The Deal with Black Friday

If Thanksgiving in America wasn’t American enough, there is Black Friday: the holiest shopping day of the year.

Not to be confused with the stock crash and somber days of Black Monday, basically when the financial world came to a halt, Black Friday marks the first day of the Christmas shopping. And why black? In terms of finances, most companies say they are in the ‘red’ (i.e. holding debt, negative profits), or in the ‘black’ (i.e. making profits).

Since the majority of a retailer’s sales occurs during the Christmas season, most see their balance sheet go from red to black.

After checking up on Wikipedia, the first time Black Friday was used in context of Thanksgiving was in 1966 in Philadelphia:

JANUARY 1966 — “Black Friday” is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. “Black Friday” officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing. [source]

Black Friday as a coined term was used again in 1975 and became more common in the 1980s when retailers themselves used it as a day of blessing to bring in good sales through the Christmas Season.

And well today Black Friday is the best and craziest shopping day of the year. Usually queues begin at 1 or 2 am as stores open for doorbuster events from 4-6AM. Everyone from Best Buy to Target to The Body Shop are in on it.

How to Plan for War on Black Friday

Basically, Black Friday is the bring out the guns and warpaint day. If you can’t handle crowds, chaos, don’t shop on this day.

First you need to do a reconnaissance mission, ie. organized planning and scouting of the target location. Then you need to decide who goes to what store, where are the meetup points in the city, etc.

Last year we (6 swedes, 5 americans) headed off the Gilroy Premium Outlets… at 11.30pm Thanksgiving Night. Yes, we battled war with the truest of the insane shoppers. I mean, it took 30min to get off the highway and to the mall area. Lines started at midnight for shops that were opening at 3am.

After finishing shopping at 5AM, we ate at Dennys, headed back home at 7AM. My two friends and I just slept in the car for two hours (in front of the house). At 9AM, we drove one hour north to San Francisco to battle the crowds at the largest underground retailer, Jeremy’s.

Then in the afternoon, I switched teams, and joined my friend Tony to finish up. Torbjörn and his friends napped until noon then battled the electronic superstores.

We reconvened at 7PM for dinner at Chevy’s Mexican restaurant.

Total hours of pure shopping/standing in lines: 10 hours
Nap times/breaks: 3 hours
Driving: 5 hours

Welcome to Black Friday, America’s Holiest day.

6 thoughts on “The Deal with Black Friday”

  1. You did what?! This is absolutely insane. I would literally give up living after 20 minutes if I had to go through that. I can just imagine the horror… the horror…

    Also, isn’t Denny’s supposed to be absolutely crap? But I guess that’s the only thing open at 5am.

  2. It WAS insane. I lost my marbles at one point before needing to quickly collect them since others could slip on the floor. hahahaha.

    Denny’s wasn’t so bad. Starbucks was open as well as a few breakfast places but the lines exceed 1hour (denny’s was only 40min, lol).

  3. Wow. I’ve never even heard the term Black Friday before! You mean it’s actually worse than Boxing Day sales shopping?! Sure sounds like it… Did you stock up on garlic when in Gilroy? ;) Have some not so fond memories of that place, but somehow missed the fact that they have outlets…doh!

  4. I love the comments so far. It’s great to see not everyone is willing to sacrifice sleep and sanity just to get a pair of mint-condition, limited edition, signed and monogrammed sunglasses, at 50% discount, which still end up costing $243 and 93 cents. Not to say that I did that this year.

    But the frenzy of people I observed this morning really did seem to compel otherwise sane people to exceed new heights of consumerism only otherwise observed on episodes of Sex and the City. The ones with Samatha. Not Miranda. But definitely Samatha.

    Sorry, a little American pop-culture humor. But it’s the reality – Black Friday truly is one of the most interesting American cultural experiences I’ve observed. Not to say that it is the most admirable. I would have to say Thanksgiving itself would probably win in that battle. But what I liked about today was just watching people. I only spent about $100 to get a sweater, a pair of pants, and some shoes. But it was planning my strategy the night before, making tactical decisions of where to go and how long to spend in each store, given some sales promotions expired at 12 noon, and standing in line with people made the experience fascinating. I talked to and listened to so many people from all over the world participating in this very peculiar American occasion. There were Russians sporting leather, Chinese grabbing for the Burberry, Italians perusing the scarfs and pastel colors, and a guy who I thought was from Singapore but after talking to him in line I found out he was from England (he said they have British teachers in Singapore.)

    America may not have one single, unifying set of traditions or cultures, but what it does have is a diverse mix of people unified by one idea – that anything is possible, and that the lowest price can be had for the best value – if you work hard and think smart. Not trying to advocate or advertise anything, but I really loved all the energy I observed this morning – much more than I got out of the clothes that I ended up buying.

    Cheers, everyone.

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