Black Friday shopping is not for the faint of heart.
So says Kelly Miller, whose power-shopping abilities prompted friends and family members to christen her the Queen of Black Friday.
“You have to have perseverance and perseverance,” said the self-proclaimed shopaholic.
When Miller leaves early on Friday, she will be joined by more than 158 million Americans – 2 million more than last year – who are expected to shop during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.
Erin and Mike Chapa will be among them.
“We end the Thanksgiving dinner, leave the house at 8pm and do not return until 8am the next day,” Erin Chapa said of the tradition that the Schaumburg couple established about 14 years ago.
The heyday was the era when stores opened at midnight, she said. There was a sense of camaraderie among shoppers waiting in line for the doors to open, a group of people who were “crazy together” who had a common goal of being home when the masses started shopping.
Among their most memorable Black Friday purchases was a camera that sold for $ 1,400, which they bought on sale for $ 600, she said. She also remembers crawling under the legs of other shoppers with cartridges for a computer-controlled cutting machine used for arts and crafts projects.
Erin and Mike Chapa from Schaumburg pose with a TV they bought during one of their annual Black Friday shopping expeditions, which they have been doing together for 14 years.
– Brian Hill | Staff photographer
For many years, they carried their purchases home in their 2001 Mazda Protegé wrapped to the roof with presents, leaving Erin to fit herself into the space available.
“Every year, she crawled into a corner for the last drive home,” Mike Chapa said.
Their families pamper them, share ads for Black Friday deals and watch their three children – a 6-year-old and 14-month-old twins – as the couple completes their mission. They return exhausted, with just enough energy to wrap the presents.
“It’s a crazy day and we’re done,” said Erin Chapa, adding that she and her husband avoid shopping malls for the rest of the season.
Make a game plan
Kelly Miller says it’s a day she lives for. The Schaumburg woman says she has been shopping on Black Friday for 21 years.
She starts planning a month or more before her annual outing: scanning ads, making a list, checking sizes. She then maps a route based on the item she would most like to buy.
A month or more before Thanksgiving, Kelly Miller begins preparing for Black Friday shopping. It includes mapping a route, scanning ads, and compiling lists of gifts and sizes.
– Lent by Kelly Miller
Heading out around 10:30 p.m. Thanksgiving night, Miller starts with stores closest to his home, and then expands his outward search to stores including Target, Walmart, Ulta Beauty, Kohl’s and others.
She returns home around noon Friday.
She advises using a cross-body bag to keep your hands free. She also recommends having a fully charged cell phone and having water and snacks in the car to refuel. And she warns customers to be mindful and aware of their surroundings to ensure the experience is good.
Finally, she encourages people to be patient and kind.
Like the Chapas, Miller says that busyness, camaraderie and finding the ideal gift mean almost more than the offers. According to the retail association, 58% of Thanksgiving weekend customers are motivated by offers “too good to pass up”, while 28% are motivated by tradition.
“The crowd does not bother me. For me, it has always been the fun of it,” said Miller, who recounts his experiences on Facebook and in memory albums.
She describes her experience as pleasurable and her co-buyers and store employees as polite, helpful and courteous.
“That’s why I’m OK to go out and be among all those people. It’s been comfortable for me,” she said.
Erin and Mike Chapa say it’s part of the fun of standing in line, tooting with other shoppers, helping them and being helped in return.
The funniest thing is the excitement of the hunt.
“I do not know how else to say it,” Mike Chapa explained. “When you have a game plan and things start to fall in line, there’s an endorphin rush.”
A family event
For Kara Kendrick, the bustle begins at 4:30 a.m. Friday when her Volvo leaves the garage for Fashion Outlets in Chicago in Rosemont, the Black Friday destination for her family.
Kara Kendrick, front row second from left, took this photo with friends and family members as their shopping trip began on Black Friday 2019. After suspending the tradition last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her friends and family have resumes it Friday.
– Lent by Kara Kendrick
More than 40 relatives from nine states gather at Kendrick’s Elmhurst home for Thanksgiving dinner, part of an extended holiday weekend. It begins with a pizza party on Wednesday, includes a turkey trot Thanksgiving morning, and ends Saturday with either a visit to Chicago or a trip to pick out the Christmas tree.
The ideal window for Black Friday shopping is 5 to 8 in the morning, according to Kendrick. At 5 in the morning, the overnight shoppers have left and the day customers have not yet arrived.
“It’s the perfect time,” she said.
After meeting for a photo in one of the shops, members of the group go their separate ways.
“We meet again at different times,” said Kendrick, who completes about 50% of his holiday shopping on Black Friday. “We end with lunch at 1pm and talk about all our great deals, or not.”
For her, Black Friday will always be more about family than about trade.
“I could be done (with shopping) and I would still go anyway,” she said. “It’s not about sales. It’s about tradition. It’s about being with my family and close friends.”
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