My Black Friday

Black Friday 2010

The register lines at Target were full, but moved quickly.

Only once before have I been a participant in the Black Friday shopping experience. This year, I took another stab at it. Here is my story, which started at 4 a.m.


When I arrived at Target, I was a little surprised to see a line 1/8 mile long from the south entrance of the store to Mass Beverage, a liquor store adjacent to the retail giant. I parked and quickly got in line.

My main purpose was a dual-screen DVD player for our minivan. Now that we have two children, the one DVD player we have isn’t working out so well for our long trips. Target’s doorbuster advert had it for $85, which I had seen for around $150 just a few months ago. This was a no-brainer. It was worth the hassle to save the $65.

“Hassle” is a bit exaggerated. The line moved quick and smooth. Once inside, there was a bit of a bottleneck around the electronics aisle, but that was expected.

I did have one shopper bark at me when I rested my hand on an empty cart. She thought I was going to take it (which I wasn’t – small and agile is my shopping philosophy and carts don’t fit into that) and said “That’s my cart!” So, I punched her in the face told her “I don’t even want it, lady” and began my search.

There was an amazing store associate who apparently knew from memory where everything was in the store. He quickly answered my question, “Where can I get this DVD player?,” sending me directly to where I needed to go. A few other items grabbed, I was through a line fairly quickly as they had a LOT of registers open (see pic above).

Verdict: Target had great deals, order and efficiency down pretty good at this store. For a Black Friday experience, it really wasn’t bad.

Walmart (South Iowa)

Looking for a particular mermaid doll that my daughter wanted was my main objective here.

Walmart has some sort of game for Black Friday that I don’t know how to play, so it was a little frustrating. Complete aisles were roped off in some sort of King Jareth labyrinth and I didn’t know what I was doing. All I wanted was a frackin’ doll (and some $1.96 DVDs, but those were picked over like lint from a Cosby sweater).

Alas, they didn’t have the doll. At least, I don’t think they did. The employees I talked to weren’t well-versed in where the specials of the day were around the store. I talked to three of them and only one didn’t have to resort to some four-page long cryptex to see where the items were located.

Frustrated and a bit tired, I left empty handed.

Verdict: I should have remembered to pick up some toothpaste while I was there. No chaos, but no purchases, either.

Best Buy

I hate this store.

I hate that Best Buy employees have all apparently been told to talk to every single customer in close proximity. I hate that someone “greets” me when I enter the store (although I don’t mind Walmart greeters for some reason, perhaps because they stand and face you). I hate that Geek Squad refers to its customers as “civilians” and its techs as “agents.”

With dignity firmly tucked beneath my legs, I went inside because there was a good deal on a [REDACTED: WIFE READS THE BLOG AND THE PRESENT WAS FOR HER]. I found a sales associate, he helped me find the item and then I got in line.

Oh yeah, the biggest reason I hate this store is the checkout lanes. Best Buy has the second slowest cashiers in town after Walgreens (which I could – and should – do a whole post on that store alone). And, there are four of them. Yeah, that’s right – four registers in an electronics store on Black Friday.

The slow moving and inadequately numbered lanes did me in. I put the item back and left the store empty handed, but not before snagging a picture of the DVD player for the van that I got at Target for $85. Best Buy was selling them for $149.99.

Philips Dual-Screen DVD player

Yeah, I got this at Target for $85. I'd say that was worth going out for.

Verdict: I hate this store and feel dirty for going in there. How this company hasn’t figured out that you can have tons of associates with handheld scanners that take credit/debit cards is beyond my comprehension.

Walmart (Congressional Drive)

Typically, this store doesn’t have anything I’m looking for. It’s not far from where I live, so I decided to stop there with the hope I’d find that mermaid doll that eluded me at the other store.

I was not disappointed.

What’s great about this Walmart is also what makes it kind of suck: it’s small. Because it’s much smaller than the South Iowa store, it’s hard to find items you typically expect to find at Walmart. This sounds like a lie, but it’s not. I’ve given it several chances, as has my wife, and unless what you’re looking for is really mainstream, you can forgetaboutit at this location.

Today, that worked out in my favor. This store was practically empty at 6 a.m. Far from the retail playground of 31st and Iowa streets, the Congressional Drive Walmart was dead and not incredibly picked over. That said, I still wasn’t able to get my $1.96 DVDs I was looking for (all the Bourne movies), but I did get nice deals on a couple others.

Verdict: This store is clean, well-organized, energy efficient and staffed appropriately most of the time. I found what I was looking for, so it was a win. But if anyone from Walmart Corporate wants to fill me in on how this store is supposed to sustain itself, I’d love to hear it.

In closing …

Lawrence’s Black Friday shopping must be different than other places. That doesn’t surprise me. We have a wonderfully strange little culture here and it seems likely that it transfered over to shopping attitudes as well. There were no fights, no stampedes, no trampling, nothing like that. It was just quite a few people looking to save some money.

But, I’m not done yet.

I’ll just try and finish up on my lunch break on Cyber Monday with the millions of others who think shopping in masses is abhorrent.

5 thoughts on “My Black Friday

  1. Rachel K

    I feel the exact same way about Best Buy. With the “bouncer” at the door, as soon as I walk in I feel like I’m being watched. I also can stand the employees who constantly greet you once they get within 5 feet of you. The only time I go there is if there’s something I can’t find anywhere else in town.

  2. ericjgruber Post author

    I’ve had better experiences with Office Depot. It might not have as much as Best Buy, but at least the shopping experience is better.

  3. Matthew Glidden

    Agreed, that’s the Best Buy experience in a nutshell. In comparison, my local store put EIGHT employees on the floor for Microsoft’s Kinect midnight debut a few weeks ago. 2 at checkout counters, 2 “watching the stock” (standing next to the Kinect display), 1 watching the door, and 3…doing something else, but not checking people out. (I think they want you to buy more point-of-sale snacks, hence the forced wait in line.)

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