Before Thanksgiving last week, I had never participated in anything associated with the sociological event known as Black Friday. Normally, I will only get out of bed before dawn for a really good reason, and hours of shopping simply did not qualify.
On the night of Thanksgiving, my youngest brother was told to get a gift for my younger sister at Toys R’ Us this year. My other two brothers and I reluctantly decided to go with him. I assumed that if we got there right as the store opened at 9 p.m., we’d be in and out in an hour tops. Well, I was off by about two and a half hours.
I’ve always been fascinated by Black Friday because of how people react to it. Anyone who doesn’t think we’re a materialist culture would have a hard time defending people getting trampled and maced to buy knick-knacks. The first thing my brothers and I saw when we arrived there was a car slowly rocking back and forth. Upon a closer inspection, we realized that two people were having sex in the back seat. That should have been a warning sign right there.
The line in front of the Toys R’ Us was long (it was about the distance from Poucher to Mahar Hall). There was a store worker going up and down the line with a blow horn warning shoppers that anyone who cuts in line would be removed by the local sheriff’s department and be banned from the premises for 24 hours, and that we should “make friends” with other people in the line to make the time go faster. The people standing near us looked like they were about to hit this man in the head with something.
Once inside, we found our treasured item within 10 minutes, we entered the long and winding checkout line, which made the store feel like a labyrinth. One of the workers near us screeched into her walkie-talkie that the line was “too long for the store.” I didn’t think that was possible.
The only good thing about this whole experience was that if I ever needed to go into Toys ‘R Us again, I would know exactly where everything was, since the line went up and down every single aisle in the store. Hey, in this economy, you need all the skills you can get.
The entire time I was asking myself, why am I here? This was not an existential moment of clarity, I literally wondered why myself and everyone around me even came out to the store that night. Is it really worth it to wait in line for hours and enter a madhouse hoping the items you’re looking for are still there? The answer, at least for me, is clear: it is not worth it at all.
As I said before, some of the Black Friday deals are legitimately stellar. Everyone likes to save money, but the clamor for these deals turns people into irrational, psychotic loons. Stories of people getting injured, or in some cases, killed after being trampled upon makes one want to disassociate oneself completely from the entire human race. But the biggest reason is simple: Black Friday is not the only time one can find good deals on Christmas gifts.
Online stores always have good deals. But, the whole “Cyber Monday” craze is kind of redundant as sites like Amazon have discounts available all year. Also, most stores have sales the entire month of December. Sure, they are not as drastic as the ones on Black Friday, but money and time can still be saved.
Here is the most disappointing thing about Black Friday: all of the madness can be avoided. But people have the basic, elemental need to compete. If there is a limited supply of something people think they need, they will discard common sense and rationality to act like idiots getting something they can easily get elsewhere. The hysteria that comes with Black Friday can be avoided, as long as people learn to be a little more patient. A good gift is a good gift, no matter how quickly you found it or how much you spent on it.