Why I don’t complain about Black Friday

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Deal

Several years ago, during Thanksgiving dinner the subject of Black Friday deals came up and my cousin James said he was looking for a new TV. After dinner, we perused the ads and he saw a good deal. After checking the interwebs, he became sure that it was a very good deal, but he knew the flat screen wouldn’t fit into his tiny sporty car. I offered to go with him and use my car as the transport.

After I finished with the dishes and saw my daughters into their PJs, we tossed a couple sleeping bags into the Prius and off we headed to a nearby Best Buy. By the time we got there, the line was over a hundred people long and he was concerned we might not get the TV. We really had nothing to lose though, so we put down the sleeping bags and hunkered down for the night. I chatted with others and listened in to conversations until I fell asleep in the cold.

My career as a tech executive had made me “price insensitive” as the marketing folks would say. With disposable income flowing, I wasn’t someone that concerned with the lowest price, but rather with how quickly something could be shipped to me or if I ‘liked’ shopping with a company. I had cards in my wallet that would let me buy pretty much anything on sale in the store without hesitation. So I was a bit disconnected with the attitude of most of the people around me. I felt that the Black Friday thing was a gimmick pulled on foolish people, but good for a fun story.

What I heard made me rethink. Several of the people around me were discussing how much they had saved up to buy an item and their hope that it would be enough. I heard people hoping the deal of the cheap mobile phone would last long enough for them to get one for their daughter. I heard people with lists for Christmas of smaller items that they might save $20 on during Black Friday. The were limited to the cash on hand and they were planning, counting, and hoping. I hadn’t had to save up money for something I wanted in a long time, but I remembered that feeling. Living in the rarefied air of the idealistic interwebs makes it easy to forget the kind of things many people struggle with every day, like making every dollar count.

We woke up around 5 AM and got ready to head inside. The stress level rose a bit and people discussed what everyone was planning to get. Flyers of the deals were handed out and some sort of ticketing went down before we went inside. Once inside, James made a beeline for the TV section while I simply wandered around. The biggest crowds were around the lower costs items like $30 off a $100 mobile phone, $50 off a $200 iPod, and the $20 gadget on sale for $5. James got the TV, it just barely fit into the Prius, and off we headed to breakfast.

Sure the videos of crowds going nuts are unsettling, and I know the retailers are clearly using door buster pricing to get people inside to sell them stuff at a much higher margin, but in the end there are a lot of not so well off people getting good deals for stuff they might otherwise not afford. Everyone wants their friends and family to have nice things and get nice gifts. Finding a good deal on something you want to buy is smart no matter how you look at it. It’s easy to forget this when you don’t worry about money on a day to day basis.

What I learned is that getting a good deal is important to people that don’t have a lot of money and they were trying to be as smart as they could with their money. I had to admire that. Who am I to judge?

This doesn’t excuse all the bad behavior and chaos that accompanies Black Friday, but for me, I hope that those people on line in the middle of the night get what they waited for, avoid the chaos, and smile as they head out of the store.

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