Contrarian nonshoppers choose to be someplace else


Die-hard shoppers and bargain hunters camped outside Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us and other stores before dawn yesterday looking for this year's holiday deals, but a crowd of another sort gathered outside waiting for the opening of the Walters Art Museum.

These are the folks who wouldn't be caught dead in a shopping mall on Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season. They are the ones who see the mob scenes and hear of some poor soul who got trampled over this year's must-have toy and can think of only one word to describe it: insanity.

"It's suicide," said Leigh Griffith, 36, a New York sweater designer. "It's amateur hour. Why shop on the day when everybody will be out there?"

Griffith, who is visiting her mother in Washington for the holidays, thought yesterday the perfect day to see a new exhibit at the Walters that explored Russia's oldest medieval city, Novgorod. She and her family also planned to visit Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum later in the day.

Views of Black Friday seem to fall into two camps: those who wouldn't miss it for the world and those who won't go near it.

"Some people like the crowd and the milling around," said Erik Gordon, a marketing professor at the Johns Hopkins University. "They just want to be where the action is, where the mob is. For others, Black Friday is like a root canal.

"All of the stuff that makes it exciting for some of us, for others of us it's like a nuclear hassle. It is the worst possible thing."

Some avoid shopping the day after Thanksgiving because of the crowds. Others don't care to leave their warm beds before sunrise. One group has declared it "Buy Nothing Day" to protest what they see as rampant materialism.

Seven people associated with that group, including one dressed as Santa Claus, were arrested for criminal trespass yesterday at Christiana Mall in Newark, Del. One of the women cited said the group was aware of the mall's no-solicitation policy and only let people come to them. They wore T-shirts reading "Ask me about nothing" and carried empty bags with "free samples."

The message wasn't necessary for the legions equally turned off by the day-after-Thanksgiving scene (if not by consumerism). Some museums, movie theaters, bars and coffeehouses do a brisk business on Black Friday.

"It's the day after a holiday, there's family from out of town, they've been cooped up in the house all day and they're looking for someplace to go," said Michael Smith, director of marketing, hospitality and security services at the Walters.

Margaret Lee, who works for an education consulting firm in New York, said her days off are too precious to waste on shopping.

"If I have a day, I like to do something more enriching," she said as she browsed the gift shop at the Walters.

Bad experiences are enough to make people avoid Black Friday for years.

"Everybody sort of loses their mind. I refuse to go out in the world that day," said Tom Rowe, 28, an account supervisor at Weber Shandwick who unhappily recalls his mother dragging him to the malls years ago. "I learned then quickly how to avoid it. is my best friend around the holidays."

When Amy Vansant was a teen-ager, she and her mother appeared in a photo in her hometown newspaper of an after-Thanksgiving mob scene. She looked unhappy; her mother looked thrilled. Her mother still makes the annual shopping ritual; Vansant buys all her gifts online.

"There are certain days you just don't leave the house, and that's one of them," said Vansant, chief executive officer of Vansant Creations, a Web development company in Annapolis. "I'd rather pay a million million in shipping than put one foot in a mall near the holidays."

Some contend the deals are increasingly just as good online. Many major retailers offered online specials on Thanksgiving to entice people to spend early. They also note that retailers normally offer specials throughout the season, including Christmas Eve and the weeks just after Christmas. And many chains have been offering specials since October.

"It's a relief to be someplace other than the malls," said Gwen Kraus of Catonsville, while at the Walters yesterday. "Even if you have to pay full price, it's better."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.