Student shoppers partake in American Black Friday experience

By Steffi Porter

Shoppers waited in the cold for hours, woke up before sunrise, spent money in record-high numbers and worked extended shifts at retail stores on Nov. 25, all in the name of Black Friday, a day of retail sales and for some the beginning of the holiday season.

More than half of Black Friday shoppers, 51.4 percent, purchased either clothing or clothing accessories, according to the National Retail Federation.  University of Massachusetts sophomore Kleopatra Jankulla works at the retail store Marshalls, and worked an eight-hour shift on Black Friday.

“It was absolutely hectic,” said Jankulla. “There were huge masses of people. Literally, the doors never closed. Everything was off the hangers, on the ground.”

“You’d try to go around the customers but there were customers everywhere,” she added. “The line at the registers was never-ending. We had 10 registers open.”

People shopping for gifts, according to the NRF, bought mostly clothing, accessories or electronics. Nearly four in 10, 39.4 percent, bought electronic items, up 36.7 percent from last year. In addition, 32.6 percent of shoppers bought toys, 23.1 percent purchased gift cards, 21.8 percent bought jewelry and 21.3 percent purchased home décor.

Sophomore Katey Evens went shopping at midnight on Black Friday and though she didn’t buy anything, she said shopping on this particular day is a family tradition.

“We go all the way to Portland, Maine outlets and we stock up on North Face and L.L. Bean attire for the winter,” said Evans.

Evans was certainly not alone in her midnight shopping, accompanied by 226 million shoppers nation-wide, according to the NRF. Almost a quarter of all Black Friday shoppers, 24.4 percent, were at stores and ready to shop at midnight.

Among those shoppers was sophomore Melissa Reda.

“I went early just because my friend was going early and I wanted to experience midnight shopping because I’ve never done it before. It was a good experience,” said Reda. “We waited in line for an hour, saw a person get pulled over in the parking lot for almost crashing into three cars and a pole. We went inside at 12 a.m. and a lot of people were there. Some were running, but nothing too crazy.”

Black Friday has become infamous for overly eager shoppers, who are not hesitant to throw a few elbows when trying to get that year’s must-have product. This year alone 20 people, including children, were injured at a Los Angeles Walmart, according to USA Today.

Total spending on Black Friday reached $52.4 billion, with the average shopper spending $398.62, up $33.28 from last year, according to the NRF.

While masses of people shopped in record numbers, UMass sophomore Molly Ross did not wish to partake in any Black Friday shopping.

“I think [Black Friday] is great for our economy and a good opportunity for people that go crazy on holiday shopping,” said Ross. “I’m a simple shopper, though, and still manage to find good deals even though I shop in the next month.”

Ross said that she does not think Black Friday deals are worth waking up before sunrise, shopping at midnight or having to wait in never-ending lines. For Ross, spending a few extra dollars is worth less crowded stores and shorter lines.

Sophomore Dami Suh, however, was eager to spend her Friday shopping. Not only did she shop, but also she spent her day in New York City visiting her cousin.

“I went to New York City for the first time ever and it was busy and bustling. My cousin dragged me. We woke up at four. It was a great experience,” said Suh.

In an effort to embrace the festive spirit of the event, stores went to great lengths to make the event more appealing— including hiring Santa Clauses, setting up elaborate window displays and playing Christmas music.

“Some stores even had DJs, which was kind of ridiculous,” said Evans.  “It was kind of funny… most stores had more employees than shoppers.”

Senior Madeline Miller was working at Old Navy for the third year in a row on Black Friday and said the experience was “crazy and stressful.” Like the year before, the store opened at midnight.

“People were cheering when we opened the doors. I was at my register for two hours with non-stop customers,” she said.

Miller said that the craziest thing she saw on Friday was a line of over 200 people all waiting for the store to be opened. However, she said there was no fighting this year.

Freshman Jacob Rose went to Walmart on Black Friday, and said that by the time he got there, in the evening, there was not much left on the shelves.

But, Cynthia Honorat had a different experience. She went shopping with her mom at Macy’s late in the afternoon on Friday and then again Saturday morning.

“It was fun,” she said. “I enjoy spending money.”

However, Honorat recommends skipping the lines on Friday, and taking advantage of equally substantial deals on Saturday morning.

“I went back to Macy’s on Saturday, and bought some boots,” said Honorat. “They have even better deals before 1 p.m.”

Katie Landeck contributed to this report.

Steffi Porter can be reached at [email protected].