Posted on | December 4, 2012 | No Comments
by Mary Ann Miller, President/CEO, Tempe Chamber of Commerce
We were always a Black Friday family. After an early Thanksgiving dinner, we’d sit in the living room and check out all the newspaper ads. We’d prioritize the must-have great deals and the nice-to-haves. We’d divvy up the stores and map out a plan of attack. (“Okay, I’ll go to Target and Best Buy and you go to Mervyn’s and Penneys.”) Then we’d set the alarms and get to the first store an hour or two before it opened up.
The pre-opening lines were social gatherings, mixers of a different kind. We’d talk with the other folks in line and discover bargains we missed. Other families, like mine, were engaged in the modern version of the hunt. It was a challenge, an adventure and a badge of honor. I remember one year at Kmart when I scored its only Robosapien – THE hot toy of the season – for $20 off. I’m still proud of that one.
And once you got into the store and found your prize, you knew the lines at the register would be long. So you’d spend time looking at what others had. Asking where they found the toy or book or sweater. You save your neighbors’ place in line while they ran back to see if there were any left. And you’d share a hidden eye roll when some neophyte inevitably started to complain about the long line. Seriously, what did they expect?
What we didn’t expect was the mob mentality – the pushing, the grabbing, the complete disregard for anyone else. I first noticed it years ago at after-Christmas sales (yes, our family loved those too). One department store would open much later than the others, so the crowds were exponentially larger. And grumpier. And grabbier. And, eventually, scarier. I stopped going there.
Then people started lining up earlier on Black Friday, and more and more people took part. Searching for the perfect gift for the kids merged with searching for the perfect gift for yourself. Instead of the hunt, shopping became the freeway – get me there as fast as I can and you darn well better not try to get in front of me or I’ll show you a******.
I still shop on Black Friday, but I no longer get to stores before they open. I purposefully thank a clerk for answering a question. I ask the person at the register how their day has been. I try to add a compliment, and a smile. I talk to the other people in line and help strangers pull big items off shelves. I have a good time, and I hope those I meet have a good time as well. And it’s at the holidays that I realize that I have become a lot like my mother.
So take a breath. Smile. Let someone in front of you. Say thank you. Realize you can’t do or have it all. Take an angel off a tree. Put a dollar in the kettle. Look a stranger in the eye and wish them a happy holiday. Keep up the family traditions.
And embrace the season.
Mary Ann Miller
Tempe Chamber of Commerce