Friday, November 27, 2015

The Red's Black Friday Blues

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?


  1. I love hearing that someone managed to get a great Black Friday deal, but I have only done the Black Friday thing when my daughter asked me to go with her for something.
    I don't like standing in the cold waiting to get into the store, I don't like the crowds. [I will admit to line-standing for Cabbage Patch dolls when my childen were little and wanted nothing more than one of those baby dolls, but it never involved freezing in dark-of-night lines.]
    Besides, my shopping is mostly done, there is nothing I am that desperate to spend my money on, and, like Hank, I love the Internet shopping where I can also get it shipped . . . .

  2. Having gotten up this morning to a boxed mini-fridge sitting in my kitchen, I believe my youngest nephew scored a deal in the wee hours of the morning! But for me--give up sleep to stand in the cold and dark? Nah.

  3. There is a kind of …beating-the-system joy, theoretically, you know? Your contemporary bravery, Joan, and sacrifice, to get a Cabbage Patch. There is nothing like the yearning of a beloved little kid to get parents in the can-do mode!

    My mailbox is flooded today with 40 percent off, 50 percent off! Is there such a thing as "full price" anymore?

    Happy friday, all! I am ALMOST done with my first draft!!! Yay me. Sometimes a little bit of it is even good.

  4. Congrats on the first draft, Hank! I'm working on revisions as my boys go our for haircuts....

    I'm enjoying all the sale emails I'm getting -- lots of online browsing -- while still in my PJs with a mug of coffee!

  5. I've never shopped the day after Thanksgiving. I'm usually suffering from a food coma! I don't know how people have the energy to move, frankly.

    I'm like your mother--shop throughout the year. My yearly goal is to have all gifts purchased, wrapped and ready to go by December 1. That way, I can hibernate the rest of the month. I like shopping this way because I can be more thoughtful in what I get people, since there is no rush or panic--and there is no sticker shock in my checking account!

  6. The photos are fantastic. Especially the ones of the women all dressed up and made up and the men carrying mounds of packages. No Black Friday for me. Online all the way! And local. I love to shop locally.

  7. A friend posted a picture on facebook this morning, very early, of herself in a group of women in the pitch dark off to Target and the outlets. Nooooo! I don't ever go to malls anymore. I shop less and less each year, and what I do is local or online.

    I like Susan's idea of watching a movie!

  8. This is actually a pretty good day to go to the grocery store. Most people are out in the non-food stores today or still have turkey left.

    Rod and I have often worked at our respective media jobs on Thanksgiving, so having the day off to enjoy the iconic meal together was wonderful and a treat worth savoring in itself. Today will be nearly 60 degrees, so we have plans to put up our icicle lights. Sixty degrees in Connecticut in November. Amazing.

    Yesterday, while the consumed turkey processed, I did some Black Friday shopping online. Like Julia, it's for usually things we need although I'm intrigued I "needed" that seriously marked-down suede fringe western skirt when I was ordering Rod's work jeans for half price. In my defense, I've had my eye on it for a while. If it fits, I'll channel a rodeo queen vibe at the CTRWA Holiday Party.

    1. Our tradition is to stay home and eat leftover sandwiches, make the best soups we'll have until the following Black Friday, visit with our guests or hosts--this year from Denmark

  9. Did you know they now have Black Friday in the UK?? Ack. And it makes no sense as they don't celebrate Thanksgiving. I guess it's just the last Friday in November...

    I am so glad to be home and NOT out shopping today. It's 43 degrees and raining steadily. Our family tradition on the day after Thanksgiving is to put up Christmas lights, but that's not happening this weekend!

    Reine, you must give us your soup recipes.

    And Julia, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the photos!

  10. No Black Friday for me. It sounds ominous. Actually I don't like malls and do my best to stay out of them. Our neighborhood merchants will have a stay open late and serve wine and goodies event next Friday. If the weather cooperates we'll indulge and maybe do some shopping for Christmas. The street is usually closed off to traffic and there will be live music. And did I mention wine and goodies to eat?
    My husband left around 10:00 this morning to check out some Black Friday deals and go to a bait cannon demonstration. Yep. Bait cannon. Any bets on if he buys one?

  11. I agree that the photos are great, Julia! There have only been a few times I've done Black Friday shopping, and the last time was when my son was a senior in high school, ten years ago. His girlfriend and I were at our local mall by 4 a.m. to snag one of the ten X-Boxes that were new that year for my son.

    I have some gifts already bought, and the rest that I need won't be that hard to find. I'm sure I'll do shopping online, too. My daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters just left from Thanksgiving yesterday and spending the night, and I enjoyed them so much. The girls helped me decorate the Christmas tree last night, and we played games this morning. Now, I'm going to sit in my reading chair, drink coffee, have a little cranberry orange nut tea cake, and read or do catching up on FB. It's perfectly still, as my husband is in the family room watching TV with the door shut. I can't imagine what I would want bad enough to pull me out into the mess of Black Friday today. Oh, and we will go to his mother's house at 4 to watch basketball.

  12. I don't want to say never because you know what happens then. But if at all humanly possible I will never shop - maybe groceries - on Black Friday.

  13. Glad you all enjoy the pictures! Instead of hitting the malls, the whole family (all 12 of us!) went to the National Zoo this morning. Beautiful sunny 67 (!) degree weather and even though the parking lots were full to overflowing, it still didn't feel crowded.

    However, I just got a report from the Smithie, with, with Ross and the Boy, stayed for more sightseeing and a late lunch in Georgetown. (Youngest and I are back at the hotel so she can study for midterms.) Smithie texted me they'd been looking for a restaurant for an hour...every place they tried was filled to capacity with Back Friday shoppers.

  14. Heading home now from Thanksgiving in NY so THANKS for the tip about grocery stores being quiet, Rhonda - We left most of the leftovers behind us.

  15. As I remember, when I was little, blue laws kept stores from being open on Sundays. My dad's family owned a department store, so it never much surprises me that people have to work on this day after Thanksgiving. (Those same blue laws kept stores closed on Thanksgiving Day and I don't remember 5 am openings.)
    Maybe just from knowing how tired Daddy was, he seemed to disappear from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, I avoid in-person-go-to-a-store shopping in December.
    Julia, thanks for the wonderful photos. They have triggered memories of shopping trips to NYC with my mother in 1950s. Hope your family found food...

  16. I really want to hang you with you all. I think we're kindred spirits of a sort.

    I ONCE went to downtown Boston the day after Thanksgiving. This was before it was known as BF. The days of Filene's and Jordan Marsh and Raymond's and the smaller stores on Winter St. I was visiting a friend in W Roxbury and, for a kid from Maine, this was a big deal.

    As kids we always spent Thanksgiving at my grandparents' in Quincy. We'd go on Saturday to the Enchanted Village at Jordan Marsh and see Santa. I'm glad to hear the whole Village is now available in Avon at Jordan's Furniture. It must be 50 years since I've gone to see it but I'd love to go again.

    I'll shop tomorrow on Small Business Saturday. Last year we went to lunch at a local restaurant and we each got 50% off coupons for an entree on our next visit. I love small businesses.

  17. Apparently I lack the shopping gene; for me, it's a chore, not a sport. Relaxing, reading, on nice days taking a walk or visiting the zoo or garden . . . but not fighting crowds for bargains. Hugs to all, and huzzah, Hank, for writing accomplished!

  18. Marianne in Maine, I did exactly the same thing when my grandparents lived by St. Greg's. xo