black friday or bleak friday?

I must say that when I heard that a good number of retailers were opening at midnight on the Friday after Thanksgiving or, worse yet, on Thanksgiving Day, I was furious. For one of the least commercial holidays to suddenly be all about commercialism and getting a leg up on Christmas shopping (because isn’t that what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown?), was nothing short of sacrilege in my eyes. But the rich had found a way to get richer and the workers, pulling in a mighty eight to ten bucks an hour while being pulled away from their family dinners, be damned.

I have to admit, I like me a good bargain. I work too hard and save too hard to squander what I have, so when a day like Black Friday comes along I try to take advantage of the sales. No, I’m not one to camp out in front of the Best Buy several days in advance in order to pocket the latest big-screen-TV  (and then turn around and sell it on Craigslist), but I’ve been known to get up before the sun shines to at least get a bargain appliance or the latest video game for my kids at discount prices. It had become a bit of a tradition for me as well to slip out in the dark of morning before the kids had yet stirred and returning soon after they rose.

And that’s one tradition I was happy to continue until Black Friday became Black Thursday this year. Upon first hearing of the change, I was stunned and wished that this experiment would fail. I don’t have the data yet on how it went for the major retailers, but from my own observations it was a bust.

I woke at my usual 5 a.m. today and I did get out of bed, but I couldn’t bring myself to shower, dress, and make my way out in the shopping world. So, I went about my usual morning routine and when everything I needed to do had been accomplished, I decided to get a firsthand look at what had become of “the first shopping day of the Christmas season.”

What I found made me flabbergasted. Pulling into my usual mall parking lot, I observed the same number of cars I would normally find on any given Saturday morning of the year. I was even able to take my favorite spot in the lot. Inside the Target store it was much the same as outside–some shoppers milling around, but no one making mad dashes for the dozens (and I mean dozens) of leftover $19 DVD players or the stacks of discounted DVDs, video games, clothes, toys, and games. Carts were not filled to the brim. Shoppers were carefully thinking through their purchases and anyone who needed to check out was able to pull up to a checkstand without a wait. Reverse the reel to last year when the line to the checkstands snaked in and out of the aisles of the baby department and nearly three-quarters of the length of the south wall of the store.  Carts were overflowing with bargains such as $3 toasters and $3 coffeemakers, neither of which was offered this year. In fact, most of the deals were not steals.

Maybe the crazy shoppers who don’t mind camping out at the front door had come and gone long before I entered the store (and that’s likely the case), but there was still way more merchandise eight hours after opening than typically clears out in just an hour of most other Black Fridays.

I’m looking forward to hearing the stats on just how well Target, Walmart, Macy’s and the like fared on this Black Thanksgiving. I’m hoping for a turkey.