Thursday, November 27, 2008

12 Reasons to Avoid Black Friday

As I sit here with my pants not only unbuttoned but unapologetically unzipped following the overeating marathon that is Thanksgiving, I can only imagine the frantic preparations that are taking place in retail stores everywhere in anticipation of the hordes that will beat down the doors in mere hours.

Yes, as the boys battle out the forces of good and evil on the X-Box while the older folks trade valuable tidbits of gossip (mostly about how to score free medication or where to stock up on the cheapest salmon per pound), I can finally slouch over in front of my computer, catch up on emails, and give my overstuffed gut some room to breathe. After 2 Thanksgiving dinners at 2 different family members' houses -- complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, and various assortments of pie -- I look forward to nothing more than snoozing late the day after Thanksgiving and slumming in my bathrobe and slippers. Maybe catching a few deals online with the couple dozen coupons that inundate my inbox daily. Or, maybe just trolling the silent halls of eBay to see if I can find that obscure J.Crew sweater from seasons past or an unloved Coach bag that someone is trading up.

Probably the last thing on my mind, as I yawn and stretch luxuriously in my favorite chair in the pleasantly serene office that I share with the dining set and the cat's sun chair, is bolting out of bed in just a few hours, rushing out into the cold, and making a beeline for an overcrowded parking lot at the nearest mall. Yet, that is exactly what tens of millions of Americans do every single year. Beginning in the bitter, dark, wee hours of the pre-morning, mobs of rabid shoppers pumped up on caffeine and possibly amphetamines camp out in front of strip malls across the country waiting for the air horn to sound the alarm at opening hour. At precisely that magic moment, the feeding frenzy begins. Masses upon human masses literally swarm in through all accessible entrances and proceed to ravage the interior of the retail establishment, filling up carts and hauling armfuls of bargains to the checkout until only crushed boxes are left in the shell of a store. That's just in the first 10 minutes.

In the 10 minutes that ensue, you can witness a deliciously naughty array of psychological experiments gone awry as 3000 sleep-deprived, cranky people lose all sense of civility and effectively start to beat each other silly over the last free iPod or $500 Sony television. That's when it gets really good. Intelligent people start grunting and hooting like orangutans and and normally docile PTA moms rip each other's hair out while fighting over Wii games and Wonder Pets “This is Serious!” Ming-Ming from Fisher Price - both on this year's "Hot Dozen" toy list. People have been known to bite, stab, and break each other's limbs. It goes without saying that many have been trampled almost to death. Even Canadians and Mexicans join in each year as thousands drive across the borders to partake in our version of the running of the bulls. If you haven't experienced it, you're missing quite a spectacle. Wal-Mart and Best Buy seem to bring in the most festivities. Just observe some of the Black Friday madness on You Tube:

Clearly, there are those who would disagree with my assessment. The early bird gets the worm on Black Friday, and to many, it's worth the Olympic tribulations. According to Wallet Pop, here are some things the winners hope to score in the coming hours: At Wal-Mart, "doorbusters from 5am to 11am include $15 Blu-ray discs, $2 DVDs, a $15 Shop-Vac, $10 toys and a $199 X-Box." At Target (among my perennial favorites), "the big price drop is on a 26" HDTV from Westinghouse for $299, but there's also a $99.99 GPS system, a $69 digital camcorder, video games as low as $7 and $44 iPod dock." Best Buy -- never one to disappoint -- will be offering slashed prices on HDTVs and doorbusters like "an $899 50" Viera HDTV... a $59.99 digital camera, a $379 Toshiba laptop and Guns n' Roses new album for $11.99." Wow, the new G 'N' R album, really? Just for that, I might stay up all night and camp out with the rest of the foaming-at-the-mouth population. Not to be outdone, Circuit City will be doorbusting out "a 42" Samsung HDTV for $699.99 or a $79.99 Samsung digital camera or $2.00 DVDs and CDs."

Fighting, screaming, gnashing of teeth? No thanks, I'll take Purgatory. Heck, I barely get the nerve to go to Wal-Mart on a slow day. And it's almost impossible to find parking at Tysons Corner Center (our version of Rodeo Drive) on any given Saturday. Even the 2 weeks before December 25th is the Nightmare before Christmas in the stores. Between the long lines, impatient shoppers, crying children, and nauseatingly cheerful music, my eyes see stars and my head just spins.

