Absurdly DrivenÂ looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.Â
It’s an American tradition.
You get up early on Black Friday morning and you go and find the sort of deals that you only wish America would make with the rest of the world.
Yes, many retailers have moved the experience to Thursday evening, testing the pie-loyalty of the nation’s grateful.
I’d heard, though, that Friday morning might reveal a few more bargains, ones that were a little more under the radar.
So there I was, at precisely 8 a.m on Black Friday, arriving at a Walmart in Tempe, Arizona.
There were quite a few cars in the parking lot. The barricades, however, wereÂ leaning neatly against a wall, unwanted.
I could see no bloodstains on them. Perhaps the previous night had been orderly.
As I moved toward the door, a man rushed out. He was pushing a trolley, inside which were many bulky purchases, including two microwaves.Â
My shoulders tensed a little. I’d have to be on my toes. I’d have to be prepared for at least a little pushing, shoving and grabbing of bargains.
And then I was struck by a bizarre emptiness.
Not merely inside my stomach, but there in this Walmart.
It was as if the party was over and all that was left were a fewÂ people with a hangover.
Every single shopper I saw was alone. Save, that is, forÂ a woman who had brought both her dogs.
“I’m training one of them,” she told me.Â
It seemed like a good time to train the dog how to maneuver around the cosmetics aisle.
It was eerie wandering down the aisles, trying to find something resembling a bargain.Â
The most attractive, perhaps, was a sweatshirt adorned with the words Get Blitzed. What was so special about this shirt? It had a pouch at stomach-level where you could put you beer.
I wandered to the electronics department. There, a Walmart employee was recovering from the previous evening.
“No more bargains,” he said. “No moreÂ $99 TVs. One guy last night took four of ’em.”
“Is that allowed?” I asked him.
“It says limited numbers. It doesn’t say any number limited to one person.”
“But were those TVs any good?”
“Me, I buy one $400 TV and it’sÂ great. That’s all I need,” he replied.
What were all these lone individuals walking slowly about the store looking for? Or was this actually their normal FridayÂ ritual?
What couldÂ they possibly hope to find at 8 in the morning? Or was this just something to do because they were alone?
At the checkout, I asked another Walmart employee how Thanksgiving Night had treated her.
“It was OK,” she said. “Nothing like the past. When I started here five years ago, there were lines allÂ around the store. We had to close everyÂ aisleÂ and the police were controlling who could go where.”
“Last night wasn’t like that? What about all those barricades outside?”
“Didn’t need ’em. It’s the internet,” she explained.
Yes, one man had got his four $99 TVs, but there’d been no stampede, no fights, no real rush at all.
What people really wanted, they bought online. Unless, perhaps, they wanted one of those bargain loss leaders and they wanted it now.
Black Friday at Walmart used to be a Friday thing. Then it became a Thursday night thing. Now itÂ just isn’t a thing anymore.Â
I walked out of the store, a touch disillusioned.
I confess, though, I did pick up a bargain. A tube of Aquafresh toothpaste. Just $1.69.Â