Black Friday Fails

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

A young man waits in line in the bitter cold in order to score a Black Friday deal on a TV. Things do not quite turn out like he was expecting.

November 26, 2010 – Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA

A sprinkling of cars was visible in the lights of the parking lot.  Frost was already growing on their windshields.  Danny Fredricks got out of his hatchback and checked his watch.  3:30 am.  He could see his breath as he hustled toward the large retail building which housed Best Buy and a giant craft store called Michael’s.

A line of people leading away from the Best Buy entrance had already formed along the sidewalk bordering the building.  Danny headed for the end of it, pulling heavy gloves from his coat pockets.  He was also wearing thermal underwear, extra socks, and a Philadelphia Eagles knit cap.

“You guys waiting for Best Buy?” Danny asked the two figures sitting on the sidewalk at the tail end of the line.  Both were wearing Pittsburg Steelers hats and jackets.

“No, we’re waiting to sit on Santa’s lap,” said one of the Steeler guys sarcastically.

“So how long you been waiting?” asked Danny, sitting down next to them.

“Maybe five minutes,” replied the other Steeler guy.  “But, hey, if you’re gonna sit next to us, you better take off the hat.  We don’t want no Seagulls fans stinkin’ the place up.”

“We’re a lot closer to Philly than Pittsburg,” replied Danny in a semi-defensive voice.  He was inclined to keep his mouth shut from that point on, but he figured they would be waiting in line together for a while and it was best to act friendly.  Danny asked, “So what are you guys looking to get?”

“Computers,” said the first Steeler.  “That’s the only thing worth waking up this early for.  What about you?”

“Flat screen TV,” replied Danny.

“Bad move, buddy.  They’ll stick it to you on these TVs,” replied the Steeler.

Danny did not bother to argue.  He looked away dismissively from the pair of pasty-faced know-it-alls.  They had obviously not bothered to look at the Best Buy website.  Each store location was practically giving away 32 inch Panasonic flat screens for $200.  According to what Danny had read, a store would only get ten of that model to lure in customers.  If the two losers in front of him did not want a TV, that gave him a better chance at getting one.

Danny had not planned to arrive alone.  He had talked up the Black Friday sale to all his friends and cousins.  His friends baled on him when they looked up the weather forecast.  During Thanksgiving dinner, he thought he had convinced at least one of his cousins to come along.  Danny promised to buy him breakfast, but that did not mean much while his cousin was still stuffed with turkey and mashed potatoes.  The cousin baled too.

Danny made a last ditch appeal to Marcus, one of his friends who also wanted a TV, but Marcus said there was no way he was staying up all night for one.

“You won’t have to,” Danny assured him.  “We’re going to time it so we only wait the minimum time necessary.  I’ve got a system.”

“I’m not waiting at all and I’ll still get a TV,” Marcus claimed.

“What are you talking about?  How you gonna do that?”

“I’ve got a system too,” replied Marcos.

Danny’s system relied on estimating how long the line would grow overnight.  Sure, he could have gotten right to the front of the line as soon as he was done with Thanksgiving dinner, but he did not have to be first to the TVs.  All he needed was to be in the top ten.  And not everyone in line was looking for TVs.  Like the two clowns directly in front of him, some people were after computers or washing machines.  Danny figured 3:30 was the sweet spot for spending the least amount of time in line and still getting what he wanted.

While he was sitting in the actual line, Danny worried that he had miscalculated.  He counted bodies and came up with 110.  That was more than he had anticipated.  It was more than the online discussion group estimated for the average Best Buy.  If even ten percent of people were after a cheap TV, he would be outside the window of success.

Danny pulled up his coat to cover part of his frozen face.  Why had he not arrived an hour earlier?  Then again, could he have survived the cold?  He wished he had brought something to sit on, maybe a little piece of cardboard to protect his legs from the frigid concrete.  He stood up and walked in place to keep his circulation going.  Then he tried jumping up and down.  There were now fifty more people behind him, standing or sitting in line.

“What’s the matter?  You cold, rookie?” asked one of the Steelers in front of him.

“What do you think?  Aren’t you?” replied Danny.

“Not really.  This is what separates the men from the boys.”