"What?" my friend barks upon hearing that I'll be sitting this wrestling mania out. A bargain princess like me miss such valuable shopping opportunities so I can rest in bed, read magazines, watch movies, and enjoy a perfectly percolated coffee? You betcha!

To add insult to injury (literally), the Black Friday madness has started to spill over into Thanksgiving Day, a previously hallowed day of family bonding in relative calm. While I sit here and write this, I am alerted to frequent update reports that 18 major retailers have now pre-empted the Friday frenzy and started giving away deals online. As we speak, Wal-Mart peddles the X-Box 360 Thanksgiving Day Value Bundle starting at $288, a $60 savings (too bad it's already sold out). Target is throwing out Guitar Hero World Tour Bundle for Wii at a rock-bottom $59. Or, you can get a real, bonafide guitar for just $69. Take that, Nintendo.

Truthfully, after perusing the promised land of doorbusters and online bargains, I'm not hugely impressed. A few of the deals look tantalizing, but some of the deals, like $100 off a $1700 HDTV, doesn't make me jump out of my seat. That's why I've always held out for the after-holiday sales. Combined with the feeding frenzy that promises to ensue, I can think of better ways to spend the day after Thanksgiving.

Stop the insanity! Don't give in to the madness of Black Friday! Celebrate "Do Nothing Day" instead. I promise your world won't come to an end. Folks, you heard it here first. Need more reasons to avoid the malls tomorrow? Here are 12:

1. You can sleep in and still catch a matinee with the whole family or friends who are in town. With the money you'll save off current movie prices, you can buy a tub of popcorn and a family-sized box of candy with no guilt whatsoever!

2. Two words: homemade waffles. They're not just for breakfast anymore.

3. Sure, beating the crap out of the next-door neighbor (the one who always lets his dog poop in your yard) for the last doorstopper digital camera deal at Best Buy is satisfying. Even more satisfying is sneaking over the fence before he returns from the stores and installing a giant dartboard pattern in Christmas lights right on door. Score extra points for relocating a family of gnomes to his rooftop.

4. Instead of spending money, why not invest what you would have spent at the stores? In 2007, the average Black Friday consumer spent $347. If you invest that amount and it earns an annually compounded interest rate of 9%, you'll have... a whopping $821.48 in 10 years! Okay, maybe the Jimmy Choos on sale are a better investment.

5. You can get a head start on writing Christmas cards. You'll need all the goodwill you can muster when people find out you're not getting them presents this year.

6. Another J.Crew discount code will come around sooner or later. If you can swallow the monstrously indecent shipping charges, you can finally buy those ridiculously overpriced but beautiful and perfectly-printed heels you've been eyeing. Oh, and maybe pick up some shearling earmuffs and Fair Isle sweaters for you pooch.

7. I'll bet the DMV is is eerily empty the day after Thanksgiving...

8. Can you think of a better time to catch up on all those missed episodes of The Office?

9. You're still paying off your credit card from the whole year's worth of "bargains." Sheesh!

10. If you're dying to run like hell and sweat it out with your arms full of heavy objects, at least put on some superfly workout gear and get your butt to the gym. Something tells me the proportion of hot buff men to women will be about 20:1 on Black Friday. The low-hanging fruit is ripe for the picking, gals.

11. eBay is always waiting for you with a can't-miss deal. You might even edge out the competition if you swipe the unwanteds while everyone else is out shopping.

12. You value life and limb, and you'll need both to shop the after-Christmas sales.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Leigh said...

I have never found the "deals and steals" worth the driving and stress of the mall. I tend to be a relatively savvy shopper all year round that I don't need to indulge on this one day. I will be home, enjoying a quiet day off from work.

3-Penny Princess said...

Amen, sister! You know a good deal when you see one. Who enjoys all that chaos, anyway? My husband tried to kick me out the door today to go shopping so he could play games and watch cartoons with his friends. No way, I told him - I need my arms and legs intact for the holidays.

Slastena said...

I was laughing as I was reading your post- very amusing and very true.:)
Black Fridays are definitely not my type of paradise, this is not the first and not the last one I am skipping.

