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Into The Black Friday Fray We Go!
by: Dr. Boogie and -RoG-

The news told stories of people camping out for Black Friday at 8am the day before. Granted, there are a lot of us that appreciate any excuse to avoid Thanksgiving with the family, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. Take me, for example: I could not find a single deal in the huge stack of day-after-Thanksgiving sales ads great enough to entice me into waking up in time to storm the beaches at 5am, especially not after a Thanksgiving rife with dark meat and margaritas. Still, I have to admit that I still harbored a certain perverse curiosity about what the crowds might look like at some of the more popular retail outlets in the area, so I went out to take a look at the aftermath of the early sales at around 11am.

My first stop was the local Best Buy here in Los Angeles. You may remember this as being the same Best Buy from which I attempted to procure a PS3 about a week ago. I figured that the huge press of shoppers combined with the slipshod organization of this particular Best Buy would mean pure chaos all day. To my surprise, it was only a little crowded, and things were running fairly smoothly. What's more, I was able to score about couple of marked-down PC games that I was so sure they'd be out of on account of the early store hours. Quite the contrary, the fact that the games were mixed up on the shelf and in no particular order meant that no one could find them (not even the employees!) except for Yours Truly. Sure, I couldn't sell the games online for thousands of dollars more than they're actually worth, but you have to pick your battles, people.

Circuit City, on the other hand, was a bit less rewarding. You'd think that it was just another ordinary day of shopping from the looks of the place. Of course, it could have been that the crowds had simply swooped in like vultures at the crack of dawn and picked every meaty sale item from the rotting corpse that, in this case, was the store itself, and the parking lot was a cactus/Joshua tree that the vultures had been waiting on, but I think a much more likely explanation is that the store had been hamstrung once again by the retailer's nasty habit of advertising items that their stores don't carry. It's either a case of negligence in the shipping department, or else Circuit City is trying to cut into their competitors' profit margins by getting them to price match stuff they wouldn't normally put on sale. Carelessness, or genius-ness? You decide.

Things really picked up when I got to the mall. The completely packed parking lot was a good indication that Black Friday was still in full effect, but I wanted to get a look inside to see if society had completely broken down, and who knows, perhaps riots and trampling, even...

What, no riots and looting? BAH!

Unfortunately, no. Oh well, there's always next year. It was still fairly crowded inside the mall, but the biggest crowds were gathered at the food court. It was about lunch time, but unfortunately for those folks, Sbarro wasn't offering any Black Friday specials, like "buy one triangular piece of cardboard with 'cheese' and get one free!" but I'm kind of getting off track here. Things were different over at Old Navy. Their huge windows let you see that they had lines going up and down the aisles. Who knew that pastel shirts and distressed jeans could create such fervor? I wanted to get a snapshot of the affair, but a couple of harried-looking employees rushed over to the window and started waving their hands at me as though they were trying to signal a passing plane. Those poor bastards, I thought. They don't tell you about days like this when you sign up for "seasonal employment opportunities."

That was as much as I could take of Black Friday. Hats off to those of you who made the extra effort to get up in the morning to go shopping, I guess. It's a little too stressful for me, and indeed, the hustle and bustle of the day wore on a number of people working at the mall, including the man of the hour:

You're getting coal, you whiny little bastard... COAL!

It's not worth it, Santa! Just put him on the "naughty" list!

And I now cut to -RoG- who also dared to venture out into the Black Friday abyss on the other side of town (in Burbank)...

What was that you just said about cutting to me? Keep your damned knives away from me and leave them embedded in your womb where they belong, Dr. Boogie. Anyway, yeah, I too experienced the pain joy of shopping on the busiest retail day of the year. Granted, I'm not really one to shop in stores for people anymore when I can do it with the click of a mouse from home and not have to get stuck in a line behind some mother who's trying to prevent her child from spitting up all over her shoulder while simultaneously attempting to hoist a jumbo pack of diapers up onto the checkout counter. Yeah, those experiences I can do without.

Still, I decided to venture out today with no real intention of shopping, but instead, to observe the holiday madness as people vied for the best deals. So here's a few pics and recollections from my morning/afternoon amidst the shopping anarchy.

Hey! That was MY spot!

