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Occupy Best Buy


On early Wednesday evening I noticed four tents were pitched in a line in front of my local Best Buy, and I decided to do some journamalizing. It turned out the first tent at this Black Friday base camp was occupied by a couple of college students. One was a 23-year-old architecture grad student at the University of Denver; his girlfriend was a 21-year-old biochemistry major at CU-Boulder. Other fascinating factoids:

(1) They had arrived on Tuesday morning, i.e, about 63 hours ahead of Best Buy’s midnight opening. The second tent in the line was pitched on Tuesday night.

(2) Their primary goals involved acquiring a 55-inch TV for $450, and a Tablet for $179. Also they wanted to get some camera stuff.

(3) They had spent the last two days, and were going to spend Thanksgiving, eating a diet consisting mostly of Ramen noodles, prepared with a camping stove.

(4) They had purchased both the tent (for $110) and the stove (price unknown) for the purposes of this trek.

(5) Last night had been the first night that either of them had ever slept in a tent.

(6) In years past they had gone to Black Friday midnight openings several hours in advance, but always found themselves far back in the line. This year they decided they would do whatever they had to do to avoid this fate.

(7) A few months ago the the city of Denver tried, with how much success I’m not sure, to kick Occupy Denver out of City Park, on the grounds that the protesters didn’t have the appropriate permits for overnight camping. Update: What I was vaguely recalling was this ordinance, which made overnight camping — but not sleeping on the street! — in public places in Denver a crime.

I realize that interviewing people like this couple and writing about it is part of a process of media framing that turns lining up days in advance for Black Friday into a news “event” (or pseudo-event), which in turn helps create social understandings and expectations that in turn shape the behavior of the people the media are interviewing. All very self-referential and pomo and all that.

Oh well.

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  • JoyfulA

    And what about the people in the other tents?

  • Anderson

    Just imagine a cop pepper-spraying these discount hounds. It would eclipse the Love Pentagon as a national scandal.

  • timb

    This shopping frenzy makes me ill. All of these idiots taking their time from their families because they respond to silly advertising and these companies forcing their workers to come in on Thanksgiving. We are one step away from returning to the pre-labor union days where factories remained 24/7 and, damn it, if you didn’t like it, then we’ll hire the next guy.

    Americans are too greedy and too stupid to maintain a self-regulating Republic

    • Leeds man

      All of these idiots taking their time from their families

      Maybe their families were grateful. Half full!

      • timb

        Maybe……I was glad to leave my in-laws to come home

    • Decrease Mather

      What a stupid, condescending post.

      Spend more time with their families? Who are you, William Bennett? They’re college kids. If nothing else, they’re probably fucking in the tent.

      Yes it’s silly and irrational to do what they’re doing, but they’re probably having fun. Everything fun is stupid and irrational. Watching football on TV all weekend is stupid and irrational (but is more of a men’s pursuit, unlike shopping, so it’s cool).

      • spencer

        Not quite the same. You don’t incur significant credit card debt from watching football, for one.

        • Barry Freed

          You don’t incur significant credit card debt from watching football, for one.

          But you can from fucking in tents. If you’re not careful.

      • BigHank53

        I am old enough to recall people camping in line in order to buy concert tickets. I can’t imagine that was any less of a waste of time. They’re college students, for crying out loud–they’re supposed to be wasting their time.

        • Uncle Ebeneezer

          Ah but the best part of camping out for concert tickets (for me) was being the only people staying in front of a Circuit City all night long and then in the morning having one other couple show up 5 minutes before the store opened and essentially getting tickets that were no worse (same row if I remember correctly) as we had slept out for. Boy did we feel like idiots. Oh well, at least the wake n’ bake made Denny’s seem downright edible.

      • Jamie

        Unless I’m terribly mistaken, the contrast in play is between the treatment of the young and dumb hanging out to buy electronics, and the young and dumb hanging out to protest.

        Sorry to disrupt, hermeneutical engineering is an occupational hazard.

        • CD

          Yes, agreed, but timb’s pearl-clutching is still silly. You never did pointless things when you were a kid?

    • cpinva

      since most of our factories have been off-shored, and most factory jobs outsourced, i don’t see your “concern” as a realistic one.

      We are one step away from returning to the pre-labor union days where factories remained 24/7 and, damn it, if you didn’t like it, then we’ll hire the next guy.

      • tejanarusa

        Ah, but less than an hour ago I heard some sort of “expert” or “consultant” on Marketplace, discussing this phenomenon (opening on the holiday) say that the inevitable “future of retail is operating 24/7.”

        Similar enough, I think.

  • Warren Terra

    I find the whole Black Friday thing to be distasteful and a bit sad – but your comparison might fall apart if these people were on Best Buy property with the implicit permission of the leaseholder, rather than on a public park.

    Of course, letting people camp out on commercial property, as Best Buy is apparently doing, might well be in violation of all sorts of other laws. I don’t know about Occupy as such, but property owners who granted permission to homeless people to camp on their land found themselves the recipients of unfriendly and effective official attention (and that was on residential property, as I recall) – that might be a better parallel than Occupy.

