Black Friday is the unofficial holiday when many Americans gather their friends and family for a day of adventure and shopping. Packing their leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches, they embark on an action-packed journey to outlet malls, department stores and discount retailers.
Whether consumers are shopping the sales for Christmas gifts or new electronics, Black Friday is one of America’s most successful days of retail and, according to CNN Money 2013, draws in over $12.3 billion in sales.
Although Black Friday is a successful event for retailers, it does not have the best reputation in media and the eyes of Americans. The cycle of greed, impatience and violence plague this day of discounts. There are frightening stories of customers being trampled and physical fights over the last 55-inch TV, but it is important that we recognize the shining stars of this often-dark holiday. One woman who braves the endless lines and flying elbows to help elder and impaired customers, is Brianna Magaña - known by many as the “Black Friday Super Hero.”
“I’m not a super hero,” Brianna said as she humbly smiled while looking down. Like many other super heroes, she denied her ability to aide the public and excuses it as a rightful duty: being a Good Samaritan.
She explained, “It was more about doing something nice, it was about doing something good while everyone else was in it for themselves.” With crazy costumes and a pinch of panache, it seems that Black Friday does in fact have a guardian of the night.
The tradition started nine years ago in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. when Brianna and her best friend were 16-years-old. “It was when we first got our cars. We would be the first ones in a line of 200 people. Once the doors opened, we would grab a cart and run for the big stuff like TVs and game consoles. We would then hand out the items to elderly people and families who were in the back of the line.” It was their way of sharing the holiday spirit with complete strangers and as best friends.
Brianna recalls the first time she truly touched someone’s heart. “There was a flustered old lady rummaging through bins of electronics. I asked her what she was looking for and the woman said she was searching for a clock radio to give her son for Christmas.”
Lo and behold Brianna had grabbed one during her pursuit around the store. “When I pulled out the clock radio and gave it to her, she was so grateful. It was amazing to see how genuinely happy she was.” Ever since that moment, Brianna and her best friend made it a tradition to spread joy and holiday spirit through random acts of kindness. “Our response to everyone’s gratitude was, ‘Happy Christmas!’”
“We would overhear people begging sales associates to check the back for the last digital camera. We would walk around certain departments to see who was looking for what. After listening and figuring out what they were searching for, we would go up to them and present the item and say, ‘This is for you!’ The look on everyone’s faces was priceless. Even though you aren’t giving them money or buying them the gift, even if it’s a $3 DVD and it’s the last one, you can still give back to someone in a little way. Everyone is so appreciative of our actions.”
Whether it’s holiday-themed footie pajamas or crazy leggings, every super hero needs a costume. In Brianna’s case, each year called for a new theme. “On our most recent trip, we wore custom ‘Best Friend’ t-shirts that had arrows pointing in opposite directions.”
“It was cold and misty waiting in the long line outside of Kmart and everyone had on grumpy faces. But it was the start of the holidays so everyone should have been happy! We would stand next to random people in line and, with our arrows on our shirts pointing at them, we would ask them if they were our best friend.”
The community loved it. Brianna would chat up those waiting in front and behind her. During the wait, Brianna saw it as an opportunity to get to know the people and families in waiting alongside her. “I’m from a smaller town so there really was a sense of community while waiting in the lines. I would get to talk to my neighbors who live at the end of the street. I would never have an opportunity to talk to them besides waiting in line at 6:00 a.m. on Black Friday!” Waiting in line and getting to know the community played just as an important role as the giving spirit of the tradition.
“People thought we were crazy! But we always had a good time.” Being able to get to know people they were acquainted with and help out others was the premise of this tradition. “There was always one family who we would see Black Friday shopping every year. Waiting outside of Best Buy, they would bring a fire pit and would sit around it in lawn chairs.”
Churches in nearby areas would bring donuts, hot chocolate and coffee for everyone. “ Its the season of giving! You get to meet these people while you wait in line, I wanted to know everyone’s life story in line at Black Friday – then give back to them in a little way.”