Burbank has a big outdoor strip mall area which has some fast food joints, a Target, a Best Buy and some other big name shops. While it has much less cramped parking than your average shopping mall, the lot was still filled up completely. It also took us 15 minutes more than it normally would have just to get to the parking lot.

Sure it's not fun when you're the one hunting for parking, but once you finally do find a spot, the real fun begins. Some of you might normally be tempted to head straight into the stores, but I suggest hanging around the parking lot for a bit. Sooner or later, two people are going to see an open spot at the same time and then they'll both speed towards it. One person will get it while the other person screeches on their brakes and then proceeds to lay on their horn for a good 30 seconds while giving the stare. Now, when combined with a blaring car horn, the stare is an effective tool in letting the other person know a) that was your spot and not theirs, b) you hope they burn in hell, c) you are a tool, and sometimes d) all of the above.

Honestly, you might be better off just bringing a lawn-chair and sitting in the parking lot all day to watch the hilarity of parking battles ensue before your eyes. But fine, some of you want to actually go IN the stores... no problemo. I've got ya covered.

Wii :(

Ah yes, the dreaded empty bottom shelf. The bane of every hardcore gamer's and parent's existence alike this holiday season. Not a single Nintendo Wii or PS3 system in sight, just the new games you wish you could play. Hang around this area long enough and you'll see plenty of excited kids destroy the worlds of their parents. "OH MY GOD! THE NINTENDO Wii! MOMMY! DADDY! I WANT THAT FOR CHRISTMAS!" And all the parents can do is force out a smile, knowing that there's no way in hell they're gonna be able to get that system for their kids without either killing somebody for it or paying 5 times as much for it on eBay. Or possibly both.

What a steal

Not everything was so hopeless though. Target actually had some damned good deals on brand new DVDs. You could get a variety of fairly new releases, including "Charlie and the Chocolate factory" and "Batman Begins", for only $3.98. The only question is, was saving 5 bux worth going through traffic and waiting in immense store lines? Well, I suppose if you have a really big family and were buying these things in bulk for everybody the savings would be worth it. Otherwise, I'd have to say, no... probably not.


Best Buy was an absolute madhouse. I don't even know where the lines began, as they appeared to wrap around the entire friggin' store. I felt like I needed a machete to hack my way through the thick crowds o' people, just to get up close to some actual products. A lot of the good stuff was already sold out, but there were still plenty of CDs and DVDs on sale. Their prices weren't as low as Target, but they had better selection. Still, it'll be a cold day in hell before I wait two hours in line to buy a copy of "The Santa Clause" for 5 bux.

Didn't I see you on the NES?

The final stop was a place called Linens 'n Things. Granted, I had never been in one of these before, but the place seemed like your typical Bed Bath & Beyond store. It was fairly crowded in there, but nowhere near as busy as Best Buy was. The one item that did appear to have the attention of everybody - well, at least the attention of the men/children who had been dragged into the store by their wives/moms - was an upright video arcade game unit on sale for $320. It had a collection of classic Konami arcade games on it including Gyruss, Contra, Blades of Steel and Castlevania. At first glance I thought that it was pretty cool, but upon closer inspection, it wasn't quite the "arcade" system that it was made out to be. I turned on Castlevania and quickly discovered that it was the version from the Nintendo Entertainment System and not the original arcade one. It was weird, because some games were the original arcade versions while others were not. What's worse is that the buttons and joysticks felt absurdly cheap - ready to break at any moment. But let's face it; for about $320 you could get a much better MAME cabinet with whatever games you wanted on it. Still, in a store filled with bed sheets, dinnerware and woe... it was nice to be able to kill some time by playing a video game amongst all of the disenchanted holiday shoppers.

And to the kid who stole all the good weapons from me in Contra, I just want you to know two things: 1) Santa isn't bringing you anything but pain this year and 2) You're adopted.

After that, I headed out to the parking lot, laughed at more people honking with rage over parking spots and then drove home. I survived this Black Friday, so why don't you boy/girl scouts out there whip me up a merit badge for that, huh? I earned it, so pay up.

We hope this virtual Black Friday was enough to convince you all that the day after Thanksgiving should be spent recovering from the day after the day before Thanksgiving, and that malls are trouble indeed.

Questions or Comments about this piece?
email Dr. Boogie and -RoG-

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:

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