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Reflections on Black Friday weekend 2017

Black Friday was the catalyst that turned me from a wise-ass cub copywriter, marking time till I sold a screenplay, into someone serious about their profession. Not a few years ago, I got a job as direct mail ad manager at the Broadway, a defunct chain of department stores in Southern California. One of my first assignments was the sale catalog to bring people into stores on the day after Thanksgiving. (No evening-before previews then.) I had to wrangle departmental buyers all of whom wanted more space than they’d been assigned, or wanted to jam more product into their allotted space. It was a nightmare. I seriously thought about quitting.

Then, on that morning (yes, we worked the day after Thanksgiving then) Marketing VP Jan Wentzel put me into his car along with my boss, Lisa Stanley. We drove to several stores to watch the people lining up to get in, and then lining up at cash registers–LONG lines–to purchase the very products I had been working so hard to present in an even handed way. For the first time, I realized that what I was doing had something to do with the company’s success and, by extension, all of us keeping our jobs.

In more recent years, I’ve pretty much ignored Black Friday, especially as it became easier to shop online. This year, at the goading of my teenager, I decided to check it out. I hit Walmart, Target, Sears and our local mall on Friday afternoon. I also made a serious attempt to find online deals which could count as Amazon-killers because they combined online and pickup-in-store shopping.

Walmart was the winner at that category. I bought a device which was one price online, but $30 cheaper if you bought in-store. However! You could order online for in-store pickup, know it wasn’t going to be out of stock, and get the same $30 discount. I did that and went to the store to pick it up, scanned a bar code at a kiosk, and realized I could buy a couple more things while I was waiting for them to bring it. Very smart, Walmart.

Sears was just sad. Not a lot of shoppers but even fewer cashiers, so there were still long checkout lines. What you’d expect from a store that’s teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

I like Target a lot but ended up buying just one thing from them. They had a nice sale on Fitbits as a doorbuster, but the model I wanted was gone. I found it on their website and ordered it. Unfortunately I then found it elsewhere at a lower price so the item will be returned. Feeling bad for Target, I spent a good amount of time checking their website for other bargains to buy, and returned yesterday on Cyber Monday when they were offering 15% discount and free shipping on everything. But time after time, when I got to the product page it was unavailable to ship, check inventory in store. Where I wouldn’t have the 15% discount.

The one sale product I really wanted was a Sony wireless Blu-Ray player, marked down from $119 to $49. It was “temporarily” out of stock online and finally disappeared from the website. Amazon, surprise, had it at the same price and I ordered it. Not going to the mall was more than worth the $7.50 in theoretically lost savings. Amazon wins again.

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