Robyn Margulis Vernon Ogrodnek

When black Friday rolls around, I always have the same thought: Let the madness begin.

Considering the throes of people that annually hit malls and department stores on this, the biggest shopping day of the year, I will beg forgiveness now, as I risk offending a lot of people. But I must say, I think you are all insane!

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To be fair, I should clarify my position: If you tried it before and didn't learn your lesson and did it again, then you are insane.

I admit I decided to give it a try one year. My kids were pre-school-aged and I was off from work. So with the goal of putting a dent in my Christmas shopping list I dropped the kids off at daycare and ventured out to Toys R Us.

Finding parking was the first challenge. After circling the lot for about 15 minutes, I finally lucked out after I followed a mom in her P.J.s to her car. The next challenge was getting a shopping cart as there were none for the taking and someone already scooped up the abandoned cart left by pajama momma. After stalking another shopper on her way to her car, I scored her cart after helping her load up her trunk. That shopper and I shared a brief good-deed moment. (Or was it more quid pro quo on this "Every-Man-for-Himself" day?)

As the automatic doors opened welcoming me, I realized that I was about to enter chaos. A little fear crept over me. Shoppers had this eerily similar harried look that combined with their disheveled appearances, were reminiscent of the most frightening celebrity mug shots. People were complaining. Kids were screaming and crying. What was I thinking? I wondered if I should retreat. I pressed on.

It took forever to navigate the crowded aisles to gather up the toys on my list. Of course, the most popular items were gone by the time I hit the store, since at 9 a.m. it had already been open for 5 hours. Nonetheless, I managed to fill up a cart and went in search of the end of the checkout line. Once again doing circles, I discovered that the end of the line was at the front of the store where it extended in one giant horseshoe covering every bit of Toys R Us real estate. It would take another long, hair-raising 90 minutes of mayhem before I was the one being stalked in the parking lot. It was at that moment that I decided, never again.

This year news outlets were reporting that stores were opening even earlier than usual: Some at 3 a.m. and others, as early as midnight. So right after partaking in your Thanksgiving feast, you could get a jump start on your black Friday shopping beating out all of those fools who elected first to get a little shut-eye. That is if you were not one of those diehards that lined up outside a favorite shopping venue intent on getting that one great deal. (In one black Friday interview, a twenty-something admitted leaving his house at 7:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving night to get in line at his favorite store for their 4:30 a.m. opening so he could score their one great deal: A $10 coupon.)

Perusing a host of black Friday photos online, I found countless examples of the insanity: Long lines stretching around the parking lots of stores in the dark of night; tents and lounge chairs amidst the overnight campers; crowds of people charging through open doors intent on beating each other out for the deep-discounted merchandise; and horrendously long checkout lines.

In one photo I saw a little girl, no older than 2, dressed in footie pajamas looking tired and dismayed sitting in a shopping cart while her father flipped through a Toys R Us flyer. Was she a conspirator or an innocent victim? Indeed, a 21-year-old Wisconsin mother, arrested for disorderly conduct following a line-cutting melee during which she allegedly threatened to shoot someone, admitted to police, "I just wanted to get my daughter that toy she wanted for Christmas."

Although, thankfully, I have yet to hear of any deaths caused this black Friday, it didn't take long to find one of those trampling stories. In North Buffalo, N.Y., a stampede with injuries occurred when a Target store opened its doors. Word is that a $300, 40-inch HDTV was the must-have item on everyone's list.

Now this is where foolishness has turned into plain madness. That retailers can cause people to act like such idiots just so they can get for themselves or their kids what they want - that's want, not need - is the reason that the rest of the world thinks we are nuts. Of course the reason for the long lines in the early morning hours is that most folks realize that the retailers only offer limited quantities of their doorbuster deals. But instead of getting annoyed by the way in which retailers have brainwashed us, we continue to contribute to their wealth by shopping our heads off, in some cases post-trample.

I know a lot of people who get tremendous enjoyment out of the black Friday shopping tradition and the victorious feeling one gets from that big score. To all of you, I hope that I have not offended. Be assured, I love shopping, and a great deal, just as much as the next girl. But I refuse to lose sleep, and my sanity, just to spend money on stuff. And if I just can't resist using the day off to get a little shopping done, I'm content to do it from the comfort of my own couch.

Apparently there are others that think like me. Online I found a popular e-card that tells the story: "Let's watch the black Friday death toll on the T.V. news while we shop online."


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