Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday - Just Another Quiet Day in Valdez

Valdez post office bulletin board is a good starting point
for information about Black Friday events
While 30,000 shoppers stormed the Black Friday fortress of Minneapolis’ Mall of America for its midnight opening, I slept soundly.  At 3:00 a.m., then again at 7:00, as the next waves of sales and store openings rolled across the country, I went right on snoozing.  At noon, when I finally hit the streets to explore the Valdez Black Friday scene, it looked as though I wasn’t alone in my lackadaisical approach to Black Friday.

I kicked off my Black Friday on the sofa with a hot cup of coffee while the rising sun painted the clouds pink.  I booted up my laptop, opened my email, and found thirteen new promotional messages.  Since it was the biggest shopping day of the year, I decided to actually review the ads instead of trashing them immediately.  While I was reading through the fine print on’s 50% offer, Matt piped up from the other side of the living room.  “50% off hoodies at Ibex,” he reported.  He was reading his email too.

After sifting through email advertisements, I thought I should take a quick look at other websites in case there was a deal too good to pass up.  REI was offering 50% off store label clothing, but I didn’t find any Black Friday markdowns at either Title Nine or Athleta (women’s athletic apparel).

I finished my coffee and stepped out onto the porch to gage the weather conditions.  It was sunny and a slight breeze pushed the cottonwood crowns back and forth.  In past years, I’ve braved Black Friday throngs in Anchorage in foot-deep slush.  The weather this year was much more pleasant and I invited Matt to join me on a stroll through town to participate in the Valdez retail experience.  The Associated Press had reported that morning that some national retailers were losing so much money by slashing prices during Black Friday sales that this year they were foregoing massive cuts and instead were launching high end, full priced goods. I hadn’t noticed much local advertising, but I thought we’d check out the shops and see what their approach was to this day-of-all-shopping-days.
Our first stop was at Second Time Around, a thrift shop operated by a local non-profit organization.  I perused recent paperback book arrivals while Matt checked out gear and housewares.  I fortuitously ran into Fran, the framer, who I’d been meaning to call to consult on a project I was pondering. 

We headed on down the road to Southcentral Hardware where the owner’s daughter was standing on a ladder stocking a top shelf with Christmas decorations.  We discussed carpets and storage devices, then moved on to the town’s hub:  the post office.  There, Matt checked our mail and I studied the flyers posted on the bulletin board outside.  I found only two flyers promoting Black Friday events:  the museum store and the Valdez Office Supply.  We didn’t particularly need office supplies, so we charted our course for the museum store on the next block.

At the Valdez Museum Store, we looked at the collection of new Alaskana book titles and Matt exchanged information with curator Faith Revell about a pair of ancient wooden bush plane skis that were recently acquired and put on exhibit.  We bought our first purchase of the day – a book – and renewed our membership.

Neither of us had been to the Rogue’s Garden health food store for a few weeks, so we headed there next.  I checked out the high end cookware and Matt picked out organic apples and bulk roasted almonds.

After a stop at Safeway for a couple of sodas, we headed back home having determined that local retailers and local consumers were taking a similar approach to the day.  Stores had opened at normal hours and, for the most part, held firm on prices.  The few shoppers that were out and about were civilized and did not battle each other in long lines.  We found what we always find when we stroll through town:  encounters with acquaintances, random exchanges, and a reminder of how outsized the culture of consumerism really is.

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