  • cpinva

    so if the Occupy protesters had simply told the police they were there to be early in line for a sale, they’d have been ok? interesting. of course, that would be keeping in line with making the wall street “Masters of the Universe”tm feel good about themselves, so there you are.

    i am curious, was best buy allowing these folks to use their bathroom facilities?

    • Malaclypse

      i am curious, was best buy allowing these folks to use their bathroom facilities?

      Even if they were, I don’t imagine there were facilities for a 6:00 am pee break. Or showers.

      • Informant

        Going three days without a shower in mild temperatures (day time highs have been in the mid-to-upper 50s on the Front Range for the past several days) is hardly a personal hygiene crisis for a healthy person.

        • cpinva

          it wasn’t the showers that i concerned about, since those are optional. it was the relieving themselves. unless, of course, along with the tents they purchased port-a-potties too.

  • guthrie

    110$ for a tent? They’d better be using it again or it’s not exactly worthwhile.
    Did they have camping mats and sleeping bags, or is it not usually so cold around there at this time of year?

    • Paul Campos

      They had sleeping bags. It gets cold here at night this time of year. So they may well have spent several hundred dollars on camping equipment.

  • c u n d gulag

    Well, look on the plus side – at least these chowderheads they didn’t decide to camp out in front of a WalMart, and wake up on Friday morning in the ‘No Man’s Land’ between the striking workers, and union-busting cops carrying noggin’-bustin’ billyclubs, Tasers, and guns with rubber bullets, ready to charge at the workers.

    Black Friday, when the grifting Galtian Overlords can’t wait for the suckers, rubes, fools, and marks, to display their gullibility and stupidity.

  • FL

    They must place a very low value on their time.

    • Vance Maverick

      That’s assuming the only utility they’re getting from the campout is the savings on electronics. I suspect they’re doing it for fun, the pleasure of one another’s company, and a story to tell.

      • njorl

        For 63 hours? In line at Best Buy?

        I think they’ll probably be deep into diminishing returns on the pleasure of eachother’s company, and possibly into negative returns.

        • Leeds man

          I think they’ll probably be deep into diminishing returns on the pleasure of eachother’s company

          Early 20s? Maybe not. I haven’t been there for 30 mumble years, but still have vague memories of, um, pleasant company in a tent for a few days straight.

        • Halloween Jack

          There are also the people in line with them, and if they’re really into their electronics they probably have smartphones, with all the options those present.

          I also think that simply taking part in something like that is part of the reward, as ludicrous as that might seem. In the early nineties, the fitness center at the University of Illinois had far less lockers than there was demand for, so the people who wanted one for the school year camped out to get one overnight; it was apparent to me that the ritual itself was almost as important to some of these people as getting a little locker to stash their sweaty gym shorts.

        • Pestilence

          College students? 63 hours screwing and getting stoned in semi-public probably isn’t regarded as a poor return

  • ploeg

    I was thinking about a plot for a movie, where terrorists planned to detonate a “suitcase nuke” within a major shopping area during Black Friday, but ended up being trampled by the surging crowd. (Towards the end, a patron would hoist the beeping device over her head while screaming “I got one! I got one!”)

    Which, for all its flaws, is orders of magnitude more plausible than Red Dawn.

    • Captain Splendid

      That’s really not a bad idea (I love the ending especially).

      I think it would make a great short film. You should think about developing it.

    • njorl

      “More plausible then Red Dawn” includes films with dialog consisting solely of “Meep meep!”

      • sparks

        …and coyotes walking on air until they look down.

        • Pestilence


  • Halloween Jack

    Well, I certainly hope that they do some real camping with their nice new gear, although it will doubtless be tough to tear themselves away from that humongous new TV, if they get one without being trampled.

  • Barry Freed

    Suckers. I went to the Best Buy near my parents place on LI about 9:30 or 10 this AM (and only because my 7 year old TV broke the other week, otherwise I wouldn’t be caught dead shopping today) and I got just what I went there for and the store wasn’t that crowded so I didn’t even have to wait on line to pay for it.

  • From Salon:

    But the weirdest thing about Black Friday, the part that Weber might have had the hardest time explaining, is how fine the line is between thrift and greed. Consider the case of 19-year-old Ashley Wagner, who started camping outside a Best Buy in Saginaw Township on Monday morning. No china on the dinner table for Wagner, who took a week off from her job at Taco Bell to make sure she didn’t repeat last year’s disaster, when she was second in line.

    With a generator, a can of Pringles and some Little Debbie snack cakes, Wagner said she’s ready for the week ahead. On Thanksgiving Day, Wagner’s mom will deliver a hot meal from the Turkey Roost restaurant in Kawkawlin.

    “Being first in line ensures me I will get what I want,” said Wagner. Her door-busting dream: a camera for her mother, a laptop for her brother, and a flat-screen TV and some Dr. Dre headphones for herself.

    • sparks

      On a Taco Bell income?

  • owlbear1

    Did you remember to get contact information to do a follow up on whether they got the items?

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