We Shop Early for the Love of Tradition

Who says there's a recession? Or maybe the line that stretched across one side of a Target store in Falls Church at 5:45 this morning was just an indiction of how much we need a deal these days. Or do we just like the annual tradition of shopping early bird sales to kick off the holiday season? We may not be able to spend as much this year but doggone it, we're not going to miss the start of holiday shopping.

I stood outside my local Target with more than 100 people waiting for the double doors to slide open at 5 a.m., listening to shoppers exchange stories of what Kohl's was like at 4 a.m. and how you couldn't find a parking space at Wal-Mart an hour later. And some even complained that Target's Black Friday deals, which we only previewed in the weekly circular, weren't as good as other stores. But still there we were, taking part in the annual tradition.

The simple reason why people stand outside a store waiting to be let in at an ungodly hour is to get major discounts on things that may be in limited supply. Hence why some walk briskly or even jog as soon as the doors open, snaking their way to certain sections of the store. That's what stores do on Black Friday. It's almost like an inside joke that they all take part in. "Hey, let's tell people to get here at 4 in the morning when it's pitch black and cold as heck. We'll say we're having a sale and see if they come. Hee hee." But people all over the country don't seem to mind as they early bird shop stores like Staples, Macy's and JCPenney where circulars this year promised major deals on GPS navigation systems, cameras, TVs, furniture and clothes.

I have to admit that on my first Black Friday doorbuster experience, I felt a little excited. Watching people crowd around Target's electronics desk, waiting to get their hands on an iPod or a Guitar Player game was like witnessing a part of American culture. What would the start of the holiday season be without television images of people spilling into the stores when its doors opened on a dark, cold morning? Recession or not we like to shop and get good deals. And we also like to make our loved ones happy with the gifts they pine for. I remember as a kid that one Christmas getting the much sought-after Cabbage Patch Kid.

You'll have people roll their eyes and scoff at your tradition of getting up in the middle of the night to shop. They'll ask you why you do it and declare that you'll never see them out there as my family did when I revealed I would be shopping at 4 a.m. I'm not sure that I'll ever do it again. As the mother of two small children, sleep is precious. But I'm glad I witnessed the holiday tradition that so many people take part in. Traditions give us comfort, which is something we need in a shaky economy.

So do you shop the early bird Black Friday deals? What kinds of deals did you get this morning? Was it worth the trouble this year? How were this morning's deals different from previous years?

By Tania Anderson |  November 28, 2008; 11:00 AM ET Holidays and Special Occasions
Previous: What Are You Thankful For? | Next: Tuesday Tips: Mastering the Bedroom


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I had a great Black Friday shopping experience, my 15 year old son and his friend went to Best Buy at 2:00 in the morning so I didn't have to! He got the two laptops he was sent to get and HE had to wait in line to check out while I slept late. I am hoping I can pull this off again next year! :-)

Posted by: mhtalbut | November 28, 2008 5:30 PM

Well, given the death of the Wal-Mart temp due to the stampede, I think we should put an end to this tradition.

Posted by: LittleRed1 | December 1, 2008 1:33 PM

It's shameful that you celebrate the tradition of black friday without mentioning the Wal-Mart worker who died.

Posted by: subwayguy | December 2, 2008 10:30 AM

I like to think that b/c of the large crowd at that Walmart, the ppl in front were pushed by the ppl in back, so the ppl in front had little control and ppl in back didn't know what was happening. I'd like to think that they didn't know what was happening. But, given the shoppers' callous reaction, I don't think I can.
I have to say our Black Friday experiences were great. My husband went to our local outlets, which opened at midnight. He said it was extremely crowded but everyone was extremely nice. We both went to Walmart at 5:30 (not waiting at the doors at 5:00). It was busy and crazy, but again, everyone nice and helping each other, finding bargains and getting things off tall shelves. We then went to Target-which was very well organized-carts stationed throughout the store (we didn't even try for a cart at Walmart) and no lines at registers. Again, everyone very polite. I even had someone offer me something out of their cart that I was looking at, b/c they said they had gotten the last one! Its too bad everyone around the country wasn't like that.

Posted by: at2002 | December 4, 2008 3:01 PM

Tradition? You can't be serious. This early shopping is a merchandising gimmick, nothing more. Its like the old time price wars engaged in by Macy's and Gimbel's stores. People then acted like barbarians, too.

Tradition is closing stores on Sunday. Tradition is closing stores on Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is no tradition in greed; only a display of the basest of human nature.

The Wal-Mart spectacle is similar to the Kitty Genovese incident where residents of Queens heard a woman screan for her life on a street at night, turned on their lights, saw what was happening and turned off their lights, never calling the police.
Its called indifference to human life. There is no excuse for what happened at Wal-Mart, only disgust.

Posted by: notassmartasyou | December 4, 2008 10:40 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company