As for the horrifying stories that are portrayed in the media about the Black Friday craziness, Brianna doesn’t think it’s nearly that bad. “It’s always too crowded. It’s the one day of the year when you will see the parking lot COMPLETELY packed. So full you can’t even park in the last row in the last corner because it’s jammed packed. I’ve seen people get angry over the last item, but it never escalated like the stories we hear on the news.”
“I’ve absolutely been shoved and elbowed, but that’s just part of the madness! If anything, the happiness and sense of community I experience during Black Friday outshines all the negative press.” When describing Black Friday in three words, Brianna chose ‘crazy, exhilarating and fun.’
Brianna spilled the details on the best deals and where to find them in Fayetteville. “My number one rule was that I HAD to be there when Target opened, Best Buy is great for movies and CDs, the best deals are the $3 movies! Ulta has great stuffing stockers and Walgreens is great for smaller stuff like perfumes.”
Other stores on her hit list were Kmart, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, Bed Bath & Beyond and JC Penney. As for hot items that are popular on Black Friday, Brianna explains, “the TV’s and game consoles are big-ticket items. These beautiful and warm fleece blankets (from Target that went from $80 to $20) and holiday pajamas are also very popular.”
Every super hero needs a plan of action. From blueprints of city streets to knowing the back roads into the Cross Creek Mall parking lot, Brianna explained her game plan she would follow every year. “We would always plan an itinerary. We would choose stores opening at certain times, for example, Target opens at 8:00 a.m. and Wal-Mart at 10:00 a.m. I knew we would only have about 30 minutes in each store. We would plan one hour between each location since the line would take 45 minutes and it would take 15 minutes to drive there. You always need to use your time in each store sparingly.”
“We didn’t go to sleep – we stayed up after Thanksgiving. That’s when we would game plan and strategize. I am proud to say we were always the first ones in line. My personal goal was to make it to Ulta, the beauty store, at 9:00 a.m. When I walked through the beauty store’s doors I knew my Black Friday was accomplished.” After that, it was time for Brianna to go home and get some rest. Until next year, the Black Friday excitement was over.
Even though Brianna and her best friend currently live on opposite sides of the country, they still practice the tradition. “My best friend has even introduced her 6-year-old daughter to our tradition. It’s really cute and a special opportunity to see her learn about the values of giv ing.” Brianna has continued her tradition in the All-America City with another group of friends. She hits up all the Black Friday sales from Target to Charlotte, North Carolina based department store, Belk. Brianna loves to connect with the locals in line and spread holiday cheer through the gift of giving.
Brianna shared that since she moved to Fayetteville, there has been an ultimate plot twist to her Black Friday system. She explained, “Stores started opening on Thanksgiving! It throws off my idea of Black Friday – the waiting in line on early in the morning, but I still make it work.” The aspect of getting to know the community still stands strong and she has met some wonderful souls during her journeys in Fayetteville. “It’s nice to continue this tradition I started at 16-years-old in a new place with new faces. “The people here are so nice and helpful!” It must be the Southern charm of this North Carolinia military town.
Brianna has experienced random acts of kindness here in Fayetteville. “I saw a few people considering putting their items back, but once they saw someone struggling to find that one specific item, they gave it to them. Everyone was so happy and it was all smiles.” The people of Fayetteville, just like many others across the U.S., believe in the values of the holidays – kindness, friendliness and helping others in need. “Next thing I know, there I was sprinting towards the biggest item to help make someone’s day!” It’s quite obvious that this spirit of giving is contagious.
Brianna is a true super hero because she helps and gives to complete strangers by taking the time out of her day to make someone else smile. Her message is inspirational for those planning a Black Friday trip and one that can motivate others to do the same good deeds. Listening to Brianna’s story can change anyone’s predisposition about Black Friday shopping. Black Friday should not be seen as a day to be greedy, but as an opportunity to spread holiday cheer and get to know your community.
“The whole idea of Black Friday stems from the holidays, and ultimately everyone’s goal is to get Christmas gifts to give to friends and families. The idea is to give a gift for someone else’s joy. Being able to bring that joy to someone else is unbelievable. I loved the feeling of giving a family the last bike in the store because they were looking to gift it to their son for Christmas. Giving is the best feeling in the world, especially during the turn of holidays.”