Wal-Mart, the glorious place it is, wasn't made to hold thousands of people at five in the morning. Nonetheless, I have experienced on the of the greatest marketing successes of the modern era: Black Friday. No sane person would buy as much as they do, but if ingenious markets account for variables and provide incentive, it will happen.
Black Friday shopping is a fetish rivaled only by the Saturday morning yard sale shoppers. It's an American tradition that, prior to this Thanksgiving, I had never experienced. But all that changed with a simple desire for $19.99 a pop seasons of 24 and $12 flash drives and SD cards.
You need to know Mountain View is a town of 3,000 people. Two stop lights and a Wal-Mart. And said Wal-Mart was our destination at a quarter to five yesterday morning. Dad kept telling me stuff like, "So, most people are going to be standing in line waiting for them to open the doors at five, but we're just going to sit here in the heat. It's not worth it." Yeah right, I thought, there's going to be three people there, and at five o'clock a worker's going to walk up, say "you're weird," and open the doors. We'll buy something and leave. I just knew it. Knew it.
Okay, so I was wrong.
Being the geeky soul I am, I was reminded of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. When Dickens talks about Paris he describes a wine casket that breaks, and countless peasants flock the streets to lick up the wine and wine-soaked mud off the cobblestone streets.
This was the same scene, only instead of peasants and wine it was middle class Americans and HDTVs.
Speaking of which, half of Mountain View has one now. 42', 55', 32'... Stacks of them ten feet tall went all the way down the middle of the center aisle.
Upon arrival, as Dad said, the line stretched from the front door of Wal-Mart to the Gas Station at the back of the parking lot. As soon as the doors were opened, these people flooded in grabbing carts and heading inside. As soon as aforementioned people with carts were inside, however, they realized that that many carts wouldn't fit in Wal-Mart, thus they couldn't move around. Thus they abandond them. Thus hundreds of abandoned carts littered the aisles, thus they were still not able to move around.
When I finally reached electronics and the 24 display, I noticed that our Wal-Mart had turned into a Sams Club--complete with crates and forklifts. The flash drives weren't on a rack, they were cardboard boxes filled with said drives and stacked on top of each other.
People have no apparent need for one or two blenders, let alone six of them. Heck, for ten bucks a blender, why should that stop you. Three 50' plasmas? eBay is the only thing I can think of.
I love capitalism.
I love excess.
I love America.
(And my new seasons 3 and 4 of 24, along with 2GB SD cards and flash drives.)
Maybe next year I should try Target...