My Black Friday shopping adventure

Everyone has seen pictures of Black Friday shoppers waiting in line overnight in the cold to snag bargains when the stores open in the early hours of the morning. But if you’re like me you’ve never been tempted before to venture out yourself to line up in the wee hours.

This year was different for me. For one thing the local Target promised to open at midnight instead of 5 a.m. Second, I had been persuaded by enthusiastic users that the Amazon Kindle electronic reader was something I should acquire and would enjoy using. Third, the local Target had the Kindle on sale Black Friday for a price significantly lower than that charged by Amazon itself.

I figured I’d drive up to Target at midnight, buy the Kindle, and be home asleep not much past my usual bedtime. I arrived before midnight and observed that while the parking lot was packed, no one was in line at the entrance I usually use. Maybe they were all waiting in their cars? I parked where I could see the entrance, and saw several groups of people approach the entrance and then walk away. Hmm….

So I get out of my car and walk to the entrance where signs announce that entry to the Black Friday sale would be only through the OTHER entrance. I look over at the other entrance and see people bunched up there. I decide to walk over and see how long the line is. There are state police officers and security people of all kinds, and barricades to keep people in line. The line extends around the corner of the store. I wonder how long the line is around the corner, so I keep walking.

The line snakes around the edge of the shopping center for as far as the eye can see! Now I’m curious to see how long the line really is, so I walk through the parking lot looking for the end of the line. Finally I find it, about as far from the entrance to Target as you can get and still be in the same shopping center.

This is ridiculous, I think. No way the savings on a Kindle, which is available instantly from Amazon, could justify standing in this line. But I’ve already walked the length of the shopping center, and I’m thinking the line should move quickly once the doors open. And I have to walk back to my car parked near the Target entrances anyway. So….

I’m right that the line does move steadily, but slowly, once the doors open. But because the line is so long, it takes me nearly an hour to get to the Target entrance. I enter the store before 1 a.m., and resolve to just get the Kindle and go.

I ask one of the greeters where to get the Kindle, and she directs me to what she calls the Kindle line, but which turns out to be the line for all electronics. This line twists up and down the aisles of the music and book departments, and unlike the line outside, you can’t see where it ends or how long the line is!

I ask the couple in front of me if they’ve done this before. Oh yes, they say, they do it every year!

The store is absolutely packed with people. Some people seem to be shopping in teams, talking on their cell phones to describe what they’ve found, what they’re looking for, and where they are in the store. While we’re standing in line between shelves of books and music, shoppers are actually threading their way in and out of the line to look at the books and music on the shelves! One lady manages to push her cart into the middle of our line, telling the lady she cut in front of some lame story about having been here before and being told by a manager she could get back into line. When the second lady complains to a Target worker, the worker looks at her blankly and just walks away without a word.

Finally I reach the front of the line, receive my Kindle, and am directed to an express check-out register. I grab my bag and look at my watch. It’s 2 a.m. I naively wonder if I should pick up some groceries as I would usually do at Target. But I see the long single line of shoppers, laden with merchandise, waiting to check out, and decide my adventure is complete.

No, the savings on my Kindle did not even come close to justifying my expenditure of time. And I’ll never do Black Friday again. But it was a great and uniquely American experience, and gave me something to write about!

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