I Risked Life and Limb for a $39 Blu-ray Player30 Nov, 2012 By: Ashley Ratcliff
The only willing recruit I could find to accompany me in my harebrained scheme was my fun-loving sister, Ayesha. I now see why other family members and friends scoffed at the idea of braving Walmart on Thanksgiving.
Nonetheless, my sister and I arrived at the Murrieta, Calif., Walmart at 8 p.m., just as the doors had opened, ready to see what Black Thursday had in store. I came for the $39 LG Blu-ray player and the $148 32-inch Emerson TV, both under the one-hour in-store guarantee from 10 to 11 p.m. My sister sought a vacuum cleaner and gifts for her son.
What ensued next runs the gamut of emotions: excitement, expectancy, impatience, frustration, fear.
After asking three store clerks where the line was for the Blu-ray players, we arrived smack dab in the middle of the store to find a pallet of the players stacked a few inches taller than my 5-foot-3 frame and about the length of a passenger van. There was no line, just people closely huddled around the stack, like a scene from a sitcom where the protagonists enter a radio contest and must keep their hands on a car the longest to win concert tickets.
Without hesitation I took my place at the least occupied corner of the pile. It was about 8:25 p.m. “Only an hour and a half to go — I can do this,” I thought, abandoning hope of locating the flat-screen TV.
By 9 p.m. my feet already were hurting, my mouth was dry, my body temperature had risen and I was having second thoughts. Ayesha had left to peruse other bargains throughout the store, while I began to make small talk with the other shoppers to pass the time.
That night, the social norms of personal space were out the window, as more and more people vying for a $39 Blu-ray player began to swarm the stack.
Ayesha returned about 20 minutes later with a vacuum cleaner, a telescope for my nephew and other miscellaneous items. I used the vacuum box as a seat, which helped me soldier on. I had gotten my second wind, and was in it to win it. After sending my sister to fetch me a $30 steam mop, she went to get a place in the massive line that wrapped the entire store.
By about 9:30 p.m., the other shoppers were beginning to crack, and the flow of store traffic was being disrupted by the spectacle that had become “The Great Blu-ray Player Wait.”
“Hey, Tony, can we just take the players now? I mean, by the time we get in line, it’ll be 10 o’clock any way,” one chatty shopper asked the store clerk sent to supervise the LG players. By now, they were on a first-name basis.
“No,” the stern Walmart employee responded. He wasn’t budging.
At this point, people had lost all sense of manners, and little scuffles were beginning to break out between shoppers who were being bumped by other customers trying to improve their position. At several points, customers asked Walmart employees if there was a more orderly method they could use (it seems there was an organized line for the other big-ticket doorbusters), but each time, the clerks said it was too late to change things up.
Then things got really real at 9:50 p.m.
Some punk ran off with a couple of Blu-players prematurely, causing a frenzy. At that moment, all bets were off. It was every man (woman) for himself (herself). So I grabbed two (one for my mother, one for myself), and attempted to bulldoze my way from the crowd like a running back on the gridiron. Elbows were flying. One caught me in my left arm, but I had to keep moving. I darted up to the checkout line to find my sister, with a look of terror in her eyes. She had only heard the melee from several yards back and was wondering where I was.
We then began to laugh, realizing the ridiculousness of it all. It was hard to believe that these were people who hours prior, perhaps, had discussed the many things they were thankful for over Thanksgiving dinner.
I’m grateful Ayesha and I made it out alive, albeit after midnight. Whereas my zany sister thinks we should make Black Thursday shopping a sisterly tradition, I think we should retire from the game early.