What was I doing here? Cold and drowsy, standing in with hundreds of other bargain-itis victims in a line that snaked around Best Buy and ran the entire length of the big-box shopping center.
Best Buy employees were walking by, pitching Best Buy credit cards. (Guys, some coffee would've been nice too.) Five police cars were parked by the entrance. Officers monitored the scene.
"This is insane," the man behind me said. "This is the craziest thing."
I agreed. It could've been worse, though. A lot worse. As in people pepper-spraying or shooting each other.
Why was I here? The reason, I convinced myself, was to buy a Blu-ray player. I didn't want to invest a lot of money in an HD video format that may not be around very long, and one of Best Buy's doorbusters, a Toshiba Blu-ray player for the dirt-cheap price of $39.99, sounded appealing.
There was another reason, though: To experience Black Friday madness for myself. Why would seemingly sane people--the ones not packing heat-- brave the elements at miserable hours, just to save a few bucks on stuff that will probably be sold out before they enter the store?
Are Black Friday doorbusters really for suckers? I had to find out for myself.
I arrived at 11:07 p.m., 53 minutes until opening, on Thanksgiving night. Was I too late to grab the dirt-cheap Toshiba player? Probably, but I since I had taken the trouble to drive here, I decided to stick it out and hope for the best.
I walked toward the end of the line and studied the crowd: People in their twenties, mostly. Joking, laughing. A party atmosphere, almost. But as midnight approached, the demographic mix changed: More middle-aged folks, grandparents, even some children as young as ten.
From the snippets of conversation I overheard, most people were here to grab a television, particularly the night's mega-bargain: a Sharp 42-inch HDTV for $200.
"We should've checked out Amazon instead," I heard someone grumble.
At midnight, the line began to move slowly. Since Best Buy was letting only a few people in at a time, it took me 15 minutes to enter the store.
It was a madhouse inside: Uneasy shoppers combing bins for game and DVD deals, frantically grabbing boxes, and blocking aisles with their carts. The Best Buy staff did its best to keep order, but they were overwhelmed. Everyone looked like they'd rather be somewhere else.
I went straight to the home theater section and spotted a stack of Toshiba boxes on the floor. Blu-ray players! Was this the $39.99 doorbuster? I asked a fellow shopper. "I think so," he said unconvincingly. I didn't see a price, and I couldn't spot a Best Buy employee among the unruly horde. So I grabbed one of the boxes and marched immediately to the register, which wasn't crowded yet.
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