The road to bankruptcy is paved with good deals.
To get the maximum effect, it is critical that you quickly listen to this five-second YouTube video from the hit series 24 before reading this post.
SCENE: It’s Thanksgiving, 2005 in my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
THANKSGIVING DAY [Play sound effect from video]
6:00 PM: Sitting down with my family around the table eating a delicious traditional Thanksgiving meal.
6:30 PM: My friend Isaac calls. He’s back in town.
“Hey, are we going for those Best Buy deals for Black Friday tonight?”, he asked.
“Yep, let’s do it.”
“I’m trying to get the laptop they have on sale, it’s super cheap.”
“Okay, I’ll go for that too.
7:00 PM: Dinner wraps up, play games with family.
See, this was when retail stores didn’t open at 6 PM on Thanksgiving day thusly ruining the holiday for all retail store employees and shoppers alike. At least the shoppers had the choice to not be there if they so choose.
9:30 PM: Family time wraps up, and Isaac picks me up.
It was going to be a long night. I remember it being about 20 degrees fahrenheit that evening so I bundled up pretty darn well. Winter hat, gloves, thermal boots, and the works.
10:00 PM: Arrived at Best Buy to find about 25 people in line. Some had tents, chairs, sleeping bags and coolers.
T-8 hours until store was open. Those people really thought through this whole thing.
11:00 PM: Standing in line, chatting with other folks standing in line. Lots of standing in line.
The people around us were very kind, and we were all cautiously optimistic about the amazing deals that would floweth from the front doors.
BLACK FRIDAY [Play sound effect from video]
12:30 AM: Teeth start chattering, I am freezing cold despite massive down jacket and incredible amount of winter gear.
The people behind us in line have hot cocoa. They were smarter than us. They offer some, we take it without hesitation.
2:00 AM: Isaac and I sat on the concrete sidewalk, stood, huddled in groups to try to stay warm.
This may have been the slowest any amount of time has ever passed. It was like watching paint dry. Or myself slowly freeze.
4:30 AM: Best Buy employees arrive to the store, all looking relatively unhappy.
Can you blame them, though?
5:28 AM: The sun begins to rise, bringing the temperature up a few degrees.
It was a welcome sign that the end was near.
5:29 AM: 50+ people that had been waiting all night in warm, cozy cars SPRINT TO THE FRONT OF THE LINE joining designated spot holders.
25 people in front of us just became 75. Perfect.
5:30 AM: The Best Buy employees came out of the store holding a stack of certificates in their hands.
There were 30 certificates, first come first serve, and they began distributing them to the front of the line.
5:34 AM: The last certificate for the super cheap laptop was handed to a person just four positions in front of me.
Even better, everything went exactly to plan!
5:35 AM: We left.
Best decision we’d made since 10 PM.
6:03 AM: Isaac and I sat down at Denny’s and ordered two All-American Slams®.
We couldn’t help but laugh about the horrible experience we had just endured. It was so miserable, all to save maybe at the very most a hundred dollars on a laptop that we didn’t actually need.
7:10 AM: Enjoyed our delicious breakfast and headed home.
On the car trip back, exhausted, we realized that the best part of the whole evening was sitting at Denny’s, eating our pancakes and spending time together. While we didn’t get our laptops, we did get a heck of a lesson about what was really important.
Now that the holidays are increasingly aggressive with stores opening as early as 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day, let’s remember this cautionary tale. There is nothing at the stores worth leaving our family or friends for. There is no amazing deal that we’ll miss, and nothing more important than giving our whole selves to the people we care about.
Let’s focus on giving our best presence to the people we love this holiday season. The presents and deals will always be there another day.