As the Bee’s retail reporter, I cover Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season, every year. At about 12:30 a.m. Friday, I found myself at Fashion Fair mall, stuck in a mob of people outside Victoria’s Secret.
The crowd had completely filled up the mall corridor and come to a standstill. Hundreds of people were trying to get inside the store, which was letting only a few people in at a time. It was hot, people were breathing on me and a feeling of claustrophobia was starting to climb up my throat. I heard screaming. The forearm of the woman behind me was pressing into my back even though I’d already loudly told her to stop pushing me. I reached behind me and squeezed her arm because it seemed like the only thing to do at the time that might get her to stop.
I’d find out later that people were getting pushed and smashed up against the glass of Victoria’s Secret. All this for what? A $25 hoodie? Don’t these people know you can get a hoodie at Target for $12 any day of the year? Suddenly I came to a crystal clear conclusion: I hate this. I want to be as far away from here as possible.
But as miserable as that experience was, it’s hard to demonize Black Friday as a whole. There’s another side to the night that’s just plain fun. Earlier in the evening, people were friendly and quick to laugh as I hopped from store to store. Whenever I asked someone who spent hours waiting to get sinside a store how they passed the time, they all said the same thing: Making new friends. People who were once strangers were swapping stories, jokes and shopping strategies. The woman who ate her Thanksgiving dinner on the sidewalk outside Target befriended a cute little 10-year-old boy and the two of them laughed their way through the hours. Mothers and daughters in town for the holiday spent hours catching up.
Outside Fashion Fair, the Christmas lights were up and the DJ was playing good tunes. When the doors opened at Target on West Shaw Avenue, a happy cheer went up and shoppers high-fived the manager as they filed in — excited, but orderly. Some people turned in their vouchers for the TV with the $300 discount they had waited for and went home. Others got all their shopping done that night and will spend the rest of the holiday season relaxing. One family and I laughed our heads off at the determined 29-year-old who declared over Thanksgiving dinner that he was going to buy an electric toothbrush. They waited 10 minutes to get into Target and were in and out with the deeply discounted toothbrush and onto the next store.
At Toys “R” Us, people piled $10 boxes of 80 diapers into their carts. And when somebody’s pile collapsed, other shoppers helped them rebuild it with smiles on their faces. One woman I talked to didn’t buy anything at all, but tagged along with a friend to people watch and be part of the excitement.
I’m still not sure how to classify the whole event in my own mind. I see why people dismiss it as ugly consumerism, but I also see why people do it. So how about you? Did you go? Do you think Black Friday is a disgusting display of greed (like the man who pulled a gun on a fellow shopper) or is it just a fun holiday tradition?