free incoming calls. If you are one of those Cox Cable Bundled customers, you may want to see how much more this will save you. (Who wants to pay $6.99 a month for caller ID and voice mail? Use my banner below to get your two months free.

Oh….it works with the phones you already have in your house. Including the cordless ones. No one can tell you are on internet phone. Sounds the same, if not better.

Categories: Rants Tags: , , , , ,

Lucky…A Recollection

11/25/2008 Leave a comment
Amoco Station 132nd Maple

Amoco Station 132nd Maple

2008 was really pretty uneventful as far as weather was concerned for Omaha. The one decent storm we had was rather intense. One which I was unfortunate to get stuck in my car with my kids during the beginning of it.

I recall taking Michael, 4 and Karigan, 2 out to Shopko to meet with their mom in the parking lot. I left a voicemail on her phone telling her to meet me there at 4:30. While waiting, a friend of mine had called my phone to chat. While we were talking I could hear faint sounds of sirens off in the distance, but I began to ignore them since a nearby community had a volunteer fire department, and it was normal to hear sirens near there when an emergency arose. The key in this area was to listen for all city sirens, which at this time, were silent. I watched as a batch of ominous clouds came over the tree line

I normally am good at weather spotting. I have been fascinated with weather since I was a child, and over the years have found that I can forecast pretty accurately what the day’s weather is going to bring, as well as the next day or so. I suck at physics though. I actually tried to take meteorology in high school, and found it wasn’t possible for me to understand the science behind weather.

I have never seen a tornado which is pretty amazing considering I have lived in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas for most of life (let’s just say several years…more than 10…lol). The cloud formation I saw coming over the treelines I will admit made me nervous. Something about this one was clearly different.

100_1954

Returning back to the phone conversation, I told my friend,

“Go wake up your kids from their naps and take them to the basement.”

“Why? The weather looks fine. It’s not even raining.”

“It doesn’t rain when a tornado hits. These clouds have me nervous. I’ve never seen a system like this before. Go get them and get to the basement.”

“But it’s not even windy…”

“That’s another classic sign before a tornado hits, dead calm outside…please get your kids to the basement.”

“Fine, I will at least turn on the weather on TV if that makes you feel better.”

“I will feel better knowing you get them downstairs. I need to get off the phone, I have to get my kids to their mom’s before this hits. Call me later and let me know you are ok.”

We hung up the phone. The cloud formation I was watching would have been just about to cross over her neighborhood area 4 or 5 miles away. I decided to take a chance and get my kids on their way home. I figured I had about 10 minutes or less to get there before this thing hit.

I get down to 90th and Maple as the sky starts turning a dark green.  I find myself stuck as the first car in the left turn lane at a major intersection with red lights. By now the wind started to pick up a little, and my 4 year old, Michael begins to realize something is going to happen outside. He is almost in tune to the weather as much as I am, which considering his age, actually says quite a bit. He asks me about it being dark out.

“Daddy, where’s the sun? It got dark out.” His sister who was 2 at the time supports him with a “mmhmm”.

“We’re gonna get some rain Michael, and it’s probably going to get really loud inside the car from the rain. You’ll be ok.” This seemed to work for a moment.

I’m watching the hooked front end of the system as it crosses over near the intersection a block or so away. It’s dipping, rotating, swirling disappearing, reappearing. I look at the traffic light. Still red. I look at the cross traffic, still coming. I wanted to run the light and go, but not at the risk of getting hit by cross traffic. Then it came. The beginning of everything which resulted in the most chaotic 15 minutes of my life outside of Desert Storm.

I had my drivers side window down all the way as it was warm out. As I looked to the right of the intersection to begin the light running idea again, I saw a solid sheet of dust 3 or 4 feet off and parallel to  the ground as it came down the hill surrounding the intersection. It came with such velocity, that it swirled around the drivers side of my car and actually came straight into my car leaving a small cloud of debris floating and settling on my interior. The street sign next to the car started violently rocking and my car rocked with it. I have a little Land Rover Freelander, which is about the size in between a Jeep Liberty and a Suburu Outback. As the wind and dust is beating my car, I return my gaze back to the hook to see what it was doing. It was hooking even more than before. I kept thinking that I would have the only car in the intersection that was going to be picked up and flipped over by the wind. Welcome to your first possible tornado. Then my luck changed for the better. The arrow turned green.

I wasted no time and was driving probably 15 miles over the speed limit getting down Maple street. I had 2 miles to go to get the kids to their house. Rain began pounding down the back side of the car, indicating, that I was milliseconds ahead of it. I’m racing down the road, and that’s when I realized in addition to the approaching rain, I also now had to deal with flying debris. Not pebbles, or a garbage can. Tree branches…big ones being thrown across the road ahead of me. I don’t recall much at this point except hearing my daughter let out an uncomfortable little moan.

As the pea sized hail started hitting my car, I pulled into their mom’s driveway. Her boyfriend was waiting outside for me, and immediate went into action getting to my son’s door. I left the engine running and got out to get my daughter. She’s crying now, as the hail is pounding the car and the street creating a ruckus that just makes her hit a breaking point. She screams.

This hail was left over 2 hours after the storm passed.

This hail was left over 2 hours after the storm passed.

This is when it happend. I didn’t initially feel it. Instead my vision was blinded by a piercing white prismatic light, followed by a razor sharp thud on my head. The hail was getting larger, and it was almost as if I was being sent the first piece for approval of the increased bonus size. (“Would you like Tylenol with your baseball today sir?”) I stood there for a moment to make sure I wasn’t going to black out or anything. I then finished unbuckling my daughter. I wrapped her up tight inside my chest to protect her and started running to the house. The grass, the driveway, the cars, everything was solid layer of hail. It looked like January. I realzied at this point, that I my shoes I had on sucked for running on ice. I actually took 4 strides to recover myself from almost losing balance and falling on top of my daughter. Luckily, I regained footing and got her inside. I was handed the essentials at this point. Dry towels and a beer.

We watched as the neighborhood continued to get beat up for another 10 minutes. When it subsided and the sirens stopped we walked outside to assess damage. The street was flooded up to about 3 feet at its deepest point. Branches were down. Leaves and twigs covered all of the vehicles. Neighbors were coming out slowly to do the same. The clouds were gone, the sun was out, and it was beginning to warm up again.

It was another 2 hours before I heard from my friend on the phone, but she did call and tell me that they were ok. She said as soon as she hung up the phone, the loudest strongest gust of wind she ever experienced came through her neighborhood. She got the kids down to the basement seconds before the storm hit her area at its worst. I made some additional phone calls to check on other friends, most of which didn’t answer their phones. I got text messages back from them checking in. All was good in my world.

I skipped going into work that night for an OT shift, and decided to go help out wherever I could.

As you can see some of the pics tell a little bit of the story. Some of these images actually were aired on KETV Channel 7’s newscast and also placed on their website.