Danny replied with a smirk and kept jumping.  He visualized the inside of the store.  He had been in there many times and knew the quickest path from the door to the TV section.  He would sprint if he got the chance, but his problem might be the bottleneck right at the entrance.  If the employees at the door made people walk in slowly and single file, by the time he got to that point, sprinting was not going to help.

When the line began wrapping around the corner of the building, Danny’s hands were freezing, despite the gloves.  It was nearing 5:00 am.  Employees arrived and went through the locked front door.  The interior lights flashed on – a literal beacon of hope.  By 5:30, shopping would begin.

Danny’s phone buzzed with a text message.  He pulled off his gloves and blew on his hands to warm them up before pulling his phone from his pocket.  The text was from Marcus and read, “Can get in back of store.  Now.  Know somebody.”

Danny tried to decipher the message and wondered why Marcus had waited to send it until the store was about to open.  Then his phone rang with a call from Marcus.

“Look up,” said Marcus.

“What are you talking about?”

“Out in the parking lot.  I’m waving.”

Danny quickly spotted Marcus at the end of a row of cars.  “Yeah, I see you.”

“I’m meeting somebody in back of the store.  His girlfriend works here.  We can get in before everybody else.  If you want in on it, follow me.”

Danny looked at the line of people in front of him and decided standing there was not worth the risk of missing out on a TV.

“See you later, suckers,” he muttered to the two Steelers fans and then he ran to catch up with Marcus.

“How come you didn’t tell me about this earlier?  I’m freezing to death out here,” Danny called to Marcus.

“It wasn’t a sure thing.  Friend of a friend of a friend,” replied Marcus.  “We’re supposed to meet them by the dumpsters in back.”

Danny and Marcus hurried past the entrance to the Michael’s craft store and found a second line of eager, but frozen, shoppers.  Danny wondered to himself what could possibly possess a person to wake up that early for a bargain on crafting supplies.  He and Marcus rounded the corner of the building and jogged toward the dim outline of some trash dumpsters.  They found a young man and woman waiting in the shadows.

“Are you Sergei?” asked Marcus.

The young man, who had a sharp nose and hungry look on his face, nodded his head.

“And you can get us in the building?” continued Marcus.

Sergei gestured to the young woman.  “She works here.  It’ll cost you $10.  Each.”

Marcus pulled a $10 bill from his pocket, but Danny hesitated. “You didn’t tell me it was going to cost money,” Danny complained.

“You want that TV, don’t you?” replied Marcus.

“I guess it’s too late to go back now,” said Danny, fishing $10 from his wallet.

The group of four walked to one of the metal doors set into the rear of the enormous building.  The young woman with Sergei pulled out a key and said, “Stay quiet.  We won’t turn on any lights so no one knows we’re here.  Everyone else is in the front of the store.”

When the young woman opened the door, a rush of warm air hit Danny and all he wanted was to get inside.  The woman turned on a flashlight and led them through a warehouse area.  Danny kept his eyes on the flashlight beam and did not bother looking around.  He removed his gloves and clasped his hands together as they walked through the heated room.

“We wait here,” said the young woman, when they reached another door.  A sliver of light shone from the gap at the floor.  “When we hear people running around, we’ll walk out and blend in.  No one will know.”

Danny rubbed his hands together and pulled off his hat.  He pictured the layout of the Best Buy in his head and plotted out the best route from the back of the store to the TVs.

“Kind of feels like we’re in a movie,” Danny said to Marcus.

“Okay!  I hear something,” said the young woman.  “Get ready, I’m opening the door.”

Danny held his breath as the door flung open and his eyes were flooded with light.  He hurried forward, expecting to see shelves full of electronics.  Instead, he saw shelves full of picture frames, colored paper, and hot glue guns.  He had emerged into the back of Michael’s.

“Wait!  We’re in the wrong place!” he cried.  “We’re supposed to be in Best Buy!”

Marcus looked just as surprised as Danny.  He gestured toward Sergei.  “We thought we were getting into Best Buy.  You said she worked at Best Buy!”

“I said she worked in the building,” replied Sergei, hurrying to get away.

“We want our money back!” shouted Marcus.  “Who would want to sneak into Michael’s?”

