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Black Freaking Friday

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…” ?

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