Retail holiday draws diehard shoppers

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Joni lives for Black Friday.

Like a lot of hard-core shoppers, my wife loves the before-dawn sales that mark the Friday after Thanksgiving as the official start of the holiday shopping season.

This year, I promised to accompany her on her shopping spree. But I came down with a sinus infection which forced me to stay in bed and miss the opportunity to see firsthand how to fight one's way to the cash register.

Every year I'm amazed at how my wife manages so easily to maneuver through packed store aisles and come away with a pile of gift items. She maps out her shopping spree like a general preparing for battle.

Personally, it's a wonder shoppers don't wear combat gear. Every year, of course, there are reports of angry shoppers who seem ready to engage in combat for some computer game or other hot toy.

Thankfully, Joni has never experienced such violence.

"If you give Americans a bargain, they will get up whatever time to take advantage of it," says C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group in Charleston, S.C.

Clearly that was the case in Cape Girardeau where early bird shoppers made parking a premium even in the spacious Wal-Mart lot.

But I'm convinced there's more to this Black Friday affair than just a good bargain.

Shoppers like Joni pride themselves on being able to buy almost all their Christmas gifts in three to four hectic hours.

For true shoppers, Black Friday is their Super Bowl, their chance to experience victory among the toy shelves and success in the apparel aisle.

With their shopping carts overflowing with presents, they make their way to the parking lot with the same enthusiasm as a professional football player scoring a touchdown.

Even Santa would truly marvel at such shopping skills.

It's no wonder he relies on a workshop full of elves. Santa would go crazy trying to grab up all those early bird specials.

Some women say shopping on Black Friday is their hunting season. Rather than kill a deer, they bag a bargain.

Most men would feel lost in this retail forest.

We don't even like window-shopping.

But in Augusta, Maine, window-shopping has drawn its share of guys.

Spellbound, a lingerie store, displays its merchandise on live models in the store window.

But even live models would do little to attract a pre-dawn crowd intent on buying children's toys at bargain prices.

And no amount of Christmas bargains would draw the interest of some residents of Lopburi, Thailand.

Of course, these residents are monkeys who have no interest in bargain prices.

Most of them didn't even show up for the 17th annual monkey banquet last weekend.

A local hotel owner in Lopburi threw the party featuring piles of fruits and vegetables.

The animals are considered disciples of a four-armed deity that's celebrated in the town.

With such status, the long-tailed monkeys reign supreme. They drop peanut shells on street vendors and dance about on the electrical wires. Visitors to a park are warned that monkeys might snatch their purses.

Personally, I have no desire to be caught up in monkey mayhem. That's even scarier than Christmas shopping.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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