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Aggressive shopping at 3 in the morning

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POSTED November 22, 2013 11:05 p.m.

There’s no such thing as a holiday when you’re in the news business.

And thus, there’s always the meeting around the middle of October to determine who is going to work which day.

I always grab Thanksgiving. Early assignments mean that you’re done early and you can usually catch the Cowboys falling apart in front of a football audience that’s second only to the Super Bowl.

But it also means following up on the Black Friday crowds.

“Go and check around midnight and see who is lining up where and you can do it for the next day,” Dennis Wyatt will say sometime between now and Thursday. He’s said it every year for the past 10 years, and I’ve done it every year for the past 10 years.

And I must confess that I’ve always thought the people that are willing to wait for hours and hours with the hopes that they’ll grab a middle-tier television for a rock-bottom price were crazy. Certifiable.

But then the stores got smart. Two years ago they started opening their doors at midnight – some at 8 p.m. – with the hopes that more people would flood through their doors.

“No way,” I thought as I scanned the Best Buy circular that advertised a plethora of Blu-Ray discs that I would have loved to add to my growing collection.

“Not going to happen,” I thought as I scanned the obscenely cheap digital point-and-shoots that I knew my father would absolutely love for his nature shots on long road trips.

So when pie time rolled around Thanksgiving night, and we all settled in to watch television, I eyed the clock.

Midnight passes.

Another hour comes and goes.

Now it’s 2 a.m. Best Buy has been open since midnight, and I’m pretty sure the line to get in will be non-existent.

So without thinking I’m in my car and headed straight for what I knew would be an absolute crush of people fighting over the last this and the last that – jockeying for the blue-shirted help and taking advantage of the loss leaders that drew them there in the first place.

I wasn’t wrong. I felt like Dennis Rodman would have done well in the movie section with his penchant for throwing elbows and no less than three people tried to step right in front of me when waiting to get a camera out of the locked case. Passive-aggressive isn’t really my thing at 3 a.m. doing holiday shopping – especially when I have nobody with me to embarrass.

I ended up walking out with a camera, a handful of Quentin Tarantino Blu-Ray discs, a new Netflix-ready Blu-Ray player, a new Xbox controller and a new memory card for my camera. Half of the purchases were decided on after I walked through the door, and the long line I ended up standing in for roughly 30 minutes was actually pleasurable – the people in front of and behind me were beyond friendly and it turned into an event rather than just an exercise in commerce.

People can be crazy on Black Friday. Store openings have ended in shootings, and one woman even went so far as to mace everybody around her to make sure that she got what she came for.

That’s dedication.

Earlier this year I camped out in front of the Apple Store for 12 hours to buy the new iPhone. I was 34th in line, and ended up having to settle for a color that I didn’t want. But I made friends – the guys behind me were a riot, and when 5 a.m. rolled around and the morning store staff came in for their shift, it became something other than just a bunch of techie fanboys waiting for something that they didn’t truly need.

Will I do the Black Friday thing this year? I don’t know. I kind of want to get my mom a Chromebook and I’m sure that they’ll be decently priced.

Thanks to stores opening earlier, the decision isn’t quite as hard and it makes getting in during the first few hours something that’s doable.

I won’t have a strategy, and I probably won’t have a shopping list.

But that’s what makes it fun.

Happy hunting. And don’t forget your pepper spray.

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