Black Friday madness — and my return to retail

It’s Thanksgiving Eve! A glorious day I sit in anticipation of a four-day weekend, lots of delicious food, time with my friends, family and boyfriend and the opportunity to… shop. This Friday is Black Friday!

Working around Black Friday at the bookstore, 2006!

Working around Black Friday at the bookstore, 2006!

After slaving away in crowded, congested stores since I was a freshman in college, Black Friday is typically a day I look forward to with a mixture of anticipation and fear. It’s a little fun, yes — being insanely busy with bustling people everywhere, the time filling itself without much help from you, selling tons of stuff and hopefully keeping your chain store afloat a little longer. I usually wear red and green, throw on a pretty bell necklace and maybe don a Santa hat (emblazoned with my name in glitter, of course).

Black Friday — so called because it’s the day merchants find themselves “back in the black,” i.e. out of the “red” or debt — has its origins, it seems, in Philadelphia in 1966: the day after Thanksgiving brought so many shoppers to the city and congested traffic so badly, police and locals likened it to the chaos of Black Tuesday, the day the stock market crashed in 1929. Retailers, cab drivers and others in the service industry thought only of the “headaches” Black Friday brought with it, not the potential sales and money-making opportunities.

According to trust Wikipedia, Black Friday is typically not the busiest shopping day of the year — that honor is typically bestowed upon the Saturday before Christmas. Makes sense. Lots of last-minute shoppers out there! Black Friday was the busiest shopping day of the year last holiday, though.

With the economy being what it is, I’m sure this year will be even crazier than usual. And though I left my part-time job at the bookstore in October, I did agree to come pitch in on Friday — I’m working 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., the entire shank of the day. My dad, sister and I are planning on hitting Target, Kohl’s and Best Buy early before I have to meander over to grab a paycheck myself. I haven’t worked at the store in nearly a month, and I’m pretty nervous! It’s one thing to make your triumphant return, and it’s another entirely to make that return on Black Friday. We shall see.

But before I have to worry about working, I’ll be shopping!

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Shopping early for personalized gifts

Rudy wrestles with Katie and his stocking last Christmas

Rudy wrestles with Katie and his stocking last Christmas

Now that Halloween has passed, November is here and Thanksgiving is the next holiday on our horizon, I don’t feel quite so bad talking about Christmas already! And, more importantly, Christmas shopping. I know everyone is worried about money, is watching their money, has no money, etc., but the holidays will arrive regardless of the size of our bank accounts.

Like most people I know, we’re all having to scale back this year — and carefully choose gifts for, perhaps, quality over just making sure we have a massive quantity. I figure I should start investing some time looking for personalized, unique items to present, and these will make a bigger impression (and cost less) than running out to Kohl’s or Target, grabbing a whole mess of stuff and throwing it in a gift bag. Though that can be fun sometimes, too!

That being said, I’m having to actually scour the Internet looking for fun, different things — and this is beginning to make my brain hurt. The constant hunt for better deals, coupon codes, cool ornaments or other gifts and awesome prices on jewelry is getting to be a little stress-inducing. I have my sister largely covered already — and hopefully she’s not reading this post — but I’ve yet to really tackle gift ideas for my boyfriend. And, to top it off, I also need a gift for Palmer to celebrate our two-year anniversary in November! And as he’s preparing to leave for the military, it can’t be something he’ll have to store or really leave behind. I guess, ideally, it should be edible — or a gift card. At least buying for our dog Rudy is simple enough — a bag of bones, a new toy or two and he’s ready to rock and roll. Does he know it’s Christmas? I think he does!

address_labelsSo far, I’m liking the look of . . . address labels! Yes, a little kooky, I know. But my sister requested some after going through her stash and, checking out everything over at Colorful Images, I actually think it’s a pretty cute idea. I ordered some for my friend Christina as a part of her wedding gift — a present with her new family name on it, as well as their new address. I thought that was pretty clever, though I can’t take all the credit — my mom schemed up that one. But they have a million and one options, they’re not very expensive (around $8.99 a set, which is several sheets, and you get an additional discount when you order more than one set). They have other cute stuff, too, but I’m sticking with the labels.

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Shopping around the Christmas tree

In my office last holiday season.<br />Note the Dwight Schrute magnets!

In my office last holiday season. Note the Dwight Schrute magnets!

Anyone else thinking about starting their Christmas shopping?

I know the economy isn’t exactly in, uh, great shape right now, but the holidays are quickly approaching. October begins the really busy season for most families, and mine is no exception. Birthday season for my uncle, grandmother and cousin Ciara starts this coming Sunday and runs through Oct. 29, and we have my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary to celebrate Oct. 25! Then comes Halloween, of course, followed by Thanksgiving and the inevitable rush and crush of the holiday season overwhelming all in its path.

Like many people rushing headlong into the digital age, I plan on doing a lot of online shopping this year. It’s more convenient for me — a woman chained to her desk — to browse around during the day, creating “shopping carts” and whatnot on my favorite sites. Then I get to go home and buy all the loot at home in the evening! And everything comes right to the door.

Plus, it’s just better, in lots of ways — I can find exactly what I’m looking for. If I’m just shopping for me, I might not be too particular — but buying for family and friends requires a little imagination. If I want to find an Incredible Hulk T-shirt in black for the boyfriend, it just may be easier to track one down online than to wander around the mall with the other deranged holiday shoppers.

Speaking of deranged shoppers, we already have our Christmas cards out and stocked at the bookstore (and they’re on sale, too). Even stranger? I’ve already sold quite a few boxes. Everyone complains that retailers “rush” the holidays — and I don’t necessarily disagree, in many cases — but the truth of the matter is that people want to see holiday merchandise. We’ve already received shipments of our glittery tabletop Christmas trees, though I don’t think they’re on display just yet.

Of course, working in said retail, I wind up buying a lot of gifts where I work. Hey, I’m already there — and I get a pretty sweet discount! The lack of book discount a serious consideration I’ll be making when I decide I’m too tired to keep up my schedule anymore. Sadly, that day is probably approaching soon.

Until then, I’ll start socking things away . . .