“I would!” yelled Sergei.  “I’ve got to frame my paintings.”  He ran into one of the aisles.

The young woman who had let them into the store had locked the door behind them and completely disappeared.

“You moron!” Danny screamed at Marcus.  “I’ve been killing myself for two hours outside.  Now what am I supposed to do?”

“Sorry man,” said Marcus, but he did not sound very sorry.

Danny quickly decided that he might as well get into Best Buy as soon as possible.  Even if he could not get the TV he wanted, maybe he could find another bargain.  He rushed down the nearest aisle, running headlong into a wave of middle-aged shoppers, eager to get their hands on discounted Bedazzlers and scrapbooking kits.

After swimming against the frantic tide, Danny squeezed through a Michael’s checkout lane and flung open an exit door.  He ran toward Best Buy and immediately noticed that the line of people had not yet moved.  Michael’s must have unlocked its doors a few minutes earlier than Best Buy’s planned opening!  Danny raced back to claim his former spot behind the Steelers fans.

“Hey guys.  Thanks for saving my place,” Danny said in the friendliest possible voice, as he strolled up to the sidewalk he had abandoned.

“What are you talking about?  We didn’t save anything for you,” replied one of the Steelers guys.

A hulking figure, wearing what looked like a full-length fur coat, was standing immediately behind the Steelers.  He had arrived in the line at 3:31, right after Danny, but had not said a word to him while they waited in the cold together.  Now, the man gave Danny an angry glare and growled, “No cutting.”

“I had to go to the bathroom,” Danny pleaded.

The man in the fur coat did not look convinced.

Danny leaned close to the Steelers fans and whispered, “If you say I’m with you guys, I’ll give you ten bucks.”

“Let’s see the money,” one of the Steelers whispered back.

“I’ll slip it to you when no one’s looking,” whispered Danny.

The Steelers nodded in agreement.  “Hey, we’re just messing around with him,” one of them announced loudly, making sure the people behind him could hear.  “He’s with us.  He just had to go to the bathroom.”

Danny squeezed in next to the two Steelers and passed them the promised money as soon as the furry giant behind him stopped paying attention.  A few minutes later, the doors to the store opened and the line surged forward.

“C’mon, c’mon,” Danny said under his breath, trying to mentally unstick the human blockade at the door.  He remembered his plan and his route.  As soon as he felt the warm interior air, he swerved around the barriers at the entrance and sprinted.

When Danny reached the store’s far corner, he found a wall of TV screens showing the same movie.  TVs in boxes were stacked on the floor.  None of them were the 32 inch Panasonics he was looking for and none of the marked prices were anywhere close to the $200 target he expected.  Danny ran back and forth, hoping he had overlooked where his TVs were hidden.  He stopped next to the first employee he found.

“Where are the 32 inch Panasonics?” Danny asked breathlessly.

“We don’t have any,” replied the already grouchy employee.

“Your website says you’re supposed to have them for $200.”

“Well, what do your eyes say?  Sometimes the website is wrong.”

“They aren’t still in the back somewhere?” pleaded Danny.

“The only things for sale are what you see around you,” the employee answered sharply.

Danny wandered aimlessly among the TVs.  He had warmed up and unbuttoned his coat.  He felt so exhausted and disappointed, he dropped to the floor in the middle of an aisle and just sat there.  Other shoppers ignored him while shuffling past.  He took off his coat and folded it into his lap.

After a final peek under the TV shelves, Danny stood and walked toward the front of the store.  It seemed like such a shame to be there so early and leave empty-handed.  When he passed a stack of portable speakers marked $20 and half-off, he grabbed a pair and paid for them with his credit card.

Danny was feeling pretty good about his speaker purchase until he remembered he had already paid $10 to get into Michael’s and another $10 to cut in the Best Buy line.  The speakers had essentially cost him $40 – full price.  He let out a long sigh as he laid the speakers on the backseat of the car.  He dialed Marcus’ phone.

“Hey, where’d you go?” asked Marcus when he answered.

“Don’t worry about it.  You owe me breakfast.”


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Submitted: November 20, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Aaron Hawkins. All rights reserved.

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