The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Budd McLaughlin

November 24, 2012

I love Fridays, just not Black Fridays

— Now that Thanksgiving is over, we can all set our sights toward the world’s end on Dec. 21.

If it doesn’t happen, however, there’s always Christmas — the most wonderful time of the year. And the Christmas shopping season got off to a brisk start this year not on Black Friday, but instead Thanksgiving Thursday.

Workers at retail establishments across the nation threatened to strike or call in sick if forced to work on Thanksgiving. Despite the threats of walk-outs, doors at big box stores were open as promised, offering Americans with nothing better to do on Thanksgiving night the chance to purchase another flat-screen television for 40 percent off.

I was watching one of the morning news shows Thursday morning, and a so-called retail expert revealed that one-third of all advertised Black Friday bargains had been offered at a cheaper price earlier in the year. It makes waiting around in line for an hour or more seem kind of pointless.

While all the gluttons for punishment were elbowing their way toward the last Furby or Wii U on Thursday night, I was stringing lights on a Christmas tree at the urging of my wife. She stated a few weeks back she wanted to decorate our house on Thanksgiving night, but I didn’t put much stock into it and thought she’d probably forget.

She did not forget, as it turns out. So, with my belly full of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole, I made several laps around our living room Christmas tree, occasionally cussing at knots and tangles. Frankly, I was just glad I wasn’t in the Black Friday, or Thanksgiving Thursday, melee.

Nothing about being among hordes of people hungry for a bargain appeals to me. I’d rather pay a few bucks more and have the store to myself. I’m a curmudgeon, and I’m also claustrophobic, which makes Black Friday sales akin to my worst nightmare.

A few years ago I did attempt to become part of the phenomenon. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, was having problems with her laptop. Black Friday sales were approaching, and I thought I would be a good boyfriend and buy her a new laptop.

A big box store was offering them for $300 on Black Friday, and it seemed like a good deal to me. Even better, the sale was good for in-store and Internet shopping, so if I didn’t want to stand in line, I could purchase it online.

I was living in Birmingham at the time and sleepily drove back home from my folks’ house so I could get mentally prepared to purchase this computer at a rock-bottom price. I drank coffee, took brisk walks around the house and did what I could to stay awake until 3 a.m. rolled around.

I was tired, so I decided to try the Internet route. The only problem was I had dial-up at my house; dial-up so slow it wouldn’t even access the page.

“#$!#!” I thought to myself. It was then I knew I would have to stand in line.

The only big box store of this particular variety (in a relatively safe part of town) was about 20 minutes north, so I hopped in my car and headed out. It was also about 20 degrees that particular evening.

This particular store was right off the interstate, giving me an opportunity to survey the crowd. The line out front stretched from one end of the shopping center to the next.

Needless to say, I kept driving. I loved my then-girlfriend/now-wife, but standing in line in the 20-degree cold to purchase a laptop seemed crazy to me. It wasn’t a matter of love at that point; it was just common sense.

However, I hate not accomplishing a mission, so I drove to my nearby workplace to which I had a key. The workplace also had faster Internet, so I knew poor technology would no longer be an impediment to my quest.

I accessed the website without problems, found the computer, hit “add to basket” and entered my credit card number. After hitting “submit,” I was taken to a white screen of nothingness. The website had frozen up and I was left with the quandary of, “Did my purchase go through? If I hit ‘refresh,’ will I purchase it twice?”

I hit refresh anyway and was then taken to a screen that said, “Sorry, this product is no longer available.”

“$#@!,” I said to myself.

At this point, the store and the quest had its hooks deep in my psyche. I was going to buy a computer, darn it, even if it cost $100 more. So what did I do? I bought a computer that cost $100 more.

The good thing is, she really appreciated the gesture and the laptop has guided us through many an adventure, from buying our first home to directions to a vacation destination. It was a wise buy, despite the calamities involved.

It was my first and only experience with anything related to Black Friday, and I have not had a hankering to replicate it.

I suppose, however, if they ever make a Furby that can happily and accurately string tangled lights on a Christmas tree, I’ll be the first in line.

—  Managing editor Adam Smith can be reached at adam@athensnews-courier.com.

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