For some reason, this year’s Black Friday events appeared to break all records everywhere in the country.  Perhaps it was because some stores opened at midnight, Thursday, or it was the effects of a bad economy making people search for bargains beyond all rational belief.  Nowhere was this more apparent than in the electronics sector, where stores like Best Buy started attracting people at noon, even though the doors would not open until midnight.  The incentives ranged from 42″ televisions for $200, to similar kinds of bargains on brand name tablets, cameras, and other devices.

I joined the line at 10:30 PM, placing me at position 300 as the line wrapped around three sides of the building.  The weather in the Chicago area was cool, but the increasing wind made it downright chilly.  But very few people left for warmer locations – the attraction was just too great.  The folks around me passed the time with their smartphones, playing Angry Birds, texting friends waiting at other stores, all hoping that store employees would come by with coupons guaranteeing access to the high-demand items they wanted most.  Needless to say, by the time the employees came to my position in line there were very few cool items left.

At midnight the doors opened, and local police kept people from crashing lines.  Once inside it was interesting to see people working the aisles with very clearly defined plans.  The store handed out floor maps while were still outside, so the rush for products would be properly focused.

About two hours later I left with two of the eight items on my list (an Android 3 tablet and an HD digital video camera.)  The other items I wanted had been gobbled up by the true masters of the hunt – those who gave up a day for the chance to save some money on items they probably didn’t need but would make good presents, or things to keep as trophies of the day.

As an annual event, Black Friday seems to have become part of the US culture, at least in cities with enough of a population and variety of retail outlets to make life interesting.

Rational consumers look for good prices all year long.  Black Friday is as much a social phenomenon as a bargain hunting opportunity. Strangers meet and share stories – everything from technology to family pets.  For me, this aspect of the evening is what made it worth braving the cold and my sleep loss.  As for next year, well, I just have to wait and see.  There are still a few items on my list.