JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Happy Day-after-Thanksgiving! Or, as it's come to be known, Black Friday. When I was a kid, back in the days of whale oil lanterns, the weekend after Thanksgiving was the big start to the holiday season. The Friday paper would arrive stuffed with ads for sales on Saturday and Sunday, although since my mother has always shopped for Christmas presents throughout the year, I don't recall her making any special trips out on those days.
Then the sales themselves moved up to Friday, and acquired the trade nickname of Black Friday from merchants who marked it as the beginning of the most profitable four weeks of the year. I think the first time I heard it called Black Friday was in the 90s, in one of those de rigueur articles about the Christmas Economy.
Sometime between then and now, Black Friday became a Big Thing. TV ads blared out the doorstopper specials for weeks in advance. Mother-daughter pairs mapped out their assaults on stores, parents got in line at 3am to get that year's hot toy, and many people came to see it as an essential part of the Thanksgiving holiday – at least as popular as the Macy's Parade and possibly more so. As we all know, the opening times were pushed back and back, in a way not dissimilar to the race to be the first-in-the-nation primary. If New Hampshire goes to the polls on January 15, Iowa will change their date to the tenth. If Best Buy opens at midnight, Wal-Mart will open at 10pm. Despite a pushback to carve out some time for turkey, football, and family, there are stores which will be welcoming the public at 4:00 Thanksgiving afternoon.
Ross and I have done Black Friday twice, each time when we wanted a specific big household item. One year we got in line at Circuit City at 4am to be one of the 20 people to carry off a desktop computer/software/printer package at a ridiculously low price. A few years later, we badly needed to replace our dishwasher. I had been reading Consumer Reports and comparison shopping online when I saw Sears would be marking down a dishwasher I liked. We got to the store when it opened at six, reasoning rightly that the big crowds would be lining up for toys and electronics. The guys in the large appliance area seemed pleasantly surprised to see anyone.
At both occasions, after we nabbed our big buys we went on to get a lot of shopping done. It was fun, actually, with a festive atmosphere and a lot of happy people crowding the stores. There is a decided sense of accomplishment to knock off half or more of your holiday presents list in one morning – and the stores were more heavily staffed than at any other time of the year. Nonetheless, we have no plans to hit the malls today. I'd rather spend my money supporting Shop Local Saturday, and for the things I can't get in town, well, that's what the Internet's for. You don't even have to stick to “Cyber Monday” - Amazon and other large retailers have good buys throughout the month.
How about you, Reds? Are headed out this morning to shop til you drop? Looking for bargains online? Or do you, like my mother, already have your holiday shopping in the bag?
LUCY BURDETTE: No Black Friday shopping for me, though it sounds like you and Ross made the absolute best use of those occasions. I get freaked out by big crowds of desperate people. Probably the closest I came was the year that Macy's closed In New Haven. Everything on sale for rock bottom prices. I got the most amazing pile of sweaters for everyone for Christmas that year, but it involved standing in long lines and scrabbling through piles of goods with other driven shoppers. Sort of the opposite of the Christmas spirit...
And PS, I LOVE the shop local movement and do so whenever I can!
And PPS, handmade is even better, though since I've started to write on a regular schedule, that's only in my dreams. But one year I took a ratty quilt that had belonged to my mother in law, and made sachets stuffed with lavender for all the women in the family. Then I included a note about the provenance of the quilt. It was fun and felt special.
HALLIE EPHRON: Scrooge, here.
I hate crowds and I hate shopping… so Black Friday feels like the perfect storm, and not in a good way. You couldn’t drag me to the mall. And there are very few things for which I’d stand in line to get a price break (an iPhone or a MAC Air, but neither of those get discounted.) And am I the only one who’s noticed how crazy afternoon traffic has become already, another sign of impending holidays -- storm clouds building.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays, and I adore having something special to give to the people I love. It’s getting there that gets me down.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Nope, nope, nope. I don't like to fight or scramble for a "thing." Although I must agree--Julia, what you and Ross have figured out is kind of brilliant. But the parking! And the craziness. Yeesh.
We are lucky to be able to decide yes or no for such a question, you know? There's so much to have, and we have to remember not to take it for granted. (Sorry, digression).
I'm all about the internet for holiday gift shopping. Because it also SHIPS! Yay! And free shipping is one of the glories of the universe.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Julia, you and Ross make it sound fun, but I'm with Hallie and Hank on this one. Honestly, shopping on so-called Black Friday sounds like the fifth ring of hell. All those crowds. All that lust for _stuff_. I'd rather stay at home and eat leftovers and watch Christmas movies with the family....
DEBORAH CROMBIE: No Black Friday here, either. Ack. Although I've know people who do it every year as a family tradition and have a great time, it's not my idea of fun. I don't like crowded stores, and I really don't like frenzied holiday drivers in parking lots... And I feel sorry for the store employees who no longer get to enjoy Thanksgiving. I'll probably do some of my shopping online (the catalogs are coming like gangbusters!) some in my local shops, and Kayti and I will definitely get to Northpark (Dallas's fabulous mall that doubles as an art museum) but it won't be on a super busy shopping day. It's a must, though, just to see the Christmas decorations..
RHYS BOWEN: Sorry, no Black Friday for me either. There is nothing I want badly enough to make me stand in line for hours.. And I found that last year I did most of my shopping online. Actually I do less shopping as the grandchildren become teenagers and request gift cards from their favorite stores.
But I have a good Black Friday story, from a Microsoft tech who fixed my computer after a disastrous Windows 10 upgrade. He said he'd been working at Best Buy and some people had camped out all week in front of the store to be first in line. At 4 a.m. on the morning of Black Friday a policeman had found them intoxicated and with open bottles of liquor and had arrested them all. One hour before the doors opened! That doesn't seem fair somehow.
JULIA: How about you, dear readers? Have you already nabbed the best bargains of the day? Or are you waiting on the ghost of Christmas shopping Yet To Come?