On 11:23 p.m. on Thursday, November 24 (Thanksgiving Night), I stepped into line at an entrance to our local mall. My mission? To visit our Old Navy store located within the mall. Because the store did not have an exterior entrance, I picked an entrance that was close to the store. The entrance I chose was on the rear side of the mall and was equidistant from another entrance. We (the others in line and myself) waited patiently until the mall security guard came to open our door. We quickly discovered that the security guard was going to the entrance on the front side of the mall, which was visible to us, before coming to our door. One of the people at the front of the line had somehow managed to get a member of her group in-between the outer and inner doors of the mall. To be fair, the ‘inside man’ waited until the security guard opened the other door before opening the doors to us.

While I have been a Black Friday shopper in years past, I have never really experienced the madness of it until this year. When the security guard opened the other entrance, I actually saw people running towards various stores within the mall. The crowd at out entrance was a bit more civilized. We entered in an orderly fashion and then walked briskly to get in line outside our preselected stores. At midnight, I entered the mall and got into line outside the Old Navy store. The manager was passing out bracelets for their doorbuster giveaway – for those not familiar, many stores have a giveaway for the first X people through their doors – and I was lucky enough to receive one.

When I entered the store, I went to the area where the item I was looking for was located – or should have been located. I was disappointed to discover that they did not have the item in stock I wanted. I did find several gifts for family members and got the doorbuster giveaway, but was disappointed that the item I was going for was not available. While it was crowded, Old Navy actually handled the crowd pretty well. It was not too hard to navigate through the store and they had their checkout line in an area that left the store shippable. Old Navy had sufficient staff for the checkout and had a manager directing the lines so that there weren’t too many people in one line. I made it through the line in about ten minutes.

After Old Navy, I ventured away from the mall and headed towards our local Best Buy. I knew this would be one of the favorites that people would be going to, but I had been at the mall for about an hour and thought that some of the initial crowd would be thinned out by that time. I arrived at Best Buy and found it very difficult to shop because their were people everywhere. Best Buy set-up their Black Friday crowd control in a way that wove the checkout line throughout the aisles of the store. While this may have made it manageable for the employees to contain the crowd, it made it impossible to shop many areas of the store. My advice to anyone who wants to do Black Friday shopping at Best Buy is to get in line as soon as you get to the store. You will see the entire store while you are in line. I was searching for gifts for two different people. When I discovered that I could not look through the movie aisles because of the sea of people in the checkout line, I searched for the other person’s gift. Once I obtained it, I got into line. After a few minutes, I decided to start the stopwatch on my iPhone to see how long I was line. The total time? 1 hour, 59 minutes. The Best Buy staff was courteous and kept the line moving, but honestly Best Buy needs to find some way to keep people from becoming disgruntled or upset. Maybe offering refreshments or a chance to sit down would be helpful.

When I left Best Buy, it was around 3:30 a.m. I felt it was safe to head to Walmart. Walmart was a surprisingly quick trip. Many of the good deals Walmart had advertised were sold out – including one of the gifts I wanted to obtain. I got the items I was looking for and got home around 4:30 a.m. All in all, the Black Friday was shopping experience wasn’t too bad. Because of the two hour wait at Best Buy, I was unable to make it to many of the stores I had planned on, but it was still a shopping success. I survived.

If you didn’t want to make it out on Black Friday to get great deals, it’s not too late for your to take advantage of ‘in the black’ prices. Today, the Monday after Thanksgiving, has been dubbed Cyber Monday. Online retailers use this day as their Black Friday. While my favorite Black Friday ad website, blackfriday.info, lists several good website for Cyber Monday, I would encourage anyone wanting to shop today to do a Google search for Cyber Monday deals or visit your favorite websites. Some of the more popular ones are amazon.com, target.com, newegg.com, and bestbuy.com.

Good luck and happy holidays!