The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 20, 2011

Tom Lavis | Black Friday a battlefield for doorbusters


— It’s less than a week before the big day, not Thanksgiving, but Black Friday.

I have to ask myself: Has Black Friday be-come more of a tradition than an actual bargain?

My email has been inundated with sneak peeks at Black Friday bargains from various stores.

Who is leaking these Black Friday ads on the Internet?

While the Internet may help put a stop to sale-clawing maniacs, there is an air of excitement as we wait for the biggest newspaper of the year on Thursday.

It will be chock-full of advertisements to entice buyers to get up at an ungodly hour on Friday to get an unbeatable bargain.

This unofficial Holy Grail of shopping days can mean the difference between boom or bust for some businesses.

But I worry more about the toll it takes on family and friends.

Past Black Fridays have not been kind to our family.

Like the time my wife and daughter made their way to a big-box store to buy a 27-inch television that was nearly 70 percent off the retail price.

This was long before flat screen and HDTV models were the rage.

Certain words such as “doorbusters” or “limited supply” bring out the worst in people.

The 27-inch televisions were in “limited supply,” so my girls were up at 4 a.m. to ensure that they would be first in line as the doors opened.

As they entered the parking lot, they discovered a lot of other people had the same idea.

They comforted themselves by saying, “Not everyone came to buy a television.”

First, they had to find a spot to park to make their purchase a reality.

My daughter pulled into a grassy area not far from their objective.

As they took their place in line, they started to doubt their previous statement.

“I wonder how many TVs they have?” one woman asked her friend.

“If you get there before me, save me one,” the other woman said.

The women were obviously novices to the art of Black Friday shopping because there’s no “saving” in bargain hunting.

As the doors opened, the waiting herd began to move. It suddenly turned into a stampede.

My wife and daughter had a strategy. My daughter would dash to the electronics department to grab the television, while my wife detoured to get a shopping cart to haul the TV back to the cashier.

It’s great when a plan comes together, almost.

As my daughter ran to the electronics, she saw a large pyramid of televisions begin to dwindle.

Needless to say, the limited number of TVs were going fast.

My daughter called upon her experience of playing tackle football with her older brothers as she started to stiff arm people to clear a path.

Ironically, when she arrived at the raided pyramid, one of the women who was in line and declared she would save a television for her friend was sitting on two.

After heated negotiations, my daughter claimed one of the sets.

“Easy peasy lemon squeezy,” my daughter thought as she glimpsed her mother coming toward her.

But something looked amiss.

My wife was pushing a shopping cart that already had a television in it.

“Where did you get that?” my daughter asked.

“They had a stack of televisions near the cart rack, and I guess they didn’t want people fighting over them,” she said.

My daughter sheepishly walked away from the television she was guarding and the pair headed toward the checkout.

The first and last time I went shopping on Black Friday was in the 1980s to buy a Cabbage Patch doll. These dough-faced dolls were so popular that people were paying four times the $30 retail price. The shortage resulted in long lines, waiting lists, price gouging and counterfeiting.

We didn’t get one that year, but we did continue my favorite part of the Black Friday tradition, eating breakfast out.

Happy bargain hunting.

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