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Black Friday’s full carts and festive faces

If you’re one of those shoppers who scoffs at Black Friday frenzies, you may want to pass on this column. I’m all about jumping in the fray for big savings, and when you make it an annual family event, well, I’m there.    

Most Thanksgiving afternoons find several of my loved ones strategizing around a coffee table littered with sales papers and ginger snap crumbs. Once Son No. 1 dared to ask someone to pass the pumpkin dip while he stood by idly.

“We’re busy,” came the reply from a coupon clipper.

“As if he couldn’t tell,” muttered another under her breath.

Each year, we carefully hammer out a consensus and toast the plan with apple cider.

“Head south and get in line at Belk’s no later than 4,” I outlined this time, raising up three ads and waiting for nods of agreement. It was unanimous. Even with an Egg Bowl to complicate matters, we had a sound plan — child care by the dads, leftovers in the fridge, floor plans pulled up online. Yeah, we were set.  Best of all, we had two men (aka haulers) in the mix. 

“I’ll go,” my husband had volunteered when he spied the page of doorbuster gadgets. Seriously, he did. Unafraid of noisy crowds and long waits (he has raised five children), this man actually likes Black Friday sales. In fact, he likes them so much that when I asked him to go to a pre-Black Friday sale some time back, he did — with a smile. That’s why I knew we could send him on this bigger run with confidence.

So off we went, filling all three rows of the Tahoe and expecting two other sets of relatives to meet us in the line outside the mall. Eventually we found our place among the masses, and from my spot on the sidewalk I noticed a newly-arrived teenager who was clearly bothered by the crowd.

“Please tell me I’m not waiting in that line,” he called out from the parking lot to his mother, who was still climbing out of their car.

I laughed at his naivety. He should have seen the line at Target four years ago.

When the doors finally opened, I sped toward the boots I was coveting, leaving three nieces, Daughter No. 2, and my better half in the dust. As punishment, I discovered the store was already out of my size.

Shopping separately (or dividing and conquering, in this case) meant I had to stop and answer constant texts as I later struggled to complete my own mission at JCPenney.

Him: “Which belt?”

Me: “One that matches your new shoes.”

Him: “Do we need (Bluetooth speaker for the shower, dish towels, instant pot)?”

Me: “No.” “Yes.” “No.”

(Let me pause here to clarify “instant pot.” It’s a cooking device.)

When I circled back, I could see the exchange concerning the instant pot was instigated by my sister-in-law. She had one of those hot items in her cart, which any Black Friday shopper knows is the most effective enticement around.  And when you see the same item in multiple carts . . . hmmm. Must be a good deal. I admit I struggled for a moment, but I didn’t succumb.

People complain about Black Friday, but everywhere I looked, I saw full carts being pushed by festive faces. Sure, one in my party had to climb on a display to reach a certain piece of luggage. Yes, the squeeze at Walmart is a bit uncomfortable on some aisles. But even in the midst of the rush, bargain hunters took time to admire the package-beyond-price Daughter No. 1 was toting. (That’s right. Even granddarlings get in on the fun.)

I’ve heard the stories of brawls and grabs and totally different Black Friday experiences in other places, but it seems to me that our spot in the South is somehow different. We still remember our manners. When you couple that with complete strangers taking the time to help you find a “Sing” DVD in a stack of a gazillion others, it’s no wonder I was able to send my husband (who was finding socks somewhere on the other side of the store) another text.

Me: “Objective met — Meet me at the west door.”

Him: “Good. Now about that Bluetooth speaker for the shower . . .”

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.