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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A survivor's tale of Black Friday

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I am a survivor. I made it home in one piece from Black Friday. In a column before B.F., I suggested a number of steps I follow that others could try to have a successful shopping trip. Disregard them -- throw them out. I found this year was a whole new ballgame.

No amount of planning, or even the most comfortable pair of shoes and every app on the internet could have prepared me for the crowd I encountered this year in Jonesboro. Being the brave and somewhat precarious person that I am, I took the plunge and decided to venture outside my local comfort zone and hit a bigger city to start hacking that shopping list down before my turkey was even digested.

As we were in the Memphis area for the holiday (no way will I ever be that brave to attempt that crowd), a brainstorm brought me to a great idea of staying the night in Jonesboro with our kids and son in law, getting some rest and tackling the stores by 8 p.m on Thanksgiving night.

I was armed and dangerous, with a pile of Black Friday ads thick enough to choke an elephant. We began our trip out, just as mentioned, and my husband, (YES, he went without having a chain around his neck) daughter and I headed out, while the other little chickens stayed in the hotel. By 8:00 p.m., we encountered an endless line around the entire perimeter of a well barricaded retailer. That seemed too intimidating, so we opted for something more familiar. Off to the home of falling prices we went. My husband dropped us off at the door, while he went to park (way off near the highway, I might add). We have done Batesville and Ash Flat stores many times, but this one was FAR worse. By 8:30, the lines snaked around the store for checkout, and no one seemed to be moving. What was the deal? Navigating the aisles for items we wanted was out the question. Squatters were everywhere. Sitting in bean bag chairs, folding chairs, what the heck? Did these people actually bring chairs to shop? No way. Nope, they pulled them right off the shelves and began nesting, complete, in many cases with snacks and drinks shagged from the shelves. Anything to occupy their time before the numbers were handed out for the TV lottery. Vultures I tell you, that is what these people reminded me of. They had that look. They were going to get a deal, and it didn't matter whose toes they stepped on.

One local woman was in line at 4 p.m for a TV for her son. She received a number and, as I was finally leaving the store just before 10, I made my way to the back of the store where she had been settled for quite some time to say my farewells. She said, "I hope he appreciates this." People were ugly, real ugly. In the back of the store, the woman with the TV told me I missed the best entertainment of the evening -- an incident in which some men were carted to jail for a fight over an item.

The thought of actually shopping for a Christmas item was not an option. Aisles were full of surly people staking out their spot in various lines, and they treated you like trespassers if you dared try to get by to check out the ornament aisle or some other spot. One corner smelled and looked as if someone had also set up a potty area for their convenience, a way not to lose their place in line. Only after we got in line at 9:52 did we realize we had purchased items that could not be checked out until 10 pm. I was so scared the Black Friday police force from Jonesboro PD would send us to the end of the line. Thank you fuzzy PJ angel (see they do come in many forms). She turned out to be a blessing for us. She argued for five minutes with the cashier and went back to retrieve a "bonus" pack that went with her purchase. She took up eight minutes in our line, and helped us keep our spot. It was 10:00 by the time she was finished, making us legal checkouters.

Onward. Store two actually wasn't as bad. Despite a huge line, we were bustled through like a herd of cattle headed to the slaughter shop. My daughter and I, in desperate need of fuel, took the opportunity to make our way to the snack shop, leaving my husband to fight the mad ladies in line. The line at the snack area moved at the speed of an injured snail, so by the time we finally got our food we were almost to the checkout.

The most noteworthy stop on our tour of "idiocracy" was at a retailer that did not open until midnight. Yep ,we were still at it. The crowd was massive. We got there just before the mobsters were allowed to enter, and found a parking spot just feet from the store. The fear of coming out at 3 a.m. to no vehicle crossed my mind several times, but, when others followed our suit, I was pretty sure we were safe. At about five minutes until opening, we joined what appeared to be at least 1,000 other eager shoppers. Although many of them had been there for hours and were gnashing their teeth at the latecomers, how dare we arrive this late and expect entry. The line was organized on the sidewalk, with store officials preventing what appeared to be a crowd of zombies from entering the store, aswe stood on the parking lot with about 50 or so other late comers.

When the doors finally opened to the biggest breach of fire code I have witnessed in my life, in the massive mob dispersed in seconds, like ants, to start fighting for bargains. We let the line pile in and began to approach the sidewalk to wait our turn. These steps turned ugly as a man on the sidewalk said, "I hope none of you's don't get on up here or I's gonna cut you." Really? Cut me? Over what, a towel, some sheets or a five dollar waffle iron? I am pretty sure it wasn't Hooked on Phonics he was after. I am fairly certain this man had nothing to be thankful for. Others were equally as hateful, yet none threatened bodily harm as they rushed like looters into the jam packed store. I really wanted to follow this idiot to see just what he actually purchased but, once we were inside, the word 'chaos' does not even suffice. The thought of yelling fire also entered my mind, just for fun, to see if they could get out as fast as they got in, but, then again, where would the fire trucks park,? We really might get towed.

We knew what we were after, so Team Curtis snapped into action. Led by my husband, we made a bee line for the memory foam rugs, bypassing those who were slowed by carts they had grabbed. I know you are laughing at the fact we braved getting cut, and a crowd of 1,000 plus people who are crazier than us to get some dadgum rugs, but these things are expensive and we got six of them for seven bucks apiece, and in red I might add. After picking up a few gimmick items, we began the search for a line, and searched and searched. After three attempts to enter a line only to be redirected by store personnel, who also had no clue where the line began, we were placed at furthest possible point from the cash registers. A loop all the way to the back of the store was our sign this was not going to be fast nor fun.

This line, my friend, made snails proud. I would venture to say the cashiers that were working were hired that same night. Many shoppers did not survive. They made it 30 minutes or so, and weighed the savings versus the stress -- many deciding to leave the store and their chosen goods amidst the disorganized chaos. We, did not. I have some beautiful rugs as a reminder to never advise people to try the Black Friday thing again, EVER. Cyber Monday is fine, but yeah, as I said, I am a glutton, but I assure you this particular store will NEVER be on my list for Black Friday again.

We got in bed with aching feet about 3 a.m., and sure would have given our right arm for some of those Thanksgiving leftovers that did not make the trip from Lake Cormorant, Miss.