Black Friday Chat Recap

November 29, 2008 · 0 comments

Last night I joined Ginger of in co-hosting a chat to discuss the highlights (and low-lights!) of Black Friday 2008. I want to thank everybody who took some time out of the evening to share their experiences and insights with us!
Obviously our audience was somewhat biased (this was an ONLINE chat, after all!) but the consensus seemed to be that shopping online would have been far preferable to the in-store Black Friday experience. The complaints weren’t about fellow shoppers, for the most part, but about how the retailers themselves were unprepared: pallets of items still shrink-wrapped and not priced, stores allowing people in before the stated opening time, some 24 hour Walmarts allowing people to load up their baskets in advance of the Black Friday pricing going live, coupons that were overly restrictive, and of course the perennial “not enough in-stock” complaint.
Some shoppers reported success in getting what they set out for, and chatters were most complimentary of the in-store experience at Target stores. But nearly everyone voiced that they could have gotten the same, or better, deals online and without getting up at 3am and fighting traffic and lines at checkout.
Knowing this myself as an avid online shopper, why was it that I dragged myself (and my two sisters-in-law) out of bed at 3am to brave the crowds? Listen up, merchants, because there’s a lesson to be learned from this: it’s all about the sensory experience, the tactile, the social interaction. People can shop online any day, any time, and get deals. If you “do” Black Friday online, it’s just… well… Friday. What makes Black Friday special is that we’re able to go out and interact with other real people. We can hear the Christmas music, see the holiday decorations, maybe run into an old friend. We WANT the sales clerk to smile at us and wish us a merry Christmas. There’s a comforting familiarity in the sound of the Salvation Army bell-ringer.
If stores want us to go out in person at 3am to get things we could’ve gotten online at a comparable price while still in our jammies, they have GOT to focus on making the in-store experience as pleasant as possible. Sam’s Club offered free (and from what I heard, delicious) breakfasts to its shoppers. Good start. How about sending employees out with free hot chocolate for the people waiting in line in the cold? Maybe they could also play games for small, token giveaways to keep people entertained and pumped up to shop?
EVERY SINGLE EMPLOYEE needs to smile. There should be greeters at the door, employees asking if you need help, and ALL MALLS SHOULD HAVE VALET PARKING if for no other day of the year, then on Black Friday.
The fellow shoppers aren’t what makes Black Friday frustrating — it’s the retailers lack of preparation and their failure to treat shoppers like they’re as invaluable as they really are.
/off soapbox

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