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Black Friday shopping all it's cracked up to be

December 01, 2010 | 08:06 AM
There are plenty of cliches involved with Black Friday shopping — long lines, early-morning stakeouts and people rushing into a store as soon as it opens.

Well, they're all true.

My fiancee Erin and I found out firsthand early Friday morning right here at Sears in Lake Geneva. But the events leading up to our shopping experience were just as, if not more, crazy than actually shopping.

After two Thanksgiving family dinners, one in Tichigan and one in Spring Grove, Ill., and a total of roughly 70 miles round trip (ah, holiday driving) and countless servings of the fattest, most decadent food on Earth, we planned to stay up all night to make the 4 a.m. opening at Sears.

But there was a little problem on the ride from Spring Grove home — a flat tire. Right as we were leaving the subdivision from Erin's aunt's house, there was a loud rumble coming from under the car. "It's just the road," I said, still feeling the residual effects of my turkey coma. But Erin insisted we pull over.

Sure enough, the tire was flat and almost completely off the rim. And since I'm mechanically challenged, I didn't know how to change the tire. Luckily, our friend Kent was following us, and he knew what to do. Not one but two tire jacks later, we had finally placed the spare on the front right wheel.

Since we're new homeowners, the glitz and glamour of Black Friday shopping for that huge 1080p resolution flat-screen television or a Nintendo Wii equipped with the new Michael Jackson dancing game is out the window. What were we psyched for? A gloriously boring, non-entertaining, functional washer and dryer. Woo hoo! No more fun purchases. We just need clean clothes.

It was a good thing we pulled into the Sears parking lot before 3 a.m., because a line had already formed outside the door of the building. And it was like something you would see in a movie. Die-hards were in line sitting on lawn chairs and keeping warm in the 14-degree weather with a small grill. Yes, really, a grill. At 3 a.m. At Sears.

Since I was so exhausted and feeling faint, we hit up Wal-Mart before we braved the elements. A Snickers bar and a Diet Coke provided plenty of sustenance for our journey. Around 3:15 a.m., we jumped in line, and we were the fifth and sixth people in line. Not bad. Despite Erin and I both wearing hoods, gloves and plenty of layers, the scathing wind and cold was getting to us. Not even my ever-expanding Thanksgiving food-laced belly could keep me warm, so we decided to take shifts.

Like an excellent sidekick, Erin volunteered to stay in line first, so I could thaw in my car for about 20 minutes. Then I came back, and struck up a conversation with a man in a Bears jacket. But don't let the Bears jacket fool you, it turned out to be the best decision of the night.

A couple minutes before 4 a.m., a Sears employee came out with "golden tickets," small cards that either designated a top-loader washer and dryer or a front-loader. In my blind state of tiredness, I couldn't remember which one we wanted. With visions of leaving empty-handed, I rushed to call my better half and told her to exit the car and sprint back to the line. But there wasn't enough time. The employee was asking who wanted a top-loader, and there were only four units available in the store.

I never thought a Bears fan could be so useful. My fellow Black Friday shopper informed me Erin had told him when it was her turn to stand in line we were buying a top-loader. Despite having met the guy 30 minutes earlier, I believed him and it paid off. I took the top-loader ticket, we scrambled like Charlie Buckets into the chocolate factory to buy our washer and dryer, saving a grand total of $320. Our first Black Friday experience was a success.

We were feeling really good about ourselves, so we gave Target a try. But there, we were introduced to psychotic die-hards. They were a different breed. While the Sears line was only about 30 deep, there had to have been at least 75 people at Target in a winding line that bled well into the parking lot.

Finally, we headed home and finally fell asleep around 5:30 a.m. Sears actually delivered our washer and dryer a couple hours later, and we've already washed several loads.

What an experience. A tradition that I once thought was straight-up loony, frankly, still is, but was well worth it. Next year, if you don't pass out all night from pounds of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and dessert, give Black Friday a try. Just remember to bundle up and don't rule out bringing a grill or folding chairs. And despite what I've said, never trust a Bears fan.

Ramczyk is the sports editor of the Regional News.

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