We’ve all seen the footage of crowds storming the stores as the gates rise in the early pre-dawn hours the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday. Every year we hear of line jumpers getting in trouble, irate people who waited for hours only to be pushed out of the way by new arrivals right when the store opens, and even people getting trampled, injured, and even killed.
I have participated in this event several times. One time (either 2003 or 2004), I was even on the other side, working as a cashier at the Target store in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The criteria that I use to determine my level of participation are twofold:
- Do I have money?
- Is there anything I want that is at a low enough price to make it worth my while?
If the answer to one or both of these questions is “no,” then I don’t participate. On the rare occasions that I DO have money and there is something that I would like to have that is cheap enough, I go stand in line like everybody else. I have seen the good in people: the kindness of strangers and the solidarity of people against line-jumpers. I have also seen the bad: people pushing others aside to get to what they want, people cursing at each other over the right to purchase a Tickle-Me-Elmo doll (or other toy), and other examples.
The absolute best experience I have ever had was at the Noblesville Best Buy. This was the year I bought our new camcorder. I think it was 2006. What made it a great experience was the organization of the store. I pulled into the parking lot at 4:00 a.m. for the 7 a.m. opening. There was nobody in line, but there were also cars in the parking lot that were running (it was about 20 or 30 degrees out). We stayed like this until just before 5 a.m. when someone made a break for the front of the store. We all jumped out of our cars and got in line. I was sixth. And so we stood for two hours; waiting.
It was what happened next that impressed me. Thirty minutes to an hour before opening, several Best Buy employees came out with tickets and went down the line asking each person what they were planning to buy, and then giving them the appropriate tickets. This ensured that each person was given the opportunity, in turn, to buy the things they had been waiting for. With my tickets in hand, there was no need to rush into the store when the doors opened, because I knew that I had a guarantee that I would be able to get the stuff I had come for.
Why can’t every store do this? I would hazard a guess that if more stores did this, we would hear far fewer tales of Black Friday horrors, fewer injuries, and fewer deaths. Let’s be responsible people. Shopping for things to bring happiness to our loved ones should not have as its foundation the sorrow of others.