Every year, for the past 5 years, I have been a Black Friday super shopper. In most cases, half of what I purchased or wanted to buy wasn’t stuff I necessarily needed. I was more excited about the prospect of getting a good deal, one that I can brag about to friends and family. I was more excited about being a witness to and observing the type of human behavior one sees on the evening when most stores can savely record a profit. What puzzles me to this day is the Why. I often ask myself why do people spend days of not weeks previewing “secret” BF ads ahead of time to strategically map out a plan to buy specific items that are purposefully in limited quantity? Is it a game? Is it thrilling and worthy of all the hours one spends researching, near obsessing over what they hope to buy i.e. accomplish?
This year in South Brunswick New Jersey, I was one of many in a line of approximately 300 bargain hunters who waited patiently outside of one large retailer that tends to attract large crowds year after year: Best Buy. This year, after my Thanksgiving dinner around 8:30 p.m., I drove to my local Best Buy to evaluate the situation. How long was the line? Where there people put there that early? Long and behold, as it always happens, there were 30 people camped out in tents, beach chairs, blankets, etc along the left side of the BB entrance. That was 8:30p.m. Fast forward to midnight and the line was slightly longer wrapping around the building. This time I got on it for a Blu Ray DVD player, one that retails for $149.95, which was a door buster item for $99 and a 23 inch monitor that retails for over $200 and was selling for $123.00. Not exactly a huge savings but a savings nonetheless.
What I did not like about this year was the how the old American way got in the way of me accomplishing my goals. The Best Buy I was at handed out tickets at 3 a.m. on a first-come basis, and each customer was eligible to receive one ticket per item on as many doorbusters items as they wished. A group of teenagers or possibly young college students camped out from 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving day to get tickets to specific items, so that they could:
A. Scalpe the tickets, which gave rights to the doorbuster items until 9:00 a.m.
B. Buy the items that were in high demand and resale it to people who were further along in the line or on eBay.
I witness both A and B happening and since the Blu Ray player (the item I was in line for) tickets did not make it to my point in the line, I then had to wait until 9:00 a.m. to buy whatever was left over or as I like to call it: the unclaimed merchandise. Fortunately, several of the players were abondon either from failed scalping or uneducated shoppers who simply could not find where the players were hiding. Doorbuster items at this Best Buy were guarded by more than one blue shirts and were spread out through out the store.
The scene was quite chaotic, yet slightly humorous and down right selfdefeating! After several hours of waiting in line and to not to get a ticket to the item I wanted, I was somewhat upset. Then, to learn second laters after the tickets were dispired that I could buy whatever was unclaimed only after 9:00 a.m., that was salt in an open wound. Damn those smart teens/college students!
To a high school/college student with nothing but time on his or her hands, I can see how the prospect of earning a few extra bucks on reselling or scalping could be enticing. Several of the big ticket items that offered huge savings were the tickets that were successfully scalped. Now mind you, in NJ there are laws pertaining to ticket scalping which regulates ticket brokers, which in this case, it does not apply. In fact, even though the Best Buy employees were present and the police were circling, it did not stop there several high school or college students from offering there tickets for $20-$50 a pop.
I would normally say that the students were marketing to the wrong crowd. Why would anyone who is looking to get a deal spend extra money? And for some items, the students had a hard time getting rid of i.e. reselling the tickets. The successful scalpers were ticket holders who held tickets to items that offer $100-500 in savings. Thus, an additional $20-$50 more for rights to the savings made sense to some.
For me, I am retiring my Black Friday days. After witnessing the scalping and reselling in the parking lot, what was once fun and offered some savings is now down right dirty and unrewarding to me. Not sure why I feel this way, but apparently the store where I was at was not the only place where Black Friday ticket scalpers were spotted. In a nearby NJ town, Holmdel, several other people had the same idea on how to make money from Black Friday. In fact, I have seen several videos online directed to students on how to buy and resell Black Friday Doorbuster Products!
I have to commend Best Buy and other retailers who at least formulated a plan to deal with BF shoppers. Years ago it was a free for all and positioning in line mattered as much as what item you went for first when you were allowed in the store. The secene of people running and shoving was quite common on Black Friday, but that was two years ago. Now with the concept of tickets with rights to certain items, it helped to appease the crowd and attempted to keep eager bargain hunters safe from each other. Yet human nature or entrepreneurialism will find a way.
For those people who stood home on BF, take solace in that there’s always Black Monday, which is the yet another large shopping day, except it’s online and from the confines of your home.
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