Black Friday Musings

I ventured out on Black Friday not so much in search of bargains (all right, maybe a new laptop at Best Buy) but to see if there were any significant differences at retail from prior years.

The biggest change, on the home entertainment front, is that the buying process has become a lot more complicated than simply squeezing in past other shoppers to snatch that prize TV, Blu-ray Disc or video game.

I went to Best Buy with my 21-year-old middle son to pick up some of the advertised video game specials as gifts for my youngest. By 3 p.m., the time we arrived, both of the games we were looking for had sold out.

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I turned my attention to the laptops — and when I finally rousted up a clerk, he told me yes, the item was in stock, and to wait right there until he could find it.

I waited 10 minutes, which to me is a lifetime, and then walked out. While walking, I found the exact same laptop, at the exact same price, on Amazon and clicked the “Buy Now” button.

Our next stop was Walmart — a place I avoid due to new security measures I consider intrusive. Let me explain: in the hopes of begin more environmentally sensitive, California no longer lets retailers bag items in free, single-use plastic bags. Instead, consumers have the option of buying much heavier plastic bags for a dime apiece (I know — I don’t see the logic here, either). As a result, some customers, me included, skip the bag and just hold our purchased items in our hands.

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At the same time, Walmart began introducing automated checkout stands, with the customer rather than a clerk scanning the items and processing payment.

That lethal combination prompted the retailer to install security personnel at exits to check receipts — which often results in a long line.

No thank you.

Anyway, back to Black Friday. The traditional DVD “dump bins” were as crowded as always, while the good stuff — new releases as well as video games — are now in locked glass cases. We found the video games we were looking for — but finding a clerk to unlock the case proved futile.

Again, Amazon to the rescue.

Once again, we walked out empty-handed.