Black Friday

December 2, 2015
Joy Boudreaux
December 2, 2015
December 2, 2015
Joy Boudreaux
December 2, 2015

Kade Smith waited about an hour and a half in line at the Best Buy in Houma to buy a printer Friday morning. He had about 40 to 50 people behind him by 7:45 a.m., 15 minutes until the store opened. He wasn’t the first customer inside.

Smith, a student at Nicholls State, had to follow Amanda Twiner and her mother, Lisa, into the store, who outdid Smith by an hour in line. Best Buy was just the latest stop on their voyage for value.

“We’ve been all around. Wal-Mart, Target, Academy, Best Buy, IHOP,” Twiner said.

Yes, Twiner mentioned Best Buy, because she and her mother had already been there when the store opened on Thanksgiving from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m.

“We were disappointed because we didn’t read the ad the right way, and the stuff we thought was on sale last night wasn’t on sale until today,” Lisa said.

The two Black Friday veterans, not deterred by the slight setback, returned early enough to head the line. They were joining Smith in the hunt for a printer, but also had their sights set on iPods and a copy of Madden 16.

“That’s a $60 game that’s on sale for $30,” Twiner said.

Deals like that are what pushed consumers to sacrifice sleep in pursuit of purchases. The printer Smith eyed, normally listed at $80, was available for $20 on Friday. Smith’s determination paid off, as he was guaranteed a printer before he even stepped foot inside, thanks to Best Buy’s Black Friday system designed to avoid mayhem.

Wayne Marcel, general manager of Houma’s Best Buy, explained how their Black Friday policy works. Employees come out before the store opens, and go down the line asking people if they are there for a certain product. Whoever is interested receives a color-coded sticker with a number. Colored arrows on the floor inside direct customers to find the product marked with a ticket that has the corresponding number. The consumer brings both up front to check out, without much hassle.

Twiner’s mother said that the ticket system not only prevents people from fighting over limited supplies, but also gives those who missed out a better chance of fulfilling their wish lists.

“Say you want a camera, and they gave out all the tickets, you can hurry up and that same camera is on sale at Target or Wal-Mart, instead of standing here and being disappointed,” Lisa said.

Such measures are crucial on Black Friday, the day where consumerism lays all its blemishes bare. When people rush into stores to grab limited products off the shelves things can get ugly, with the most outrageous melees finding their way around the web each year in video form. Karen Bergeron, Twiner’s aunt, who showed up to Best Buy to chat with her relatives in line, recounted her own war story concerning Cabbage Patch dolls.

“The first year of Cabbage Patches, when it first started, I was at K-Mart, and they had two women grab the same Cabbage Patch doll, and we’re talking, they went AT IT, and the fists started going,” Bergeron said.

Lisa said that she’s heard about her friend ending up on the wrong side of a struggle for toy helicopters.

“The choppers go for $5. My friend got punched in the stomach for one of them, because he wanted that $5 chopper,” Lisa said.

Did her friend’s determination pay off with a toy?

“No, she got a hold of him. I think he messed with the wrong lady.”

Twiner and her mother, having seen the madness of Black Friday before, opt for diplomacy in their shopping. Having befriended Smith, they said that if only one printer were available, they’d let the college student go home with it, as that was his only target for the day.

“You get in line, and if they have a point where you can only get one, you make friends with people. I mean, we all get a game plan going and help out,” Twiner said.

Building trade relations with other shoppers out on the prowl for price cuts is just one of the strategies Twiner and Lisa employ. Since they have a large family hitting the stores on Black Friday, they divide the labor by having a delegate at each store, gathering goods for the whole group.

“When a family member knows you’re in line, they’ll call up and say, ‘Can you get this for me? I’ll get that for you,’ and it works out fine,” Lisa said.

The mother and daughter said that they expected to spend around $500 on Black Friday if they can find everything on their list. Lisa estimated that she’d knock out about 90 percent of her Christmas shopping in one day if everything goes according to plan. It turned out that Bergeron’s appearance at Best Buy was also another part of the strategy. While Twiner and her mother were scooping up tech products inside, Bergeron posted up in their truck’s bed to play lookout on the basketball goal and other purchases they already made.

This kind of rabid race to the checkout line means one thing for these big stores: sales. Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year nationwide. Marcel said that his store expects this year’s Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales numbers to be seven to ten times as much as a normal Thursday and Friday.

“Like last night, we made as much in one hour as we normally make in a day, so these two days are a little different,” Marcel said.

Marcel said this year drones are popular, ranging in price from $150 to $1,200 for the professional-style models. Across Martin Luther King Boulevard at Home Depot, front end supervisor Robin Savoie said there was a bit of a rush when her store opened at 6 a.m. for one item in particular: poinsettias, on sale for 99 cents a pop.

“Usually, we have a rush right when we open, then after that there’s a steady flow of customers for the rest of the day,” Savoie said.

In the same lot as Home Depot sits an IHOP, run by general manager Ana Escobar. Twiner and her mother refueled at the 24-hour restaurant in the middle of the night, and they weren’t the only ones with that idea. Around 9:30 a.m., the house of pancakes was full, with at least five groups waiting for a table to clear. According to Escobar, the overnight and day sales were expected to translate to the best day in the last three years. She credited the figures to the great location for Black Friday and the customer base her store has built.

“We want to thank the community, we really have a lot of loyal customers, and we’re gaining customers as well,” Escobar said.

While the big businesses in the area reaped the rewards of Black Friday, local businesses were prepping for Small Business Saturday, just hours away. At Lefevre’s Art Supply and Framing, owner Angie Lefevre was spending her evening preparing a sign for the day. She said that Black Friday wasn’t a deviation from any other end of the week at her and her husband’s business.

“Today, it was a regular day for us. It was not a busy day. Most people want big box stores and huge specials. I try to have some sales, but we’re just not on everyone’s radar. So, we come in and open and we have a flow of customers, but nothing unusual,” she said.

Lefevre planned on advertising on Facebook, her website and through the sign, hoping for the community to remember the occasion and pop in. While Small Business Saturday was encroaching on Lefevre’s Friday, consumers like Twiner and her mother took umbrage with Black Friday’s continued colonization of their Thanksgiving.

“The parents and grandparents don’t like it because their kids are leaving early to go stand in line,” Lisa said.

“I’d rather it be just on Fridays. I don’t like how it’s on Thursdays, because you’re missing your family time. We eat lunch, pick up the food, and then we’re gone. Because we have to hurry up and get in line to get the deal,” Twiner said.

While leaving family time early is not ideal, the mother-daughter duo couldn’t fathom missing out on finding the best deals for their family’s Christmas gifts.

“I have a ruptured disc, I’m about to have surgery in two weeks. That goes to show you how dedicated I am,” Lisa said. •

Shoppers get an early start in search for sweetest holiday dealsKARL GOMMEL Karen Bergeron on lookout duty while relatives shop at Best Buy.KARL GOMMEL