Black Friday shopping provides deals, thrills

By Mary Valterria

I’m obsessed with Black Friday shopping.

My obsession started back in 2011 after my relationship ended and moved in with my mom and sister. I wasn’t really used to getting out of the house much, so when my sister Desi asked me if I wanted to go shopping with her on Thanksgiving Day, I said sure.

Little did I know I was about to enter a lion’s den.

We walked into Wal-Mart and there were people running around everywhere. There were no carts available, which was just as well because I wouldn’t have been able to maneuver it anyway.

The sale prices weren’t even in effect yet, but people were lining up next to pallets of various items that had been advertised as “doorbusters.”

Desi and I stood in line for some random kitchen item that she was convinced we needed. My feet hurt, but people-watching kept me entertained.

6 p.m. was the official start time for the much anticipated sale. When the clock struck 6 p.m., the employees began cutting open the pallets. A deep rumble was heard throughout the store. The lines that were formed minutes before had turned into swarms of people coming from all different directions who were pushing their way toward the pallets.

Suddenly I was panicked. My sister! Where was she? I looked around and I spotted her small frame up ahead, struggling to reach for the item that we had stood in line for over two hours for.  I needed to help her, but I couldn’t really move because there were so many people.

Then I saw it. Down below at ankle level was the only unattended area of the pallet where people weren’t aggressively reaching or grabbing. I bent down and grabbed two of the boxed gadgets which resulted in a portion of the pallet toppling over. As patrons followed the direction of the spill, Desi and I made our way through the crowd and headed toward the next section of the store we wanted to conquer.

It was dangerous, it was scary, but it was also really exciting.

I felt like Rocky Balboa when he made it to the top of the stairs. I had the eye of the tiger … and the thrill of the fight. I also had two mini choppers in hand and I couldn’t wait to use one of them to chop some celery.

My initial Black Friday shopping experience was by far the most action-packed. Since then, Wal-Mart has improved the layout of doorbusters throughout the store in the interest of customer safety.

Other stores that I visit, such as Kohl’s, Target and K-Mart, have always provided a less frenzied atmosphere but have also improved their set-up over the years.

I advanced my Black Friday tactics right along with the stores.

I have a routine now. I print out the ads to each store that interests me. Then I sit at my coffee table with a sharpie and circle everything I want. Once I have my sights set on specific items, I make a plan.

Since Black Friday festivities have now typically started on Thursday instead of Friday, I figure out a schedule to help me cover as much ground as possible.

I go to stores as early as 5 a.m. Thursday morning and by 8 a.m. I’m back home. I help with the cooking and once everything is done I sit and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with my family.

Then it’s time to start round two.

As the afternoon approaches, I gather my printed ads and track down my pre-designated shopping partner.  Sometimes it’s Desi, sometimes it’s a cousin, this year it was my mom.

We drive to whatever store opens first to wait in line for the item we desire most. We’re always early.

I usually hit about three or four stores Thursday morning and then another three or four on Thursday night. I make small talk with the employees and in-turn they tend to help me. Sometimes they help by directing me to a lesser known, super-secret register for check out. Or if I’m lucky, they help by first opening a pallet on the same side in which I’m standing.

I focus on getting the items that are circled in the ads only. Once I’ve obtained these items it’s time to get in line to pay and then on to the next store to do it all over again.

Once I’ve hit all the stores I planned to visit, I go home to get some rest. Because of course, I need to be alert for round three.

Friday morning is way more relaxed. I usually go back to all the stores that I visited the night before just to see what’s left over or if there is anything I may have missed. For the most part, however, I’m able to obtain everything I set out to gain.

This year I got pogo sticks, oversized remote control cars, Go-karts, Disney themed toys, puffer vests and so much more. I spent no longer than 10 minutes in a single check out line and I didn’t spend a single dime on a re-usable bag.

How do I afford this, you ask?

Well, I’m definitely not rich.  I do work full-time making decent money but I’m also a Riverside City College student with lots of student expenses. I’m a new homeowner and I’ve got bills.  These financial responsibilities are always my first priority.

In order to fund my holiday shopping obsession, I stick to a budget. This includes putting money into savings and putting cash aside all year long. The cash goes into an envelope labeled “Black Friday.”

In the beginning of November, I assess my shopping fund and I make a list of who I plan to purchase gifts for. This helps me to not over-buy or over-spend. When Black Friday ads are published, I make sure to stay within my spending limit. I avoid using credit cards and utilize only the cash that is designated for the occasion.

Although I have yet to encounter an adrenaline rush as powerful as the one I experienced back in 2011, Black Friday remains an event that I look forward to year after year.  

Now I know that some people disagree with everything that Black Friday supposedly stands for. I completely understand the reasons as to why some people are against it and I’m not trying to sway anyone’s opinion on the matter.

My reasons for participating are definitely my own. I get good deals and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I’m able to say that my Christmas shopping is done before December has even arrived.

The thrill of the hunt captivates me. It’s an adventure that sets itself apart from any other shopping experience I’ve ever encountered.

It’s electrifying, and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.