Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday bites

I have never been much of a shopper. Too many choices, crowds and my indecisive habit of returning things often leads to a stressful Mommy meltdown. So what possessed me to venture out with the masses at midnight on Black Friday remains a mystery. Maybe it was the consumer spirit and the dangling possibility that I could save $50 on a Kindle. Or the idea that my kids and I could do some bonding while buying. Then again, it was probably just the thrill of being part of consumer madness and the novelty of it all.

Whatever the reason...it was a terrible choice and one I will not soon repeat or forget.

While there were no pepper spray or shootings, there was:

  • Honkin' long lines that truly did wrap around the perimeters of buildings
  • Lack of sleep (it was midnight after all)
  • Limited parking
  • Rain
  • Two cash poor children whose idea of Black Friday turned out to be shopping for themselves and wanting Mom to pay for part of an "early Christmas"
  • Long lines in the stores that wrapped up and down and around the aisles so if you wanted to actually shop on those aisles you did so at your own risk of bumping someone and ticking people off
And so it began. First at Target where we sat in the car with the motor running for about 10 minutes before acknowledging that we would indeed have to go stand in the snaking line if we ever wanted to get into the store. Shivering, we got in line about 10 minutes until midnight wondering how long the rest of the shoppers had been there. Did they get any turkey? Did they care?

Once the doors open with lack of fanfare that we could hear, we began to move along at a rather good clip until 35 minutes later...we were in! I headed to electronics sidestepping people with shopping carts already full of flat screen TVS. I quickly discovered another line and though I was pretty sure I'd missed my Kindle opportunity, went ahead and joined others in the baby aisle, all waiting to get a device that would make Charles Dickens and Tolstoy cringe. The only reason I liked our Kindle (the one I was buying was for a school auction) was that finding the time to read and concentrate for an extended period of time had become harder in my old age and with our busy family schedule. So unless it was a chicklet book, or something I could finish in the 3 weeks the library allowed one to check out a tome, the Kindle was my saviour.

I noticed while meditating in the baby aisle that there were sure a lot more doodads and outfits for wee ones than when my now tween and teen were tots. While we relied on unisex white onsies in the hot summer months our kids were born, they now how had a bountiful garden of patterns and colors to suit all baby personalities. Not to mention all the "childproof" toys and rattles. What every happened to a plastic block or old sock?

Finally, I reached the counter and low and behold I got one of the last remaining Kindles at the discount. "Is there any special offer or catch I need to know about," I asked the beleaguered clerk. He looked confused then shook his head. Move along lady.

I quickly texted my 12-year-old with plans to get the hell out of there, but when I found her she had three little hand picked items in her cart. No discounts applied but she was pretty happy with her finds...including a $17 shirt for herself which I quickly shot down. I showed her the lines weaving through cosmetics and back to plastics. "Do you really want to stand in that?" I promised to bring her back tomorrow (really?) and we left the little basket in the card section for some exhausted clerk to put up at 5 a.m. Or whenever they got to go home.

Then it was off to the mall to find my older child who had been shopping for a coat and waiting patiently. By now, the little one was getting highly pissed off as this was her idea to begin with and by George she was going to do some shopping! I again, gave the guilt trip to my older child who had an armful of sweaters, a shirt, a cap and, yes, the coat. I explained that Santa was not going to bring this followed by a lecture about giving vs. receiving. We filtered out most of the stuff and I sent them off to Old Navy to see if there was a cheaper coat. I stood in line...and stood in line...and stood in line. It was not moving. Finally after 30 minutes, and another text saying, yes indeed there was a coat for $25 at Old Navy, I got up to the cash register only to be told by the clerk that she was leaving now and no, there was not anyone coming to take over. I dramatically threw all the items on a table full of clearance purses and marched to Old Navy to see said cheap coat.

By then, younger daughter had dispensed to my LEAST favorite store in the mall, Hollister (more on that later). Older child was in line with a square of shapeless gray flannel. I asked him to model it for me and we both quickly agreed that the Macy's coat, while more, was much better. So I dispatched him back to Macy's to find the pile of clothes on the purses (with specific coordinates so he would not get lost and pick up some other frustrated shoppers discards) and went to find the tween.

Upon approaching Hollister, I took a deep breath. You really need to know three things about Hollister in order to prepare yourself before entering. It is very dark, has incredible deafening music blaring and only beautiful, blemish-free teens are allowed to work there according to rumor. As I got near the store, I blinked twice, as two very buff, topless young Adonis young men stood there in barefeet and swim trunks welcoming shoppers (even middle-aged ladies in sweats and an unflattering ponytail) into their den of hedonism and sexy clothes. Once inside, squinted looking around for my child. I texted. She texted back that she was in the store. "WHERE!" I shouted on my phone. Suddenly she was at my side showing me a sheer, ruffly blouse that she just had to have and it was 50 percent off. I was very tired at this point and did not have another lecture in me so I told her "fine, use your hard-earned babysitting money on yourself and see if I care that when relatives got a round of homemade gifts even though they are helping the economy by buying needless things for you!" She smiled and flounced off to buy her negligee, I mean shirt.

Back I dashed, past my surfer body builder boys, to Macy's where child #1 was in line. I quickly instructed him to stay put while I went to see the price on the new perfume by Justin Beiber. For girls, of course (for more on Justin, read my other blog on the subject. And for the record, I am told there is NO way he got that girl pregnant because he never met her and really, after all, he's Justin). While it smelled nice and flowery, I was not going to spend $65 on a box set of J.B. scents and CD and poster (Ok, it would have made a certain 12 year old very happy)...at least not now.

Back in line, we got the coat and shirt then discovered that the Sherlock Holmes green sweater, which we thought was 60 percent off was only 60 percent off until 1 a.m. -- a morning special! The look of sadness on my child's face must have made an impression on the saleslady as she did some magic on her keyboard and gave us the discount.

While waiting for the princess, who apparently was back in Old Navy searching for us, I left child #1 with purchases and dashed off to find a much needed bathroom. There is nothing worse than Black Friday with fatigue except really needing to go. Luckily, Macy's has nice bathrooms and nobody else was there so NO LINE!

I returned to my children with a desperate plea of "can we please go now before Mommy has a breakdown?" Say no more, they had been there and did not want that. Plus I think they were a little tired too.

We arrived home at 2:30 a.m. with a few purchases and some memories and a reminder that the stores would be there tomorrow, the sales would still be on, and that we had survived our first, and probably last, Black Friday.

I fell into bed exhausted with just a glimmer of satisfaction of my Kindle savings and bafflement that many people found joy in the midnight hunt for savings.

Let them have it.

I hoped those Hollister boys did not catch cold.