Why I’m a sucker for Black Friday shopping

Every year, I contemplate if it’s worth it: the dark drive before dawn, the hunt alongside ravenous shoppers, the conquest of discounted merchandise before latecomers.

We all heard about the life claimed by Black Friday in 2008. A temporary worker at a Long Island, NY, Wal-Mart died after being trampled to death in a stampede of 2,000 people. A judge later upheld a $7,000 fine against the company in March 2011, on the grounds that Wal-Mart ought to enforce order and control among the rowdy mob.

Yet each year, fanatics, myself included, hop into their cars en route to the mall of their choice. Bellies still bloated with Thanksgiving dinner, they stand in line before doors open, eager to jump on the hottest deals.

It’s 3:30 in the morning when I wake up. I usually glance around my room. Last year, I spotted my boots on the floor, leather worn with streaks, premature holes near the soles. I ought to buy different boots this time, I thought.

That’s one excuse.

After I peel myself from my bed sheets, I wake up the oversleepers, usually my mother, who we force to join the madness. My sister throws on sweats every year. No makeup. She’s in it to win it. Comfortable shoes are a must for Black Friday at King of Prussia. I slip Dr. Scholl’s insoles into my boots, the gel kind.

We’re out the door by 4:30 a.m., at the latest. Doors open at 4 a.m. at K.O.P., but my gang’s not among the top breed of Black Friday shoppers who wait in a line that wraps around the mall. When we arrive, having survived Valley Forge, the parking lot is impossible. No glow of a sunrise yet, and the lot is packed.

We question our sanity. Adrenaline sets in.

We review our target spots as we make the trek from one extreme of the parking lot to the mall entrance. Express is a yes. Macy’s for sure. Aeropostale and Forever 21 are out. The scene at both is pure chaos — the result of teenyboppers running amok. Though both are no oddity.

At almost every store, clothes have formed a new layer over the floor. Customers practically mop the ground as the merchandise drags under their shoes. Lines wrap around the perimeter of the store. Grumpy customers squeeze by clothing racks and snag the last in their size off a mannequin.

Our decision to shop on this day is justified when we spot signs like “50% off everything” at New York & Company. “Buy one, get one FREE” signs are our favorite. Many stores make ridiculous markdowns on select items, such as sweaters and jeans. H&M prices some articles as low as $5.

This year, for the first time in Black Friday history, stores like Best Buy, most Macy’s stores and Target will open at midnight. Some customers may also dine on their turkey and stuffing while camped outside of Wal-Mart, which announced earlier this month that its doors will open at 10 p.m. on Thursday. Best Buy and Wal-Mart lure electronic fiends with their insanely low prices.

Limited sale hours create the frenzy of arriving early; most stores end Black Friday sales at 11 a.m. The theory behind camping outside of stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy comes from the race to purchase limited store items. Wal-Mart, for example, may only carry five or eight of a television or camera model.

Though I steer clear of Wal-Mart on Black Friday, I will do my own share of damage to my wallet until at least noon, at which point my girls and I hit the cafeteria to refuel for the drive home. It may take some effort to stash our thousand bags in the trunk and we’ll hit our beds hard, for sure, but then there’s always Thanksgiving leftovers to reheat.

Now it’s time to plan our actual day of Christmas shopping… for everyone else.

Vanessa Martinez is a freelance reporter for NewsWorks. 

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