I spent about 12 hours in stores and malls over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. I didn't see any pushing or screaming, but I got to bump shoulders, literally, with people who consider shopping for Black Friday deals a sport.
I snagged a few deals — a Magic Bullet blender for $39.99 and a Huffy bike for $49.99. But mostly, it was just good people-watching. Here are some random observations from the store sidewalks, aisles and checkout lines:
People still respect the holiday. A lot of Black Friday veterans were amazed by the relatively short lines outside stores on Thanksgiving night. Many griped about having to rearrange their day to accommodate earlier store hours and hoped retailers might revert back to midnight openings next year, not 8 p.m.
Part of the fun of standing in line for Black Friday sales is meeting people and swapping war stories about years past. It's kind of a badge of honor to say, "I fought off another shopper for the last Leapster Explorer game."
People will buy anything, any time. I totally understand consumers' willingness to endure crowds for a deeply discounted tablet or Skylanders toy set. But to wait in line just to buy a 25-pound bag of dog food or a six-pack of Mountain Dew?
Sanity sometimes prevails. I saw a woman who wanted to buy a single pair of socks abandon them by the front door and leave, rather than wait in the long checkout line. She said it wasn't worth her time. I second that.
The lure of money can be stronger than the lure of bargains. Tiffany Wisman of Trinity stood outside Old Navy on Thanksgiving night to be among the first 500 customers to enter the "Overnight Millionaire" sweepstakes contest, going on at stores nationwide. Better luck next time. A guy named Scott in Texas won it.
Stores rely on impulse buying to make up for deep discounts on other items. Case in point: One couple at a Walmart in Clearwater came to buy a 32-inch TV on sale for $98 but also left with a griddle, pillows and an electric deep fryer. When asked how much those things cost, they didn't know.
The best time to shop Black Friday deals is Friday morning from 7 to 11. There's a big lull between the crowds, but stores still have a lot of the sale items left.
Merchandise that seems ho hum 364 days a year can look extra appealing on Black Friday. I've never seen so many people rifle through bins of $1.96 DVDs of Die Hard With a Vengeance and Dirty Dancing.
There's a reason some employees have no idea what you're asking about. Black Friday was the first or second day on the job for some seasonal workers.
"Parking space" has many definitions. Faced with no parking or a long walk, many Thanksgiving shoppers parked on medians in parking lots or in the drive-through lanes of fast-food restaurants that were closed. Kind of crazy, considering getting your car towed on a holiday would probably cost more than any savings you'd accrue at the store. Then again, I didn't see any tow trucks.
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Felt guilty about shopping online at work on Cyber Monday? You're not alone.
Surveys showed that nearly nine in 10 working Americans planned to shop or browse for gifts online while on the clock Monday. One in four employees planned to spend four hours or more of the workday looking for deals online.
While all that clicking was merry for retailers, it wasn't so profitable for businesses. The surveys estimate U.S. employers could lose more than $2.5 billion per hour in productivity.
The surveys were conducted by RetailMeNot, an online coupon site, and the Omnibus Co., a market research firm.
In the spirit of giving, nonprofits are promoting Giving Tuesday today, a worldwide effort to raise money and awareness for charities. To learn more, go to facebook.com/tampabaygivingtuesday or search #GivingTuesday on Twitter.
Susan Thurston can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 225-3110. Follow her on Twitter @susan_thurston.