Black Friday shoppers in Sevier find creative ways to get the goods

Nov. 26, 2012 @ 05:01 PM

 

SEVIERVILLE — The next morning, parking lots are littered with coupon scraps and cigarette butts; trash cans are so stuffed that empty coffee cups and cans of energy drinks fall onto the pavement, where they've been flattened as much by foot traffic as by car tires from the mad rush of the night before.

This is the scene following the hours leading up to the official start of Black Friday. From the dying moments of Thanksgiving to the frantic Friday morning hours, big-sale retail stores witness a truly American, sometimes horrifying event, leaving shelves and racks ravaged by 9 a.m. By then, disappointed shoppers straggle out into the morning light squinting at their skimpy bags almost in shock.

But it doesn't stop there.

At the stores that are still busy in the afternoon, like Belk and Walmart, people can be seen trying to figure the complicated logistics of coupons stacked on top of sales, before they even enter the store. Others exit the stores with carts full of bags and promptly call their rides for curbside pickup.

"I do like our curb service this year," said Michelle Donovan of Birmingham, Ala., who waited outside Belk with her daughter and her friend, Carolyn Marshall. "It was a really good idea to have our husbands drop us off. Then they come back, put the bags in the car and drop us off at the next location."

The three, who'd been shopping since 6 a.m., waited by their shopping bags and luggage — luggage that was purchased on sale at Belk for the purpose of storing other merchandise.

"I saw that luggage and thought, that's going to serve it's purpose before this trip's over," Marshall said.

Marshall talks about "having a game-plan" and executing it. She described the technique she used to fend off other shoppers and secure more options for herself.

"If I see something I like, I act like I don't want it, then when everyone walks away I take it," Marshall said. "You have to act like you're not interested because as soon as you show interest, the whole world wants it."

"We learned that you're supposed to pick up all the stuff you see that you like, before someone else gets it, and then you weed it out," Donovan added.

Curbside pickup, innovative purchases, reverse psychology, thoughtful shopping techniques — all this strategizing hints at something going on under the surface. It's a strange but unsurprising thing that's developed over the years: Black Friday shopping has become such a common practice that we've gotten good at it.

Americans have turned shopping into a competitive sport, and Black Friday is the Super Bowl. The busiest shopping day of the year brings out some of the most aggressive shoppers all over the country.

"Birmingham is a little more brutal. They take it seriously there," Donovan said. "Everyone here is on vacation, but back home people can be aggressive."

Men were generally seen playing supporting roles in this sport. They were the bag-carriers and rides, the cart-pushers and heavy-lifters. But after talking to a few of these men, it seems they prefer those roles.

"I'm up here waiting on my wife," said Jim Wright of Bessemer City, N.C. "I already got what I was going to get, and my wife just takes her time."

Wright's wife, Becky, was in a car accident that left her with a prosthetic leg. She still finds a way to fight the Black Friday crowds, a feat that amazes her husband.

"How she gets in there and walks around on that like she does, I couldn't walk as much as she can," Wright said. "She could shop for days."

Shopping can be competitive and intense, but as with any sport, some people just play for fun.

"It's kind of enjoyable," Sevierville's Alden Douglass said of the Black Friday rush.

Douglass hasn't shopped on Thanksgiving night in 14 years, but she used do some of her Christmas shopping on Black Friday in her younger days. Douglass may be part of an elite few, but she liked the hustle and bustle of Black Friday, and she liked the opportunity to meet a lot of different people.

"I didn't think anything of it because I was so much younger," she said. "I'd just get in there and go with the crowd."

Years ago, Douglass even worked in retail during Black Friday. And yes, she liked that too.

rhargett@themountainpress.comSEVIERVILLE — The next morning, parking lots are littered with coupon scraps and cigarette butts; trash cans are so stuffed that empty coffee cups and cans of energy drinks fall onto the pavement, where they've been flattened as much by foot traffic as by car tires from the mad rush of the night before.

This is the scene following the hours leading up to the official start of Black Friday. From the dying moments of Thanksgiving to the frantic Friday morning hours, big-sale retail stores witness a truly American, sometimes horrifying event, leaving shelves and racks ravaged by 9 a.m. By then, disappointed shoppers straggle out into the morning light squinting at their skimpy bags almost in shock.

But it doesn't stop there.

At the stores that are still busy in the afternoon, like Belk and Walmart, people can be seen trying to figure the complicated logistics of coupons stacked on top of sales, before they even enter the store. Others exit the stores with carts full of bags and promptly call their rides for curbside pickup.

"I do like our curb service this year," said Michelle Donovan of Birmingham, Ala., who waited outside Belk with her daughter and her friend, Carolyn Marshall. "It was a really good idea to have our husbands drop us off. Then they come back, put the bags in the car and drop us off at the next location."

The three, who'd been shopping since 6 a.m., waited by their shopping bags and luggage — luggage that was purchased on sale at Belk for the purpose of storing other merchandise.

"I saw that luggage and thought, that's going to serve it's purpose before this trip's over," Marshall said.

Marshall talks about "having a game-plan" and executing it. She described the technique she used to fend off other shoppers and secure more options for herself.

"If I see something I like, I act like I don't want it, then when everyone walks away I take it," Marshall said. "You have to act like you're not interested because as soon as you show interest, the whole world wants it."

"We learned that you're supposed to pick up all the stuff you see that you like, before someone else gets it, and then you weed it out," Donovan added.

Curbside pickup, innovative purchases, reverse psychology, thoughtful shopping techniques — all this strategizing hints at something going on under the surface. It's a strange but unsurprising thing that's developed over the years: Black Friday shopping has become such a common practice that we've gotten good at it.

Americans have turned shopping into a competitive sport, and Black Friday is the Super Bowl. The busiest shopping day of the year brings out some of the most aggressive shoppers all over the country.

"Birmingham is a little more brutal. They take it seriously there," Donovan said. "Everyone here is on vacation, but back home people can be aggressive."

Men were generally seen playing supporting roles in this sport. They were the bag-carriers and rides, the cart-pushers and heavy-lifters. But after talking to a few of these men, it seems they prefer those roles.

"I'm up here waiting on my wife," said Jim Wright of Bessemer City, N.C. "I already got what I was going to get, and my wife just takes her time."

Wright's wife, Becky, was in a car accident that left her with a prosthetic leg. She still finds a way to fight the Black Friday crowds, a feat that amazes her husband.

"How she gets in there and walks around on that like she does, I couldn't walk as much as she can," Wright said. "She could shop for days."

Shopping can be competitive and intense, but as with any sport, some people just play for fun.

"It's kind of enjoyable," Sevierville's Alden Douglass said of the Black Friday rush.

Douglass hasn't shopped on Thanksgiving night in 14 years, but she used do some of her Christmas shopping on Black Friday in her younger days. Douglass may be part of an elite few, but she liked the hustle and bustle of Black Friday, and she liked the opportunity to meet a lot of different people.

"I didn't think anything of it because I was so much younger," she said. "I'd just get in there and go with the crowd."

Years ago, Douglass even worked in retail during Black Friday. And yes, she liked that too.

rhargett@themountainpress.com