I went out on Black Friday at midnight and all I got was this pair of sparkly silver shoes.
Never in my life have I gotten up at the crack of crazy and joined the masses of shoppers standing in line to score a freebie or loads of marked-down merchandise. A free tote bag or some cheesy ornament has just never been enough to drag me out of bed in the dark. Plus, I try not to stand in line anywhere other than the grocery store, post office and Disneyland. Plus, if something is going to be given to ” the first 100 people in the door!” that will never be me. Ever. I’m never first, I’m never early and I have never won a drawing of any kind. Ever.
But this year, I thought, why not? I had heard some of our malls were going to open at midnight, which is perfect for night owls like me! That, I could do. So I asked my sister if she’d be up for it (she was) and then I pondered whether the twins were old enough to do something so crazy with me (they were). So after sufficiently carbo-loading at the Thanksgiving feast hosted by my in-laws (who told us how ridiculous they thought our idea was), we set out around 11:30 p.m.
When we arrived at the mall, I was surprised to see the parking lot full, and yes, a line, forming near the entrance. “What?” I said aloud. “Who else besides us was crazy enough to come out shopping at midnight?” Apparently, lots of people. A little after midnight, the doors opened to cheers and then a mob of people running for the door.
Earlier in the day, I had combed through the sales ads in our massive paper, circling what I wanted and where. The malls were offering a deal that if you spend $100, you get a $50 gift card. “No problem, we could do that easily,” I told my sister, especially at the big stores like Macy’s and JCPenney. ”Let’s go to JCPenney first!” I said, leading the way. Leading the way right to a big closed gate. “What?” I said, stopping in my tracks. I spotted a security guard and asked him why it wasn’t open. “Oh, the anchor stores aren’t participating. They’re opening at 4, and I would guess the lines will start forming at 3.”
“Let’s just leave and go to Toys R Us across the street,” I said to my sister, since that was to be an “if we’re still awake” stop after the mall. “No, you dragged me here, now we’re gonna shop!” she insisted. So, we joined the sea of people flooding down the mall. And yes, a sea it was. I had never seen it this crowded even in the middle of the busiest day. And people were running! Running!
Oh, I realized, it’s because some of the stores are giving out gift cards to the first 100 people in the door, like it says in the flyer we had to stand in line to collect when we came in. Already, we were too late. Lines were forming outside of those stores, complete with those velvet movie-theater ropes!
Our first stop was Children’s Place, but it was so crowded I couldn’t even make my way through the racks to look. Besides, we were here to Christmas shop, and my girls don’t think of clothes as gifts yet. My sister spent $40 on jeans for her boys.
Next, we went to Payless, which was having a “Buy One, Get One Half-Off” sale. “A BOGO!” we shouted in unison. But again, here we were in another un-Christmas-shopping store. My sister spied these cool sparkly silver shoes and had to have them for her daughter. She peer-pressured me into buying an identical pair for Little Miss so the cousins can have matching shoes. I did only because of the BOGO. And to help bring her closer to the $100 so we could leave the godforsaken mall. I gave her my receipt, which brought her up to $60 toward the $100 necessary for the gift card. Ugh. $40 more to go.
Next we went into the pet shop, which was, again an un-Christmas-shopping store, seeing as we are petless at the moment. Then she wanted to go to Victoria’s Secret. “No, because then I’ll only want to shop for myself and that’s not why I’m here,” I argued. “Plus, look at the line to pay!” I said, noticing it bisected the store almost to the door.
We made our way back into the fray of the mall, noticing a crazy loooonnnnggg line of people stretching, literally, from end to end. It wasn’t long before we figured out those were the people standing in line waiting for their $5o gift card. You’ve got to be kidding.
“I will pay you $50 to not stand in that line,” I implored. Luckily, she took no convincing. (Nor did she take me up on my offer.)
We decided to leave, but first the twins wanted a cinnamon pretzel. It was two o’clock in the morning! Gross! But what the heck, I thought. We only do this once. I stood in another line, behind all the other people wanting pretzels at two o’clock in the morning, while my sister took the girls into Claire’s, which was, of course, too crowded for them to look around. I got Diet Cokes for my sister and me, figuring we’d need the caffeine to keep us awake on our drives home.
At last, we headed into the refreshing night air to drive across the street to Toys R Us. But guess what? The parking lot there was nearly full. Whaatt??? I really did think that not many people would be out that late (or early?), thinking the real die-hards would be hitting all the “doorbuster” sales at 4.
I said I was new at this.
I should’ve known it was bad when there were no carts at the entrance. Eventually, deep inside the store, I was able to hi-jack an empty one that looked abandoned.
“OK, this is like a treasure hunt,” I told the girls, who were wearing thin. “Let’s find this GlowDoodle,” I instructed, showing them my circled catalog. Nope. Sold out. Next item: a doll that swims that Little Miss had been wanting. Nope. All that was left were boys and a bald black girl. “Buy it!” my sister said. “It’s only $19.99! I paid $34 for mine!”
“No, she won’t like those,” I said.
“If you don’t buy that, then you’re being racist,” my sister said, pointing to the black doll.
“Oh, puh-lease. It’s not because she’s black, it’s because she’s bald!” I said, reminding her that Little Miss is obsessed with long hair. “And besides,” I said, “Did you not see the Princess Tiana doll in my cart? Not racist!” I said.
As I moved our cart to the back of the store—the back, where all the bikes and bigger toys are—a way-too-chipper-for-Toys-R-Us-employee said, “Ready to check out?”
“Oh, you mean you’ve got registers set up back here?” I said, marveling at their forethought.
“Uh, no, that’s where the line starts,” she said.
That was it. It was now 3 a.m. and I wanted to go home and get the girls and me to bed, where we should’ve been hours ago. I found my sister, who was too overwhelmed to have put one thing in the cart yet, and I told her the situation. Then I led us to the front of one of the lines, where a woman was draped over her overfilled cart, looking as if she were on her last leg. “How long have you been waiting in line?” I asked. “Too long,” she replied, all bleary-eyed and dazed. A nearby employee said, “We’re estimating it to be at least one hour.”
No. Way. At that, we ditched our cart and the few items I did put in it (sorry, Toys R Us workers!) and headed for the exit.
It was there, by the registers, that I realized that there are those who are cut out for Black Friday, and those who are not. I am in the latter category, obviously. I dead-stopped to gape at a woman, all smiles as she handed over her card to the cashier, managing her two shopping carts full of stuff piled higher than her head. Even the bottom racks were jammed. I grabbed my sister’s arm and speechlessly pointed at the woman. She had a huge notebook in her hand, and I saw a bunch of names, lists and crossed-out items. Obviously, she accomplished her mission.
I’ve never felt like such a failure in my life. Where was my notebook? Where were my lists? Where were my two carts? How come she was able to find everything and make it through that line?
I failed Black Friday. In the words of Bobby Brady, “I’m a loser.”
Outside the store, we made our way past the throngs of people outside, heaped with boxes and bags, waiting to be picked up to load their cars, like it was the airport. “I thought we were in a recession!” I said, annoyed, as we headed to our cars. And then we drove home. It was after 3 a.m. The girls were asleep before we even got out of the parking lot. And I only bought those sparkly shoes.
The next morning (well, hours later, I mean), I excitedly showed them to Little Miss, letting her open the “surprise” bag.
“Oh. I thought it was going to be something with princesses on it,” she said, tossing them aside.
Mission so not accomplished.
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