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Black Friday at midnight: One shopper's tale of woe

Jeff Bertolucci | Nov. 28, 2011
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.

When the clerk scanned the box, the price was $99.99. I had picked the wrong model! I asked him to cancel the purchase, which he did politely. I returned immediately to the Blu-ray section.

I studied the stack of Toshiba Blu-ray players again: Each box had the model number BDX2250 printed on it. That was the $100 model. But the $39.99 doorbuster was model BDX2150.

I spotted another shopper carrying the elusive BDX2150. An unboxed Mr. Coffee was nearby, and for a nanosecond I considered grabbing it, bonking my rival over the head, and grabbing his Toshiba player.

No, no, too many witnesses.

A crowd had formed in the Blu-ray section; people were mumbling about the Toshiba drive. They couldn't find the mysterious doorbuster either.

I combed adjacent aisles. I was ready to give up when I spotted a lone Toshiba Blu-ray box off in a corner. Was it the right model? Yes!

Please don't judge. I know people that are starving in parts of the world. But for this one, shining moment of my existence, I was a doorbuster winner. We take our victories where we can.

You Can Never Leave

Yikes! What happened to the short line to the register? It was gone, replaced by a Disneyland-like queue that snaked to the back of the store, ran along the wall of HDTVs, and curved back toward the digital cameras.

I trudged to the back of the line and I checked my watch: 12:41 a.m.

A young woman in front of me was soon joined by her mother, who was pushing a cart with two 46-inch TVs, an Insignia and a Toshiba. With her leg, she was pushing a 43-inch Samsung. It looked like a high-tech cattle drive.

The mom was griping about back pains, leg pains, and so on. Her misery index was high, and so was mine. I helped her push the Samsung.

Mom glanced at my sad little Blu-ray player. "That's all you're getting?"

OK, I was a fool for braving this nightmare for a $40 Blu-ray player, but I wasn't the only one. People up and down the queue were holding only a handful of DVDs, or maybe a couple of video games.

"What time did you get here?" Mom asked. She was amazed that I had arrived just an hour before opening. She and her daughter had been in line since 7:30 p.m.

It took an hour to reach the register. When I left the store, it was 1:43 a.m. My Black Friday midnight extravaganza had taken roughly three hours, including driving time.

So are doorbuster specials are for suckers? Well, yes and no. If you're expecting to get that 42-inch HDTV for $200, but didn't camp out hours in advance, you'll probably leave the store disappointed.


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