Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Shopping - Enter At Your Own Risk

Last week, my husband and I decided to attempt shopping the early morning sales on Black Friday. I had assumed that the term ‘black’ was a financial term, meaning that the stores did so well that they went from the red ink of loss to the black ink of profit. But after actually participating, I realize the connotation is more ominous and akin to ‘Black Plague’ or ‘Black Widow.’

I joke about this, but the after Thanksgiving sales are a big deal for retailers and they put a lot of marketing ideas and dollars into figuring out ways to beat out their competition for those early morning shoppers. For example, the earlier you open, the sooner Joe and Jane consumer can spend their hard earned cash at your establishment. Six, five and even four a.m. is not too early. And if a store’s sales are really extraordinary a tent village will spring up around your front door, signaling to the world that those five Wii games for 95% off are already history.

Some retailers give away freebees to encourage customers to shop at their stores. Donuts, coffee, hot cocoa… One year I stood in line for thirty minutes in sub freezing temperatures at five in the morning, with over two hundred other people, just to get the free hot wheel car they were handing out and the possibility of a $100 shopping spree if you got the lucky car. I didn’t win the prize, but after buying two more hot wheel cars at fifty cents each, I had a stocking stuffer for each of my three boys.

Once in the store, it didn’t take me long to realize what an amateur I was at this. I watched one large family arrive and work the store like a well oiled military machine. One person got in line, while the others fanned out through the aisles, cell phones turned on and in hand.

“This is Katelynn checking in, just got the Easy Bake Oven for 60% off.”

“They’re running low on Guitar Hero, can someone create a diversion while I grab the last two?”

“I’m up to the register in five, everyone back to base.”

And the lines, oh my goodness. You stand in them to get into the door and then you stand in them to get out. We spent more time in long serpentine chains that wove through the aisles and around the store than we ever did shopping. One enterprising department store had clerks walking up and down the lines promising a shorter check out at customer service for any customer willing to apply for their credit card. Kind of a sneaky retail form of blackmail.

By eleven oclock, we dragged back into the house, tired and foot weary. As we made our way into the bedroom with our super duper savings tucked under our arms, ready to be hidden away for wrapping, we were accosted by our teenage son.

“You already did your Christmas shopping?” he asked?

“Sure did,” his father said with a tired smile, “And we’ve bought all your gifts.”

“Are you crazy?” our darling son responded. “You don’t even know what I want!”

“You want what we got you and don’t forget it!”

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