FabulousFloridaMommy said...

Great post 3PP! I have never, ever gone shopping on Black Friday, and really have no desire or intention,'s just not worth all the crowds and hassle to save a couple bucks. ;)

3-Penny Princess said...

FFM - You're so right! I can barely bring myself to walk into a mall in the middle of a weekday in December... it's just overrun with people and there's nowhere to park. I am definitely buying as much as possible online this year. With all the unbelievable coupons I've been receiving in my inbox, I truly don't see the need to leave the house to shop this month (except for my weekly J.Crew store visit).

I just cleaned out the entire men's, women's, and children's sale section (minus what you ladies mopped up of course!) at jcrew online because I seriously could not find better deals anywhere! Between that and the 65-70% off the sale rack at the J.Crew store (which includes my 25% off card), I can't beat the deals.

Unfortunately, I might have to buy 1-2 electronic items after all for some people on my list. But even then, I think I can get better deals online these days.

FabulousFloridaMommy said...

3-Penny Princess: Do you think the J.Crew stores have better pricing than the online sale right now? Unfortunately my B&M didn't carry the items I just purchased online, so there was no chance of scoring a better deal if I DID go to the store...curious to know if the pricing difference is still extreme, though.

3-Penny Princess said...

FFM - it's hard to say who has the better deals right now. On the one hand, a lot of the items that were on sale online weren't on sale or priced as low in the stores. On the other hand, the stuff that is on the clearance rack in the stores are an additional 30-50% off, and they let me use my 25% coupon on top of that. I got a cashmere sweaters that had cost $160+ for around $30 and $150 pants for $50. Some tall boots that had cost $300 and the spectator Mary Jane heels that retailed for $238 were on clearance for good prices.

Probably the biggest reason I bought a lot online is because I bought so many gifts or items I wasn't sure of for myself. With the current policy of allowing online purchases to be returned, it's a lifesaver! Unfortunately, all sale items at stores are not returnable (that end with a .99 price, which were most of them). I guess I compared prices and got most stuff online, but I got what I could get cheaper at the store. The shipping has actually been pretty reasonable considering I've been making $500+ orders (after discount) and am paying $18.50 shipping. It seems to be a flat $18.50, so it doesn't matter how much I buy. Obviously I'd love free shipping, but I'm happy enough with all the great deals.

I went once the day before Thanksgiving and bought a couple of items, but I bought a whole bunch a couple of days ago. The lines were murderous this week! I'm going to stay away for a while because it's a giant mob scene. That's one of the best things about shopping online during the holiday season - no lines.

Also, as a cardholder, I never, ever have to experience being put on hold when I call in. They know when I'm calling from my phone, and I always get helped immediately. I never knew how valuable that perk was until I hit the holidays. Hopefully, my other perk will be huge rewards cards come January.

bug pin said...

Interesting to hear about the quick service upon calling in..I noticed that I didn't have the long waits that others were complaining about over at JCA while trying to rectify their TURKEY orders. Is that really true--they know you are calling?? That might explain something:)

3-Penny Princess said...

bug pin (love your name!), J.Crew cardholders go "to the front of the line" so to speak when they call from the phone number registered to their card. There isn't even a hold - you just get a person automatically. I know I've complained a lot about the slim benefits of being a cardholder -- since the monetary rewards definitely don't measure up to other cards. And most of the year, getting a CS rep quickly isn't a huge deal when the phones aren't going crazy. But boy, was it a godsend recently when I had lots of questions but not much time and the lines were jammed! During the holidays, it has become one of the great overlooked benefits for me.

Maybe it works like the red phone in the stores. Certain phone numbers are recognized as "friendly" or something and either get transferred to a different extension or are flagged as priority calls. Anyone know? In any case, I'm not complaining anymore about the J.Crew card!

Anonymous said...

why did you stop commenting on jcrew aficionada?

3-Penny Princess said...

Hi anon, thanks for visiting my blog! I actually still read the Aficionada daily, but I've just been insanely busy for the last couple of months and haven't really had time to read comments, let alone post any! I try to skim the daily posts and keep up with the coupons, but aside from the occasional weekly exchange comments, I haven't been able to participate in any conversatons. Maybe next year!

Happy holidays to you!