Black Friday is a holiday that stands on its own — or it used to be.
Over the last couple of years Black Friday has been bleeding over into Thanksgiving.
Just a few years ago Black Friday meant getting up at 3 a.m. to get in line at your local Target, Best Buy or Walmart and waiting until 6 a.m. to run to the tech section and fight for the lowest priced television sets. Shopping cart traffic jams and gabfests over discounted DVD players were the enjoyable drama that constituted the normal/abnormal behavior.
But in recent years, stores have been opening sooner and sooner. Four to five years ago, stores started to open at midnight on Thanksgiving, and from then, things spiraled out of control — or should I say, in control.
Now stores are opening at 5 and 6 p.m. Thanksgiving evening. At this point can we still call it Black Friday? It might as well be Thanksgiving/Gray Thursday.
I remember being 11 and waiting in line for who knows what at Target with my dad. We only got a few DVDs and a small kitchen appliance. That wasn’t the point — it was about being part of the spectacle of Black Friday. Seeing people stampede over helpless employees and watching middle-aged women fighting over a toaster was the drama worth waiting for.
I remember my dad sending me into the fray to get a DVD player or some other discounted item. My small agile body could run through the legs of people to grab a $2 flash drive off a shelf he couldn’t get to. It was fun. It was, in a way, the American purge.
It was acceptable for me to push someone out of the way, or at least scramble past them. Just as it was socially acceptable to fight for the best deals, and I looked forward to it. I had fun telling my family about my Black Friday adventures, and it was a great bonding experience for my dad and I.
I am sure it was a great bonding experience for other families too.
This year, however, I made my trek to Best Buy, still recovering from my turkey coma, only to witness the most disgusting thing that could happen on Black Friday: an orderly crowd. I watched in horror as an attendant at Best Buy would slowly let 20 people into the store at a time. This was far from the animalistic herds of deal-hungry consumers I had come to know.
I was so put off by what I saw that I decided to skip Best Buy entirely.
I made my way to the Target line just down the street and was offended to see a measly line of maybe 150 people at most, nothing close to what I remember as a young tike. The orderly and much smaller lines tell me that the thrill is gone. Once, just a few years ago, hundreds, maybe even a thousand, people would wrap around the building and into the street, eagerly waiting for the brave employees to open the door.
The new Black, or Gray, Thursday-Friday, thing happening at Target convinced me that there isn’t enough gratification to jump in the Target line.
I next made my way to Walmart.
Surely, Walmart will uphold the tradition of shopper chaos. I mean it’s Walmart for Christ’s sake. When I arrived and the store was already open, I had to imagine the stampede that must have occurred. I ran straight for the DVD section only to see the employees letting 10 to 15 people at a time to pick through the movies. No hurry, no excitement.
I now find myself missing standing by plastic-wrapped displays and tearing them open as it struck midnight. I miss planning rendezvous points with my dad in case we got lost in the swarm of people. I miss when Black Friday was on Friday. I miss the excitement of so many deal-hungry people that used to push and shove for all the good deals.
When did the chaos become so controlled?
Colton Newman is the photo editor and a music writer for the Daily Lobo. The views in this column are his own. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Coltonperson.