Battle for the Bargain: A Black Friday Odyssey

The holidays are here, as is everything wonderful that goes along with it: marshmallow-topped candied yams, coping-bourbon, family and friends. But the best day of the year isn’t Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas Day or even Boxing Day (Sorry, I’m Canadian). It’s Black Friday.

You can love it or you can hate it, but either way you can’t help but marvel at Black Friday’s absurdity. It’s the biggest shopping day of the year, the day when good deals and name brands mix to form a critical mass of discounts. It is, as the name suggests, the day that every struggling store can expect to be put in the “black.” Every year, you hear stories about people smushed against Walmart’s glass doors. If that’s not the most depressing way to go, I don’t know what is.

It’s competition at its very worst (a close second is Comic-Con freebies), and I love every minute of it. Every year, my dad and I wake up at the ungodly-but-still-not-early-enough hour of 3 a.m. and  hustle over to Best Buy, where a line has already snaked around the building 1 ½ times.

The most tragicomic point of the night is not arriving at the line, or even walking past the procession of half-awake shoppers. It’s the walk into the store — slowly shuffling your way forward past small heaps of empty Red Bull cans and Starbucks cups, half-eaten snacks and balled up blankets that people left behind in their haste to get inside. Only then do you realize how long people have actually spent in line.

But before you can reflect on the priorities of humanity, you’re in the store and it’s a mad dash to the finish.

Some hints to help you survive: Thoroughly research days in advance. Websites like leak store ads almost a week prior to Black Friday, so whether you’re looking for a new laptop or a cheap set of kitchen appliances, it’s all online.

Plan your shopping around one or two stores. Typically, my family starts out at Best Buy and moves on to Target later in the day. Though the Target doorbusters like their freakishly popular $5 toasters may be long gone, they still have an extensive, jaw-droppingly cheap selection of DVDs. The bottom line: Start with the store where you plan on buying the most, and then move on from there.

Once you’re in the stores themselves, shopping strategies vary depending on what you want. If you are determined to get a big-ticket item like a TV or a laptop, obviously run there first. Claim it, and never let go of it until you leave the store. If your group is there to land deals on smaller items like DVDs or computer accessories, assign roles to each person before heading in the store.

It doesn’t really matter how you feel about Black Friday — you really can’t ignore it. Embrace it. Embrace America. I’ll see you all in line.