As we grow older and our children follow along, much of the fun of Christmas gift giving gradually disappears. While Christmas is certainly far more than gift giving, it is one of the many aspects of the holiday that I thoroughly enjoy. To me, toys on Christmas mornings was one of the great side benefits of having children. I could spend hours in toy land for much of December, buy what I thought I would enjoy, and then be the thoughtful gift giving Dad on Christmas morning. What could be better.
Early on, I never really got too caught up with the whole Black Friday experience. Most of what I needed was scattered among the aisles at Farm and Fleet and rarely required standing in line at 4 am, let alone camp out front for multiple days. As the kids moved into their teens, some of the Black Friday “deals” started to be a bit more attractive, but I fought the urge until our youngest was well into her teens.
Finally, after some debate, I decided to take the Black Friday plunge and see what all the fuss was about. Since I needed a partner to keep me company, I enlisted not the likely suspects, Mom or my girls, but rather my speedy son. I decided when it came to Black Friday, I wasn’t looking for politeness or whether or not we had a coupon for each purchase, but rather quickness and a little aggressiveness. My boy could run with the best of them, and with my height the little old ladies didn’t stand a chance. I figured we’d get in and get out and get on to our next stop. After a bit of research, I decided our first stop in year one would be Menards. I figured this would be a low pressure first attempt. Not many of the real aggressive shoppers, no one taking a swing at me with the latest hot toy, limited pushing and shoving, and all would be good. After pushing my boy out of bed at 5:30 on Friday morning, we were at the end of a very long line at Menards by 5:50 awaiting the 6 am opening. The line was a bit longer than I had hoped for and we also had the very impolite group waiting by the door looking to rush as the doors opened. This behavior tends to make those standing in line a little testy, especially knowing the hot shop vac deal was now a pipe dream. A few batteries, gun cases (air soft) and flashlights later, we made a quick exit and on to breakfast.
In year two, we thought we would up our game. My son had bulked up a little and was as quick as ever. I had lost another step, but I still had my elbows, so I thought it was worth a try. I started the research a few weeks early through the ad leak sites on the web. Rather than waiting until Thanksgiving morning, I could go on line, review the ads, and target a few prime items. Also, I thought maybe we could target something a little more valuable than 24 AAA batteries. Best Buy at midnight was the identified target. My boy’s mission, if he chose to stand in line for it, was a couple of $80 TVs, while my item to be carted was the latest hot tablet. Unfortunately, Best Buy’s opening time was midnight. The time was not the greatest, but was late enough that we could enjoy our Thanksgiving day and still be in line in time to have a fighting chance. Now Best Buy was in the big leagues when it came to Black Friday shopping. The shoppers were a lot more savvy and dedicated than those we found at Menards, and significantly more deceptive. We lined up 3 or so hours early and were still well back in line. Our TVs were in jeopardy. The line also required a fair amount of monitoring as people were not hesitant to line jump. Aside from the brisk wind, bitter cold, chilly toes, and long wait, the idea was taking shape as a regular father son bonding experience. A couple of hours before the store opening, a few employees came around with pre-purchase tickets. Now this was something of a dangerous idea. In desperation, I found myself contemplating the $600 big screen TV rather than risk the chance of coming home empty handed. However, my son’s cooler head prevailed and we resumed our wait in hopes that there were about 75 of those cheap TVs or everyone in front of us was there for the $3 movies. Finally, midnight arrived. We made our way to the front and dispersed as agreed. Again, the key was grab and go and stay focused. The worse thing that can happen is to find the item you want only to find yourself in another lengthy line waiting to check out. Well, year two turned out to be a success and a tradition had begun.
Fast forward two years. So much for tradition. The Thanksgiving day store opening times have effectively ended our midnight foot stomping. Time with family easily outweighs any deals that might be had on early Thanksgiving evening.