Dec 02, 2008 Herm Card Uncategorized
Sandy Searle and Micki Arnold had a game plan. It was based on their experience as “Black Friday” shoppers. The sisters from Camillus, who have “been doing this for about five years” were first in line at the Target store in Fairmount. Preparedness is one of the lessons they teach as leaders of Girl Scout Troop 63, and they demonstrated it on Friday. They had arrived at 3 a.m. for the 6 a.m. opening, wearing their cold weather gear and equipped with coffee, doughnuts, chemical hand warmers and blankets.
“Usually there are three of us, two runners and a ‘cart getter’, but our friend Jenn [D’Alessandro] is at Wal-mart, (opening at 5). She’s on her way here.”
As they explained it, the ‘runners’ do just that — run to grab the items they are after, while the ‘cart getter’ meets them with the cart. “We’re the runners — we run to get the stuff. If we stop for a cart, everybody passes us. There’s no point to being first if that happens,” said Searle.
She answered her cell phone and found out that her friends at Wal-mart had picked up a couple of the items she and Arnold were after, so their job was simplified. “Even though we are going to save money because of the sales, we’re really in it for the sport,” said Arnold. ‘We have a pretty good game plan. We check the ads the night before and make our list. Then we lay out our clothes at night so we can get here early and go to work. This is the first time we’ve been first in line last year we were seven people back but we still did OK.”
Searle, saying that in addition to her three children, had “a big family to shop for. “If we can’t get what we’re after here, we’ll swing into a few more stores,” she added. They planned to avoid the huge crowd at Carrousel Mall, but said they might stop in if they really needed to.
The women predicted that if all went well, they could be done, including breakfast, by about 10 a.m.
People in line seemed to be focused on Garmin GPS receivers, “Rock Star” video games and Kodak digital cameras, all priced well below normal. There were vacuum cleaners and car DVD players on a number of lists. Most people were looking for specific items, but many were there just to see what kind of bargain they might discover.
While the line increased to more than 200 people, on the inside there was preparation going on as well. Store manager Jim Lougen led the daily gathering of about 50 store personnel. He reminded the staff, a bit larger than for a normal Friday, of the day’s game plan. He alerted them that they would be very busy from about 6 to 10 a.m. and that the prediction was for “sales of 350 (thousand dollars), but we could do 500.”
He emphasized the need for teamwork, and was sure to make staff aware of their break schedule and lunch menu. An assistant manager, with a chuckle, reminded the newer staff members that this was their “retail right of passage.” With a few more words of encouragement, Lougen then released them to their work stations.
Susan-Hammerick-Hasey, part of the management team, said that “These meetings help us get our game face on.” The former Cazenovia teacher, in her sixth “Black Friday” event, was sure to caution that the best spot for photos, dead center in the entry aisle was not the safest. “If you’re not careful, they’ll run you down,” she said.
At 5:58 a.m., two store security people opened the doors, allowing the people in line a chance to prepare. Searle and Arnold, knowing that a moment’s hesitation could be dangerous, edged forward expectantly.
At 6, the security people stepped aside, and the shoppers surged forward. Searle and Arnold, leading the pack, ran to the main aisle, split up per their game plan, and disappeared into the store.
Lougen and his staff likewise became part of the crowd, helping staff, assisting customers, and quite successfully trying to ensure a positive experience “on both sides of the line.”
Over as quickly
In less than an hour, the frenzy had subsided into a more normal pace. People still clustered around the electronics counter, but the rest of the store was reasonably orderly, though the 18 registers at the front of the store remained busy. As with Searle and Arnold, there was a great deal of team shopping, most of it coordinated via cell phone.
As the shoppers exited, most carts were full, though that might mean only one or two big items. Most of them seemed satisfied with their shopping and felt that the management had done a very good job of maintaining order. “Not like the other place,” said a woman gesturing to the west. We were there when they opened. That was a madhouse.”
By 7:30 Sandy Searle and Micki Arnold were long gone, their thorough preparation, long wait and crowd leading sprint having paid off in another successful Black Friday.
Herm Card is the City Muse for the City Eagle and regularly contributes freelance pieces to The Advocate and several other Eagle newspapers.