By Matt Smith and Matt Orcutt, Walmart Corporate Affairs
On Thanksgiving Day, most Americans anticipate the traditional large meal of turkey and dressing followed by an equally traditional food-induced nap. But Meika Gates and Alicia Davis have other plans – big plans.
For these two savvy shoppers in Bentonville, Arkansas, Black Friday is priority. And while many reports show the increase of online shopping, these two ladies still enjoy the “event” of shopping in the stores.
“I’m not buying anything online this year,” affirmed Meika. “I like to hold the products in my hand, you know?”
I wanted to understand why shoppers like Meika and Alicia still enjoy their yearly Black Friday grab, so I asked to follow along for the biggest in-store shopping night of the year.
We agreed to meet at Meika’s house at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. When we arrive, the kitchen table is covered with circular ads and notebooks.
In their view, this is a complex operation. Meika and Alicia are buying not just for Christmas, but also for future birthdays and charity donations. To make sure they don’t overspend, their notebooks are organized by retailer, product, price and recipient – in that order. They’ve been budgeting for this day all year, so this last-minute planning is crucial.
The duo starts to feel good about the plan around noon, so Alicia decides to take a break and visit the rest of her family at their Thanksgiving meal. This is the reason Meika’s family celebrated Thanksgiving five weeks earlier.
Around 1:30 p.m., it’s go time. Alicia rounds the corner in her car. She has a small plate of mashed potatoes and turkey sitting on the bench seat next to her, and she’s taking quick bites at stoplights. It’s a last-minute meal that will have to hold her a while. They have two doorbusters to take advantage of before their Walmart visit. The first deal is at 2 p.m., so they need to move fast.
They make fast work of those two stops, and then the time to visit Walmart is here. They’ve checked off all the early bargains, but Walmart is no one-deal stop. According to their morning plans, this is the big time.
The first thing Meika and Alicia do is check on the other team members who are in line – her husband, Dan, and her daughter’s fiancé, Reuben. They’re waiting for the PS4 Spiderman bundle and the iPhone on StraightTalk.
Once that’s done, it’s time for the last-minute check with the rest of her team (Meika’s daughters, Kennedy and Morgan) to make sure everyone knows their individual assignments.
There’s nothing to do now but wait. There are about 15 minutes before the pallets get uncovered, and Meika is visibly nervous. She’s so excited she can’t stand still.
Meika’s Daughter, Morgan, joins the team last-minute at Walmart, and I hear she’s notorious for shenanigans. This year, she’s decided to go for bananas in the middle of the Black Friday frenzy.
She’s moved to Philadelphia recently, and bananas are quite a bit more expensive than they are in Arkansas. It may not be the most obvious Black Friday deal, but Morgan is…well, B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
At 5:55 p.m., the event starts, and for 15-20 minutes, the team fills the carts. They’re helped by the newest team member – me. My job is to organize the baskets so everything fits in them, and the team can continue piling in the goods.
Once the team has everything on the list, Meika and Alicia spend a little time deciding what items they grabbed have to be put back on the shelves. Some of their helpers got a little carried away, and their carefully planned budget could be a concern.
At 6:30, the team is ready to check out. They make their way to the registers at the Lawn & Garden area of the store. It’s close to where the carts with their gifts are stashed, and the lines aren’t as long as the registers in the front of the store.
Once they’ve paid, it’s time to make a getaway. After they cram their car with loot, the team celebrates with high fives. It’s all smiles. Walmart is the biggest job this year, and the job was a success.
Meika and Alicia continue to shop through the night and make 30 stops at 25 different locations. Four of those were various Walmart stores, and one was a Sam’s Club.
Meika reported that she stayed within her budget for the three days of activity. Her haul will allow her to give Christmas gifts to her entire extended family, and it will cover at least three birthdays in early 2019. Meika also budgets to give back, so about 20% of her spending was spent for donations to her church, for a program that gives to families who have fallen on tough times.
For Meika and Alicia, Black Friday isn’t all about shopping. It was evident that they enjoy spending time together as they travel from store to store. It’s the event they plan for all year.
As long as there are deals in stores on Black Friday, Meika and Alicia will be there swiping the best deals in their yearly Black Friday job.