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The Black Friday Experiment 2013: The Final Results are Here!

(This is the conclusion of  “The Black Friday Experiment 2013” series.)

I did it. I went out to the stores on Black Friday, which I swore I would never do and haven’t done for more than 20 years. After reading the latest headlines, I am telling you now, this isn’t going to be your typical Black Friday article.

Despite the warnings of many friends and family members, my daughter and I ventured out at 5:30 am on Friday.  We were looking for some deals, and we were also looking to see if we spotted any Black Friday excitement and crowds. My goal was to see if Black Friday shopping could be a positive and enjoyable experience.

In the news, there were headlines about fistfights over towels (really, towels?) as well as shootings and stabbings over electronics in some places across the US. I saw photos of crowds clamoring through tables of bargains and it brought back all the memories from my childhood experiences. If you recall, I talked about my experience with the “great underwear grab" in my first article in this series.

For us, however, I have a different story to tell.

Something quite unexpected happened on that day that I wouldn’t have believed in a million years if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. There were no crowds anywhere we went the entire day. Some places were almost completely empty of shoppers.

We started out around 5:30 a.m., and ventured to Scotts Valley, which was a ghost town at this hour.  Kmart had another round of big sales at 6:00 a.m., but nobody seemed to be there. However, those big sales weren’t so big, and definitely not as huge as the ones that were offered the day before. There wasn’t a lot of incentive to be there early in the morning. There were only a few cars in the parking lot, and very few people inside. We didn’t really find anything on sale that was better than any other sale, so we continued on.

We set out to Toys R Us and found the same situation, few cars and no crowds. We saw plenty of sale items in stock of some things that were advertised in their big sales with no hassle and no lines at the checkout counter.

Next, we drove by Best Buy in Soquel and encountered the same situation there and at Home Depot. Where was everybody?

We headed to Capitola Mall and started with Target. Believe it or not, it was the same thing there. My last memory of “Day-After Thanksgiving Day Sales” more than 20 years ago was at this same mall. I remember how hot and crowded it was in the stores. This time, my car was very lonely in the parking lot, and the entire mall was this way. Inside it was calm with no lines anywhere. The mall was virtually empty, we walked through and looked around, seeing only a few people the entire time and never had to wait in line. We ran into my son and daughter-in-law there too and went into the SPCA.  I saw more people in the SPCA than I had seen in the stores. We made a Starbucks run and didn’t wait in line there, neither. We decided to head out to Watsonville to see if it was busier there.

We arrived at Target in Watsonville only to find the usual amount of people that might be there on a slow day. We parked right up front and went inside. We ran into some friends there and had a great time shopping together. Target had some really good deals, including towels, and no one was fighting over them.  The crowd picked up a little bit, but it wasn’t bad. There was one person ahead of us in line at the checkout counter.

What was happening? This was not normal.

You know what else that I found shocking? Now, I know this goes against everything we would ever believe, but I saw it with my own eyes, People were smiling. People were polite and happy, laughing and talking. Wow. My daughter asked if maybe we were really dreaming… it couldn’t be real.  I still wonder if that is true.

We ventured to Walmart in Marina just to have a look around. The parking lot, again, was not crowded and I parked up front. Inside, there were absolutely no shoppers in line at the checkout counters. Though, there were more shoppers here than anywhere else we had been, it seemed more like a normal weekday.

We stopped at Marina State Beach where it was incredibly clear and beautiful. There were humpback whales spouting and playing offshore, as well as dolphins and sea lions leaping through the air. There were more crowds here than anywhere else we had been so far. This was a great reality check before we headed off to continue our journey.

We set out to Salinas, by this time it was late afternoon, sure we’d find some crowds there, but again we were wrong.  There were very little crowds there, even at Walmart, and we continued on to Gilroy and found the same situation there. It was evening by this time, so if there had been big crowds we had missed them. When we went to San Jose we stopped at Walmart there and the crowd was a little thicker, but still nothing more than any other day.

I do have a few complaints, however, but they are aimed to the retailers. Many of the stores offered their biggest sales on Thanksgiving, which made it hard for people to get any of the good sales if they were with family on the holiday. I hope the retailers rethink their plan next year. Most of the stores didn’t stagger the best things throughout Friday, and many sales were just like sales they would have any other time of year. There was really not much incentive to go out by the time Friday came along. Many sales had also already been done online, as the retailers were in heavy competition to get some pre Black Friday deals going over the past week.

Could Black Friday be a thing of the past? It looks like it is heading that way with online sales and stores always trying to be the first with a sale.

I stayed up on Wednesday night as my Facebook page lit up with Black Friday sales that were happening online in the middle of the night, and they were huge!  Many of the hottest items were offered that night, and they were flying off the virtual shelves. It was very fun to watch.  This has to be where the future of Black Friday shopping is going.

My conclusion? Avoiding the heavily populated Bay Area, as well as our timing was probably the winning factor here.  We covered a 150 mile radius that day, but we avoided much of the Bay Area, and we did that on purpose. My goal was to find a way to make it enjoyable, and to my surprise, it happened.  

There are a few things I will do differently next year. One of them is to bring the printed store ads with me, and not try to use the smartphone apps in the store. As helpful as they are, (and believe they are) they were just too hard to deal while shopping. Also, now I know to check online often before Black Friday, and check out the sites on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.

There were some glitches, but all in all, it seemed to go smoothly. I will be better prepared for this next year. I’ll bet next year the retailers are going to make the most out of online sales. 

We decided that this would be our new tradition, a family day out together. I never would have imagined it would be so much fun. We spent time together laughing and just enjoying ourselves and it was fun to run into family and friends in our travels.  I am really glad to say that my friend was RIGHT; you can have a great Black Friday experience. Thanks Erica!

Most of the Black Friday sites are continuing through the holidays, so if you aren’t done shopping keep checking in with them. I am sure the stores have a lot more sales up their sleeves through Christmas, so keep an eye out. I know I would get a different story if we went out shopping on the 23rd or 24th. But, this year I won’t have to, since thanks to doing this blog research, my shopping is done.

There is one thing I never want to experience again, however. Just the thought of it makes me cringe. You might have noticed that I didn’t say it once in my post this time.  I never, ever, ever, ever want to hear the word “Doorbusters” again in my entire life. Ever. I think I heard it a few million times over this past week alone. But,what is worse is that I probably said it even more.

All in all, I’d say my experiment was a success. Well, it was unless you wanted me to drown in chaos. If that is the case, then I’m happy to let you down.

Thanks for following me on this journey! If you went Black Friday shopping, please share your experiences here too.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Erica Cox December 01, 2013 at 10:42 PM
SO glad you enjoyed yourself. It really is a fun time, but if people want to hate it and not cone out... that is fine with be! Thin the herds

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