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Shopping as a contact sport

Published December 07. 2013 09:00AM

Never say never.

When I read about people standing in line for hours and hours just to be the first ones in a store to scoop up bargains, I always say I would never do that.

I shake my head when I hear about people camping outside a store in the middle of the night so they can be first inside. The prospect of some "hot deals" is enough to change sane people into puppets willing to do the dance merchants dictate.

There is nothing I need or want badly enough to camp outside overnight or to stand in line for hours then push and shove my way inside.

"You don't understand. It's not about the bargains," said one woman. "It's about the fun."

As one who does indeed camp outside a store, she says it's an adventure she relishes.

Well, I love adventure and I enjoy camping. But I prefer to camp on a sandy beach or in a wooded wonderland. Camping on concrete isn't an "adventure" for me.

Another woman told me I won't understand until I experience the adrenaline rush of "scoring."

That's not sports she's talking about, unless you count shopping as a sport, which some do.

"Scoring big", she said, is when you save more than a hundred dollars because you got there first.

"Just because you get to a store early doesn't guarantee you will get one of the real doorbusters," she informed me. "It takes a certain amount of strategic planning."

The savvy shopper said you have to know in advance the exact location of the doorbusters.

"And you can't let the more aggressive people elbow you away," she cautioned.

I know what she means by aggressive shoppers. Last year after Christmas I found a really pretty artificial tree reduced to half price. As I was pulling it off the shelf to buy, a guy came up and grabbed it out of my hands. At least I didn't end up bloodied like some did in the Black Friday shopping marathon.

A little shoving, a little grabbing, then you score.

No thank you. I don't want to play that game.

I will never stand in long lines and jostle with people to buy something, I vow.

You know what they say about people who use the word "never."

They haven't experienced enough of life to know the folly of their words. I almost got hooked into a shopping frenzy.

For at least a year, my family has been after me to buy a new cell phone. I don't have a cell phone, they say. I have a relic - a relic that doesn't do stuff like texting.

My family makes all sorts of promises about how much better my life would be if I had a smart phone.

My daughter tells me I would never again have to worry about driving directions because the built-in GPS is wonderful.

My grandkids promise they would text me - if only I had a better phone. I tell them I have email and they never send me anything.

"Oh, no one uses email anymore," says the 13-year-old.

"You can have your calendar at your fingertips. It keeps track of everything. You really need one," says my other daughter.

I ignore them and keep using my old cell phone. It does all that I need - it makes phone calls.

But when Sam's Club sent me an invitation to their so-called private sale the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I noticed they were advertising a top of the line cell phone for 56 cents. A little Internet research showed that $250 was the lowest promotional price for the phone.

Sunday night, my husband and I went to Sam's Club at the advertised time.

The parking lot was a sea of cars, with every spot filled out to the highway. That should have told me how "private" the private sale was.

The real revelation came when we tried to get in the store. We were told we had to take a number and line up based on that number. It was only then that I noticed the line that snaked across the building into the parking lot.

"We got here two hours early and already there were hundreds in front of us," said one couple. Their number was 457. They left along with us.

It was bad enough when Black Friday consisted of one frantic day. Now, it's a week long shop-a-thon. My daughter and granddaughter, on the other hand, looked forward to the craziness of a shopping frenzy. Gleefully, they got up at 4 in the morning for the early bird specials, clutching the advertisements for the things they wanted.

"It's exciting," said little Sophie. "And I'll save a lot of money on Christmas presents."

Well, Sophie loves all sports so she just added another one to her list - the sport of shopping.

I am amazed when people tell me their Thanksgiving shopping stories. Like other stores, Wal-Mart gave out coupons to the first 300 in line, guaranteeing they would get the specials they wanted.

But first, they had to stand in another line at the check-out. Other stores were making the first successful shoppers leave the store then get in line again, if they wanted more items.

The shopping stories are starting to sound like my brother's fishing stories - there is as much fun in the telling as the actual experience.

It just goes to show we all have a different version of "fun."

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