Jewish Journal

Avoiding Black Friday Like The Swine Flu

by Mihal Levy

November 27, 2009 | 8:00 pm

Black Friday shoppers, I salute you.  No, really, I do.  While you were out getting those great deals at midnight or three o’clock in the morning, I was tossing and turning in bed thinking about you, all of you.  Probably because of the sugar high I was on from the pies, cranberry sauce and chocolate I ate throughout the day (I’m a vegetarian—I replace turkey with chocolate, and stuffing with chocolate and…you get the point).  How does one leave the comfort of their bed to fight the crowds in the early a.m. for a deal?  And how can you really be sure that you will be one of the first fifty shoppers in line? 

Black Friday shoppers, I could never be you, but wish I was…I am sure you came home with lots of gifts for your friends, loved ones and yourself, of course.  (If you braved the stores today, drop me a line…I really want to hear your story.  Really.)  I am a person that avoids shopping like it’s swine flu (if that is avoidable).  Don’t get me wrong - I love gift-giving more than I do receiving gifts (seriously), and enjoy getting new things, but not if I have to fight through crowds or search racks and racks of clothes or piles of strewn boxes everywhere.  What is it about Black Friday shopping that is so appealing?  Is it the adrenaline rush, winning the race to get there first, great deals, an adventure?  You must all be morning people to begin with, right?  I could never get up at the crack of dawn to be the first in line at a sale.  In fact, it never worked for me when I tried. 

When I was a teen, there was a special early concert giveaway.  The first ten people would receive an upgrade in concert seating or a backstage wristband, and there I was - number eleven.

Of course this was before the days of online ticket-purchasing and shopping.  Maybe being number eleven has haunted me for life.  No matter how hard I tried, I never won a raffle or got a free gift with a purchase; there was always a catch (that I missed, of course).  I recently subscribed to a magazine because I liked the handbag they were giving away with the subscription (and I enjoy the writing in the magazine as well, but the handbag sealed the deal).  Six weeks later, my first issue arrived sans handbag.  I was livid.  I had already purchased a matching wallet elsewhere to go with it.  So, I called customer service to take care of this urgent matter, immediately.  Surely it was on its way or lost in the mail.

After the phone tree from hell, I finally got a representative.  I could barely hear her over the shuffling of papers, phones ringing, and people muttering, “Hello, how may I provide you with excellent service today?” echoing behind her.  I explained the obvious mishandling of my handbag and asked her if there was a package tracking number or a replacement that could be issued.  She apologized and read ever so seriously from the obvious script in front of her, “Ma’am, we apologize, but the handbag we featured in our ad was of limited supply.  Unfortunately, we no longer have this promotional item in stock.  Thank you for understanding.”  Thank you for understanding?  Understanding that I thought when it read “while supplies last,”  they were sure to have enough supplies for the people that sent it off the same day?  Did they only have five in stock?  So, now I was stuck with a magazine I was on the fence about subscribing to in the first place, and a mailed monthly reminder of yet another deal I fell for, making me feel like number eleven once again.

With all this, how could I ever face a mall, shop, or department store on Black Friday?  Certainly I would be the one person who forgot to bring the coupon code with her or was standing in the wrong line for a free gift with purchase.  I am always the one who spends fifty dollars at a clothing store (Naartjie gets me every time, as I love their clothes for my son).  They always have “spend $50 now and receive 25% off your next purchase of $50 or more”-type deals.  Naturally, I fall for them every time and head over to Naartjie with mailer in hand to get the deal.  I finally narrow down my $50 of clothing (which is more like $75) and expect to get twenty five percent off on the spot.  Then I realize it’s another one of those “Save Later” deals ( I don’t know if the excitement overwhelms me so much that I read what I want to read, or that I should really lower my caffeine intake).  In any case, I am already at the register, ready to pay.  What do I do now?  Turn around and leave?  Of course not.  So, I purchase my clothes (my son’s clothes, I hate shopping for myself - would like to be able to have a personal shopper for that one day).  I place the coupon in my wallet, so I would have it for my next purchase of fifty dollars.

Two weeks later, I decide it is time to put the twenty five percent off coupon to good use and head back to Nartjie.  While my son’s patience wears thin, I collect my $50 worth of clothes (Another $75, it’s 25% off, though this time…so it works out).  The cashier rings up and totals my items.  I proudly hand her my coupon while grinning, as she kindly says “Oh, I’m sorry this was only good for three days last week.  Sorry, you missed it.”  Again?  What is it with the fine print?  What is it with me?  Me and fine print?  I hand her my credit card and take the clothes anyway.  I am already here and he needs them.  Another failed attempt…

...until today.  I have been waiting for a pair of boots to go on sale, so that I could purchase them eventually, hopefully some time before Spring.  It has been a few months since I first laid eyes on them (because I am never in the mall, really, except twice for Nartjie).  And lo and behold I receive an email this morning that goes into my junk mail folder (that I happened to check).  “Today and today only - Black Friday sale 40% off all items online.”  I don’ t know if I was more excited to hear they were forty percent off or that I could purchase them online.  Regardless, I purchased them.  With shipping/handling and tax included, the forty percent off almost didn’t count, but I didn’t care.  I avoided the mall, the lines, the mess and still shopped on Black Friday.  Maybe next year I will attempt to face my fears and head out to shop…just to see what it is all about.  (And I’ll be sure to read the fine print.)

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Mihal Levy used to collect degrees as a hobby.  After receiving her B.S. and M.S. degrees, she worked as a psychotherapist and research scientist before continuing her hobby of...

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