For days people wait in lines outside of stores, malls and shops with pitched tents and foldout chairs, preparing for the clock to strike midnight on the Friday after Thanksgiving—Black Friday. Known as one of the major shopping holidays of the year in the United States, Black Friday usually signifies product sales and discounted prices.
Doors open at midnight and from there on out, the items are up for the taking until closing time.
It’s been known that shoppers can get rambunctious on this annual event, shoving people, stealing things and doing whatever they can to get the products they set out to buy.
“From what I’ve learned in the past, Black Friday has been one of the most intense and scary times of the year,” said 30-year-old theater graduate student Jason Barrera, a former employee for Office Max. “People were fighting over electronics way back when the palm pilots were popular. I had to stop a couple of fights because the palm pilots went down to $40, which at the time they were very expensive”
Hidalgo native Armando Gonzalez, an annual Black Friday go-er, has memories of fervent customers, swarming around stores, savagely shopping and taking no prisoners.
“You can see the people, in the clothing, they start grabbing each other for the stuff. I’ve witnessed people grabbing stuff from other people’s carts. Last year I saw like an (unattended) baby crying in a stroller at Walmart,” the 19-year-old social work major said.
The term “Black Friday” originated in the 1960s, according to blackfriday.com. Black refers to the store moving from red to black ink. Red ink indicated a loss and black, a profit. It is recognized as the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.
In order to survive the Friday event, a bit of preparation and strategy are involved for both consumers and employees to make it through the day.
“I just know what I want to buy first before I go and just splurge,” said 18-year-old Weslaco native Aaron Coronado. “I don’t just go and buy anything because one, that’s a waste of money, and two, it just doesn’t make sense to just go and buy whatever.”
Blue arrows of tape lead a path on the carpet of the Best Buy on 10th st. in McAllen, signifying where purchasing lines form. Alyssa Marin, a two-year employee of the electronic store said they prepare a week in advance, doing tedious work to ensure things are organized correctly.
“Basically what we do is we have to check everything that’s going to be on sale that day, put it aside, that way we have the amount that is in the advertisement. (We) make sure there’s enough and everything is in the proper order,” she explained.
Johnathan Munoz, from the loss prevention department at Best Buy, explained that the store capacity is 350 and they try to let in 50 people at a time so as to avoid chaos.
“We’re going to have security here. We’re going to have, I think, four cops here inside the store in case anything happens,” the two-year-employee said. “We’re not like those companies that just open the doors and let everyone in. We try to make it the most organized and safe for the company and for the customers.”
With Black Friday being a full-day event, employees often work long hours and double shifts so as to provide enough man-power to the stores. According to the National Retail Federation, up to 147 million people plan to shop this Friday after Thanksgiving. The 10th st. Best Buy, alone, sees over 1000 customers on an average Black Friday.
“It’s a lot of getting some rest. As long as I’m really rested I think I’m going to be fine,” 21-year-old Marin said. “Then of course I have to mentally prepare myself and be like, ‘Don’t let customers get to you,’ because there are going to be those customers that aren’t necessarily happy, especially if you run out a product. It’s basically about keeping your composure.”
Since Saturday, customers have been camped out in front Best Buy on 10th st., double teaming and planning their course of action.
The Diaz family from San Juan has been set up since Wednesday morning, sitting on their fold-out chairs and chatting with their neighbors, eating tamales until the shopping begins.
“We’re taking turns, “ 13-year-old Reyes Diaz said as he waited in line with his mom and brother. “We’re going to cover this day and then tomorrow, my (other) brother. Then we go take a break and then we switch again–teamwork.”
As first time campers, Reyes and brother Gabriel Diaz admit they are nervous, but ready to fight for the object of their desire—a PlayStation game console. They’ve already thought out their course of action for when the doors open at midnight.
“He gets in line, then I get the stuff,” 11-year-old Gabriel said boldly.
Lilian Rivas, a 20-year-old biology from Reynosa, is also a first time camper. She decided Tuesday night that she would spend her Thanksgiving in front of the store, hoping to score a TV.
“I thought it was like a new way of meeting people actually,” Rivas said as she slouched in her brown futon chair. “They said it’s really tough when you go to the Best Buy at Jackson, but they said it was organized here and I was like ‘OK maybe I can make some friends and spend my time there and do my homework maybe,’ but I don’t know.”
In front of Rivas and the Diaz family is a two person tent, which houses couple Aubrey Canales, 19, and Karina Zambrano, 23. Although, they are first timers as well, they have their mind set on what they want and how much money they intend to spend.
“We want the TVs for $200 and they are regular price around $500,” Zambrano, a San Juan native said.
Canales, the Edinburg native, started adding in her head.
“…So altogether like $1500 total. It’s me, my girlfriend,” she said pointing to Zambrano, “and my niece. My sister and her husband are coming down today and they are going to take over for a while.”
Ahead of the couple, 23-year-old teacher Michael Martinez sat with two buddies under a pavilion. The Raymondville High School teacher is a fifth year veteran as a Black Friday shopper. The trio has a second pavilion and a generator to supply energy for an air mattress, game consoles and a TV.
“We’re pretty used to it by now,” Martinez said. “This is my fifth year so my family expects me not to be there for Thanksgiving already. We’ve got it down pretty well. It works fine.”
The campers spend the days leading up to Friday together, some swapping stories and even making friends.
“We’ve bonded with some of the people out here, the family at the front of the line came and helped us put up our tent and the people,” Zambrano said pointing to the tent directly behind them in line, “they are really cool and talkative. This is our first time camping out, so I don’t know if like when we get in the store, it will be very different and everyone will be competing.”
While these and many others spend their week in a temporary home in front of the stores, 23-year-old Veronica Garcia believes the campers are just wasting their time.
“They make a big hype about it and people just think, ‘Oh I’m going to get all these sales and all these deals’ and it’s so much money that is spent during that time and you could actually save that money,” the Edinburg native and public relations major said. “I never really care for it. All that effort to just stand there and it’s just stuff.”
Former Banana Republic and Old Navy employee Aaron Coronado also explains that shoppers should wait until after Friday because prices are slashed even more. Cyber Monday, for example, is the online version of Black Friday, where shoppers can avoid the lines and crowds.
Regardless of the lines, crowds and warnings Armando Gonzalez still thinks shopping on Black Friday is a good time.
“This might sound crazy, but (it’s) the adrenaline. It’s just exciting to feel the energy of everyone trying to get something,” Armando Gonzalez said. “Either you’re going to love it or you’re going to hate it, but I think everyone should try it.”