Editor’s note: Dennis Wyatt is on vacation. This column first ran on Nov. 28, 2002
I’m counting my blessings.
My wife decided we’re not going to get up at 5 a.m. today and join 600 to 800 other insane people waiting in line at Wal-Mart or some other store in a bid to buy a TV for $59 or to receive a free collectible.
The day after Thanksgiving — more precisely the final minutes before dawn on the day after Thanksgiving — is the scariest shopping day of the year.
If you don’t believe me, go down to Wal-Mart just before 6 a.m. on Black Friday and watch the crush of humanity pressing through the doors in a near feeding frenzy looking for a bargain.
We participated in mob rule shopping just twice.
The first year we thought we’d get down to the Wal-Mart about a half hour before they opened at 6 a.m. to get our grandkids a VCR. Imagine our surprise to discover there were already 900 to 1,000 people in line. We waited in the car until they opened the doors, happy to have steered clear of the crush. Instead of orderly filing through the doors, it was a free-for-all.
It was probably the best insight you’d ever get of the fear the people on the ground must have felt as they were running for their lives during the Hindenburg disaster back in the 1930s in New Jersey when the dirigible transport burst into flames shortly after take-off.
To say their behavior was civilized would be stretching it — a lot.
By the time we got to the “hot sale” item we wanted, they’d been picked over as if locusts had descended on the store. But these weren’t your ordinary locusts. They were running, elbowing, and generally impolite locusts that were after the last VCR they could put their hands on.
In less than 10 minutes, 50 VCRs were gone as were 50 computers.
We ended up finding a VCR later that morning on the other side of town at Kmart. It was $5 more and had about 50 percent more features. We figured the quality was better as well.
So you think we would have learned our lesson, right? Wrong.
The next year we were plotting to go back to Wal-Mart, this time lured by the offer of a $79 TV and a limited release of some “hot” toy that escapes me at the moment. You know how it is with hot toys. One day you’re the $8.95 Pet Rock of the world, the next year you’re just a stone with 10 cents worth of packaging and a witty instruction booklet that lost its cuteness two hours after it was unwrapped.
This time we had a strategy. We would get there about 5:30 a.m. but if the line disintegrated, we’d make the charge for the doors as well. Cynthia would check out the TV and I’d go for the toy.
It was a bad choice. We didn’t get the TV because we weren’t too thrilled with it. We definitely, though, wanted the toy. Apparently so did 2,555 other people who made a beeline to the toy department.
I got within perhaps 20 feet of the display where the toy of the hour was being snapped up faster than World Series tickets.
I couldn’t get any closer because there was gridlock in the aisles. No one could move. Not knowing the rules of the day, I politely waited behind an elderly lady who was trying to nudge closer. This apparently infuriated a lady behind me who after speaking loud enough for half the store to hear for me to get the heck (I’m being polite) out of the way, proceeded to start poking me in the back with her shopping cart.
When I turned around and informed her there was an elderly lady in front of me, she simply replied that it was my problem, not hers.
It was a Hallmark moment. You could just feel the season spirit and goodwill toward men oozing out of the crowd as they acted more like the fans in the bleachers going for Barry Bonds’ record setting home run ball instead of folks Christmas shopping.
We ended up zero for zero once again.
In a way, I’m glad we had those two back-to-back years of experiencing the joy of the season at 6 a.m. after Thanksgiving.
It convinced both of us that we never — I repeat — never want to go shopping at an uncivilized hour ever again the morning after Thanksgiving no matter how good of a deal a store offers on some rather inexpensive stuff.
We’ll leave that to the pros and the teaming masses who figure saving $10 or $20 is worth standing around for 10 hours in the freezing cold, risking limb and life when the doors open and enduring the worst side of humanity once inside the store.
If you want to find out what they mean by shopping until you drop, try your luck on a Black Friday at 6 a.m. Just make sure your health and life insurance are paid in full.