Thanksgiving Shopping Fun?!? Braving the Crowds, The Walmart Experience & The Value of Time

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Black Friday Fun
Looking for sourcing ideas? Well I did buy this! 🙂

Black Friday Fun

Thanksgiving is the second or third most wonderful day of the year isn’t it? While normal people spend time with cranky relatives getting plastered and watching football, there is a whole subset of our culture who decides to leave the house and go shopping. As a traveler I am always interested in learning about other cultures and saw this as my chance to see get up close and personal. I thought my life in this hobby and my hundreds of visits to Walmart had prepared me, but alas I was wrong.

The night started for me at my local Best Buy. They opened at 5pm so I strategically arrived at 4:55pm. I wasn’t looking for a crappy giant television (no Dell got me a better quality one for less), so I wasn’t worried about being the first there. Upon arrival I knew I had underestimated what I had gotten myself into. The line was crazy.

Thankfully we were all let inside fairly quickly and then things got frantic. My wife went to one section of the store while I headed over to the games section. People were in a frenzy trying to get a game that was discounted $20. Perhaps no one told them that Best Buy, Amazon and Target had all been selling it online for the same price. They could have saved a trip.

The entrance to the store is about 20 feet past the headlights.
The entrance to the store is about 50 feet past the headlights.

Craziness continued as people began looking to checkout. Grown men walked around with 60″ televisions thrown over their shoulder. You would have to pry it from their cold dead hands. The saddest part of the experience for me was watching the man in front of me in line for checkout. He was buying a 55″ television and had dragged it through the line for 15 minutes only to be told that televisions had to be paid for in the appliance area. #Fail

Then there was the guy with the 4 camera Netgear Arlo security system. We’ll call him Mr. Camo. It was all he was buying and the whole time we waited he told the guy next to him what a great deal he was getting. “This is normally $500”, he said proudly. If only he knew that Amazon matched the sales price and he could have bought it with one click. Maybe he just came for the conversation?!?

Eventually I reached the front of the line and my wife and I made separate purchases to double up on our limits. Yes, some people saved $50 or $100 on televisions or video games, but we racked up a couple of thousand in spend, some credit card rewards and what I confidently will say is over $1,000 in profit. Not bad for 45 minutes.

I see you checkout. I see you!
I see you checkout. I see you!

Then it was time to move on to Walmart. I had never even come close to a Walmart on a Black Friday and didn’t know what to expect. After years of people rushing their stores upon opening, Walmart has figured out how to keep the masses calm. Doorbusters are spread throughout the store and you have to wait in a massive line to pay with a specific cashier. I wanted to get a phone, but that would have meant waiting in an 80 person line with two cashiers who were in no rush. You MSers know the type. They had all night! 🙂

So I quickly made my way for the door, but before I did I looked around. Love Walmart or hate it (I hate it for the record), I realized at that moment that I was looking at America. Consumerism is fun and buying stuff is fun. We love to do it. Why else would people wait in these lines? Of course who am I to talk, I was there too.

My final stop before heading home was Target. Thankfully the three stores I visited are about a block apart so I wasn’t doing a lot of driving. Target was just as busy as Walmart, but somehow they managed to pull off a pleasant feel. Elevator music playing. People being polite. Smiles. Maybe Red is just more pleasant than Blue? Anyway, there were still long lines, but it was a totally different vibe. 

The back of the line. It snakes through the aisles to the right as well. No straight shot!
The back of the line. It snakes through the aisles to the right as well. No straight shot!

At Target I headed to the electronics department where I loaded up on some valuable stuff. Stuff makes me money. Then as quickly as I could I tried to pay and learned where everyone was. Target made everyone go into the main checkout lines which I think is good, but this large store only has 14 of them! The line stretched through the entire store and up and down aisles as well. It took 30 minutes, but it was worth it. Or was it?

From door to door I was gone from my house for just under 3 hours. I picked up a couple of thousand of dollars worth of iTunes cards as icing (which can be resold at a slight profit), but I was there to buy things to resell. In fact I didn’t purchase a thing for myself. Of the items my wife and I purchased, most were electronics and they all should be profitable. In fact, our profit should be around $2K from the stuff we bought.

My three hours out of the house on Thanksgiving were interesting. They gave me a look at how our culture works, but more importantly I gained from them. I wonder if those people who wait in line for hours/days just to save a few bucks have factored in the value of their time. Certainly many people bought a lot of stuff and saved big, but certainly many did not.

Almost there. Can I go home now please?!?
Almost there. Can I go home now please?!?

In the end it was fun. I learned that you need to get in and get out quickly or else you will be stuck in a crazy crazy line. So would I do it again? Maybe. I had planned to take this year off from the big family Thanksgiving and thus it was easy to leave our house for a bit to do some shopping. If we had plans to be with family then I wouldn’t.  That is more important. Oh and if I did go shopping again, I would avoid Walmart at all costs.

Did you brave the crowds yesterday? What did you buy? What were your experiences? Let us know in the comments!

Shawn Coomer
Since 2007 Shawn Coomer has been circling the globe with his family for pennies on the dollar. He uses that first-hand knowledge and experience to teach others how to achieve their travel dreams for the least amount of money possible.

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  1. Shawn, great article as always! How much time prep did you put into researching deals and who had the best price on what? You’re pretty experienced in the game so I’m sure your time was spent efficiently, but curious what your time commit was.

    I, on the other hand, went back to MT to see the family for Thanksgiving and forgot 4 out of 5 of my Amex cards at home. Monday it’s off to Mexico for a work trip but not before I stop and grab my plastic.

    • Actually it wasn’t too bad timewise. I spent about an hour looking through ads and comparing deals. I have a knowledge of prices in some categories so that helps to narrow down which deals to look at which helps with time.

  2. I went to Walmart twice on Thanksgiving and twice on BF, to the service counter to liquidate VGC from the recent OM offer. Surprisingly there was no line at any of my visits. I have to wait longer on the 1st of the month than I did on T day or BF.

  3. You and your wife are braver than I. I don’t like Best Buy or Walmart on the best days. Target is friendlier place in general. There is nothing in a store I wanted that I can’t get on-line.

    I did some on-line shopping ($130 Step2 kitchen from Kohls for $37 that is going to Toys for Tots; used the Staples/Amex/Gap gift card to buy 50% off sweaters and Amex offer + rewards + 60% off deal at Carter’s for baby clothes for my great niece. + shopping portals, of course). I haven’t left the house for two days except to walk the dogs. 🙂

    I live in a city and will wander around my neighborhood business district tomorrow for Small Business Saturday.

  4. I do all of my resale buying online, so I have never braved a true Black Friday – which today wasn’t, really. With stores opening the day before and “Doorbuster” items available for like 72 hours online but only 5 hours in the store, why bother? However, I had to go to Walgreens. Yes, Walgreens. I was out of migraine goodies. Not really a BF destination, but since I got dropped off there for half an hour, I decided to see what all the fuss was about buying toys from stores that don’t really sell toys. So I only bought enough to make maybe a $45 profit during some otherwise dead time, I got a little taste of the other side. Okay, blog-reading breaktime is now over, back to ordering before it all disappears at midnight!


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