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Just another manic Friday

POSTED November 28, 2009 12:15 a.m.
The frantic rush to start shopping for Christmas always catches me a bit unaware. It might be that I’m still sleeping off my turkey and tryptophan hangover on Black Friday each year, but even on the best of days I am in no hurry to battle crowds of sleep-deprived deal hounds.
My co-worker here at the Journal, Maegan Martens, casually let slip that she was one of the yahoos who crawled out of bed at 3:30 a.m. to shiver outside of Target in hopes of scoring a 500 GB portable hard drive for $59.98. After I was done silently judging her, I turned to my friend Mr. Google to see how much several hours of abject misery had saved her.
Within 10 minutes, I located the exact same hard drive on sale for $69.99 — just $10 more — at Staples. It was in stock at the Turlock store at 2 p.m. and, as I myself was in need of a backup hard drive, I decided to take a quick break from my workday to do a little shopping.
I don’t begrudge deal seekers. I actually enjoy hunting for a good price on whatever it is I may desire. But the mania surrounding Black Friday has, quite simply, gotten out of hand.
Around 12 midnight on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I happened to be passing through Modesto. I drove past Best Buy and did a double take at the six or eight tents that were already pitched outside the store.
To camp for two nights outside a consumer electronics store — missing Thanksgiving in the process — is simply something that is outside the world of reason in my book. And for what — to save a few hundred dollars, at best, on a new television? Heck, in a quick search of Amazon.com I found several televisions comparable to Best Buy’s “doorbuster” deals for less than $100 more.
Sure, $100 is nothing to fritter away, but neither is a day or more of your life, in my opinion. Why not just put away a few dollars more from one’s paycheck each week and jump on a deal that doesn’t require such a hefty time commitment?
Of course, as I write all this, I do feel a bit hypocritical. I, myself, have been one of those yahoos camping out in the past. But in my defense I only did it once, if that makes it any better.
As the consummate nerd that I am, I simply had to have a Nintendo Wii on the day the system was released here in America, Nov. 19, 2006. If you were following the Wii back then, you’re well aware how impossible it was to obtain one unless you camped out somewhere the night before.
Ah, it is a night I remember well, spent wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags as I tried to grab a few minutes sleep on the unforgiving brick pavers that lined the sidewalks outside of an Irvine, Calif. Target. The kind, kind workers at the store brought us bags of popcorn at 5 a.m. It was, perhaps, the most delicious meal I have ever eaten.
I suppose I’d say it was worth it, but that’s only because I ended up taking home a Wii. It’s because I ended up with something I wanted, as selfish as that may sound.
But I’ve covered Black Friday for the Journal for the past few years. In that time, I’ve come to the conclusion that altruistic Christmas shopping has little to do with the motivation behind most shoppers’ deal hunting.
Black Friday, to many Americans, seems to represent the last day people feel that shopping for themselves is acceptable. The deals are so great, the logic goes, that we can afford to buy that television or iPod we’ve been eyeing before we need to start saving for our last minute Christmas shopping.
I think the stores are well aware of this fact. The sort of big ticket items you’re likely to see on sale — the ones that get all the publicity — are seldom the sort of thing that I’d think to give as a gift, even if I could afford to buy a $1,500 television for anyone on my list.
Black Friday doesn’t mark the first day of Christmas shopping. It marks the final day we can indulge our deepest, darkest consumerist tendencies. And we’ll do whatever it takes to make that one, last, big purchase seem reasonable.
If freezing half to death and missing sleep is what it takes to rationalize buying that Playstation 3, then so be it.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005. If you are suffering from hypothermia or sleep deprivation due to your Black Friday shopping, call a hospital.

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