Just Plain MAD: How Wal-Mart Schooled Me On the Art of Black Friday

Black Friday: the day consumers look forward to all year for the best deals on everything consumer-y and the days those who work retail dread. It’s become a big a part of the American Thanksgiving tradition as the Macy’s parade, turkey and football. My mom, cousins, aunts, sister and I have participated for the last few years and have scored some great deals. And then this year, Wal-Mart happened.

Wal-Mart is usually the last place we stop on Black Friday. But with an advertised opening time of midnight, this year it was our first. Electronics were not supposed to go on sale until 5 a.m., but by the time we entered the store around 10 minutes before midnight, most of those items were already guarded by our fellows shoppers.

Thinking this would be the scenario, I deviated a plan to ensure the 32″ Emerson flat screen TV my mom and two cousins wanted, plus the Kodak digital camera my cousin and I wanted, would come to fruition. I went to Wal-Mart’s website early Thursday evening and placed what I thought were the items we wanted in the shopping cart. Slick, right? Well, hold on…

While our coveted items rested what I thought was safely in cyberspace, we parked our car in the adjacent Ford dealership and braved the 20 degree cold to arrive at Wal-Mart for the midnight opening. For the most part, it was peaceful pandemonium. People were saying “Excuse me,” and “Thank you,” while rushing for their wares. We ended up with everything on our list except a set of sheets: boys’ pajamas, two Shop Vacs, a Bissell three-in-one vacuum, a Jeep luggage set and men’s jeans.

Our divide and conquer strategy worked well until my cousin and I ended up on one side of the store while Mom secured a place in line on the other side. When we arrived at Mom, we found only about half the check out lines at this particular supercenter were open. When my cousin went looking for an explanation, a woman working there said they didn’t expect to be that busy. Now if you advertise an opening time of midnight, wouldn’t you expect to be busy? When we left for our excursion, I knew people would be there guarding the 5 a.m. items and others would be scrambling to pick up the smaller items.

We arrived home right at 1 a.m. and regrouped. I was to stay home and wait for the 5 a.m. Wal-Mart prices to become available online, while Mom and cousin worked on the rest of our lists at Kohl’s, Bergners and Home Depot. I set my alarm every half hour and hit the refresh button on my browser to see when the prices of my online items updated to the good deal price. Finally after unsuccessfully updating, I decided to venture away from my shopping cart to find right under the check your local ad button, another button that said something like “Find these prices online. Click here.”

Alas, the items I was so certain were our 5 a.m. deal items in the shopping cart were not. The TVs were gone by the time I got to the right spot online, but I was able to find the cameras. I quickly updated my cart with the correct cameras and hit checkout. I entered all the correct billing and shipping info and credit card info and hit place order. Then the drama began. I was asked to enter the security code on my debit card three or four  times with a note saying something was wrong. I know I entered the correct one and then, because I had tried so many times, Wal-Mart’s website locked my card out. I had no other card to use and the cameras slipped away into cyberspace abyss. And I. Was. Pissed.

Most of the time we treat Black Friday like a laugh: if we get what we want, great. If not, no skin off our teeth. But for some reason, the loss of these cameras made me hit the roof. I blame lack of sleep.

Although Wal-Mart stuck it to us this year, I did get a great deal on a Banana Republic dress for 40 percent off. And next year, I will have the knowledge to get items in the right spot online. Wal-Mart, watch out!

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