Black Friday Shopping Fiasco

The boys wanted to go Black Friday Shopping. It was music to my ears. I had spent the last decade bribing them to shop with me (soft pretzels, Hot Wheels, you know the gig) but had never really made any headway with them. After growing up shopping with my mother, then losing her, I was slowly coming to the realization that the good ol’ days of shopping were over.


Kendall asked for an Xbox One for his birthday in October.

My “No!”  boomed through the house, bouncing off the Wii system in the living room. “You don’t need another game system,” I said. Case closed.

But a week later, as he counted up his birthday money, he realized he had half of what he needed to buy his own. Several mowed lawns, raked leaves and loads of laundry later, Grandma Patte and I had unwittingly funded the rest of the Xbox dream.

Offering him my sage advice to get a deal, he waited impatiently for the Black Friday flyers. Then, there it was: his dream machine on sale at Target.

I felt a little butterfly of excitement. I liked a challenge.

Yes, we would go.

Alas, the sale started the evening of Thanksgiving Day. Egads! you are thinking. But due to some technicalities, we were not having our typical T-day at my Dad’s. Instead, we’d already done a Turkey-Day Trot and consumed an enormous, delicious Thanksgiving Day lunch.

And for the first time in 42 years, I found myself with a Thursday evening open and one child quite willing to stand in line for an hour in the cold.

Enter Child No. 2. Not to be left out, Nelson scratched together $15 from various corners of his own wallet and eyed a scooter that was on sale.

My husband, Tim, with some pressure, agreed to be our driver/getaway car.

The store opened at 6 p.m.

We arrived at 4:45 and took our place in line. Only 25 people ahead of us! Still, I warned the boys, they could all be Xbox nutters so don’t get too excited. (But on the inside, I was excited.)

So the wait began. And this is always where the stories start.

Sure enough, we weren’t there 15 minutes before I saw, could it be, a flying red… camp chair, sailing out over the curb into the parking lot.

A scuffle was underway.

I couldn’t quite make out the cause but, for sure, it was about cutting in line. It always was.

There are typically a few people who sit in their (warm) cars and then squeeze into the line at the last second.

Sure enough, a short woman in a white coat shot out of the crowd and headed back to her car parked in the front row. She was screaming “your country!” at someone and, seemingly, leaving her chair behind.

We all wondered what planet she was from not to understand line-standing protocol. (Although I had to agree that this was, indeed, a very American thing to be doing.) She left with an icy squeal. The boys gave me a sidelong glance. I answered with a short lecture on traveling in pairs and not talking to strangers.

Next, a very nice gal from Target came out with her walkie-talkie and ponytail and said they would not open the store if there were any other altercations. I didn’t really think she stood a chance against corporate America but I liked her pizzazz.

After that, things quieted down. I used the time like any good mother would and taught my children how to read a map. A lifelong skill thrown in to counteract the nagging sense that Black Friday was not a good idea. To alleviate my guilt, I also went over courtesy and manners. Kendall might have wanted an Xbox, but he was going to get it calmly and politely.

As the line got longer and the night darker, I finally tucked into the magic of the moment. Sure, it was preposterous to let them buy something a month before Christmas (as my driver kept pointing out) but I was in the glow of retail therapy. I missed my mom so much at times like this—with a full heart, a purse big enough to carry a water, and a coat light enough that I wouldn’t sweat while shopping.

So I spent the time regaling them with stories of Black Fridays past. Like the time their aunts and I stood in line at Toys R Us for an hour outside in cold weather, 10 below at least, maybe 20, then got inside and found the line snaking through every last aisle. And how we decided to shop anyway, fearless and got all of our goodies and got in line. Another hour later, we did some quick math and realized we were really only saving about $15 each and left without a thing, except the giggles.

Or the time that I had a “Tickle Me Elmo” for Kendall picked out at Meijer, the last one off the shelf. And as I walked (calmly) through the store to the checkout, I passed a woman who, without looking at me, reached in and snatched it out of my cart right in front of me!

“Did you punch her?” they asked, hanging on my every word.

“No,” I replied in my warm, motherly glow, “but I should have.”

It was about then that the Target doors opened. Everyone was civil and polite and not another chair was thrown.

We proceeded briskly back to “Electronics,” where Kendall calmly picked up an Xbox One at $50 off with a $40 Target card included. Victory!

Meanwhile, Tim and Nelson proceeded across the store… where they chose a scooter that wasn’t even on sale.

Clearly, we have a little more work to do on this shopping thing…


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