Out of Line: The Stress of Waiting to Shop for the Holidays

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At about 6 p.m. Thankgiving night, I was driving the familiar route between my fiancée's apartment and my own, hurriedly planning what I needed to finish packing before the perhaps ill-advised move set for 7 a.m. on Friday. Way too full of turkey and the usual Thanksgiving Day fare, I was damn tired and really not all that interested in loading boxes full of stuff for the move. Frankly, I wanted to lay on the sofa and watch football.

One thing that never crossed my mind was standing in line at Sears. Yet, as I drove past the Sears store at the corner of Fannin and Wheeler, there they were, dozens of people lined up waiting for the doors to open for what turned out to be a pre-Black Friday sale Thursday night.

Not four blocks from this Sears store is the well known breakfast/soul food restaurant the Breakfast Klub. Often on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I've marveled at the hours-long lines of people in the sweltering heat waiting to get some chicken and waffles or fried catfish. I mean, they have very good food, but not stand-in-the-sun-for-two-hours good.

I'll admit that standing in line (on line if you are from New York, in queue for the Brits) has never been something I enjoyed. The same night as I described above, I stopped at CVS to pick up some packing tape and was dismayed by the line of five people in front of me. It was certainly an overreaction on my part, but standing there listening to some guy chit chat with the teller about how hilarious it is he had to go out and pick up more cold medicine for his kid and...HA HA...PAY AND MOVE, MAN!

So, when I think about Black Friday, I can't help but reflect on what kind of special hell it represents. There are people who get in line DAYS in advance for the right to buy a cheap TV or DVD player. By the time you read this, you may have already been through it.

I'll admit there are some savvy shoppers who set out militaristic plans aimed at grabbing the most cheap loot as possible. I had a friend years ago who, along with a half dozen friends and family members, would organize via a complex set of texts and phone calls I believe were encoded by NORAD shopping at various Walmarts, Best Buys, Targets and Costcos.

They would put extra money aside for the deals they could get those days and rack up not only gifts for Christmas but stuff for themselves. The clockwork timing and fierce organization was as fascinating as it was exhausting.

What I don't understand about all this feverish rush is why people feel the desperate need to do their shopping in person. I get that big box retailers, malls and even local shops often offer a unique buying experience, good deals and the satisfaction of having your booty in your hands at the end of the day. But, with so many stores making the vast majority of their inventory available online, I find the early-morning (or evening) wait sort of silly.

Of course, there are very good deals to be had if you brave the darkness and crowds, but are they really substantial enough to justify the madness?

For me, I say no thank you. I'll wait for Cyber Monday.

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