Economy

Friday on their minds

A walk around Las Vegas on the busiest shopping day of the year

At 6:15 a.m. on Black Friday the line outside the Office Max at a strip mall near Sunset Station numbered in the dozens. Do people give office supplies as holiday presents? Well, it turns out that the Office Max line had formed recently by people who had something to do between other stores. The person in front of the line had been waiting less than an hour. He already had a “line ticket” for sales items at more competitive Black Friday locations. He was not alone.

For example, a manager at the Best Buy up the road said his store had begun handing out tickets at 11 a.m. Wednesday. “People were here at 11 a.m. with tents, and we pre-sold about 150 laptops right then. You could not pre-buy it, but we gave them a ticket for this morning.” As for those who actually showed up Friday morning to wait for one of those laptops, few actually remained. “We had about 800 to start with, and I have about 70 left.” And this was not too long after 7 a.m.

One thing that seemed clear talking to shoppers was that while outrageous sales are a strong draw, Black Friday itself is also enough of a reason. At Circuit City, two women I spoke to were ignoring the discounted laptops and DVD players. One woman said to me, “Really, I am not here for anything specific. My friends and I just like to go Black Friday shopping every year.”

In Las Vegas one popular place to go bargain-hunting is pawn shops. And business there must be booming. At EZ Pawn near Club Palomino on Las Vegas Boulevard in North Las Vegas, they even had a “help wanted” sign in the window. People were lined up inside with DVD players, laptops and some of the other goodies I’d seen at stores earlier in the day, the only difference being these were being pawned, not bought.

I finished my Black Friday excursion with a trip to Broadacres, a large outdoor swap meet in North Las Vegas. It was not crowded, and the people arriving seemed to be regulars, as they knew their way about and greeted familiar vendors. At Broadacres, the only thing different was that the usual cover charge of 50 cents (according to the website) had been raised to 75 cents. Inside, many of the vendors, selling everything—CDs, DVDs, Mexican wrestling masks, washing machines—had never heard of Black Friday. But when I told them about it, they immediately offered me a discount on their wares.

One vendor was clearly confused after I explained to him about this amazing shopping holiday that had lines of people waiting for bargains. He noted it was just a regular day for crowds at the swap meet. As for bargains, well, “It’s always Black Friday here.”

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Richard Abowitz

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