Black Friday has gotten complicated.

It used to be a simple, two-step process.

Step One:  Find the ads in the Thanksgiving Day newspaper that was delivered to your doorstep early Thanksgiving morning.  Determine your plan of attack based on store opening times and the best deals. 

Step Two:  Wake up ungodly early on Friday and pack a bag of Pepsi and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Take to the streets and shop!

This is how Mom and I did it for years.  We were never into the animal-like stampede of Wal-Mart or the all-night camp out for the big screen TV at Best Buy.  We had a more modest—and safer approach.  This normally meant leaving the house at around 4 am and heading to JCPenney first. JCP had a crowd, but not one you worried would trample you and leave you dead in the electronics aisle.  At JCP, we loaded up on critical winter items at rock bottom prices—winter sheets,towels, gloves, and sweaters.  Crucially,we got the annual free Disney Snow Globe while supplies last.  And supplies always lasted for us.

And always, blankets. Fleece blankets.  Microfiber blankets.  Wool blankets.  Snowflake blankets.  So many blankets.  If the heat ever goes out in the whole world,come to my house.  I’ve got enough blankets for everybody.  I have so many blankets, I’ve previously written on this blog about my quest to find a basket big enough to hold them all.

There’s always a surprise item, too.  One year I bought a huge body pillow.  Once a tree skirt.  An omelet pan.

You never know what you’re going to find.

Once we’d cleaned out JCP, the bulk of our work was done.  We then headed over to the Half Price Bookstore in Monroeville and got in line for their 7 am opening.  Half Price Books sells used books, music, and movies.  On Black Friday you not only got half off, but another 20% on top of it. Oh boy!  And the first one-hundred people in line received a free tote bag with a $5 gift card inside.  One lucky person gets a $100 gift card.

Oh, how I covet that $100 gift card.  I wouldn’t save it.  I’d gorge on $100 worth of guilt-free book buying right then and there.

After we picked up our reading material, it was time for our Pepsi and PB&J break.  After that, we always hit Best Buy, mostly for entertainment purposes.  There was never much left to buy.  At about 9am on Black Friday, Best Buy is practically deserted.  The morning door buster items are all sold out, and the workers are rushing to restock.  The place looks like it was ransacked, which,I suppose, it was.

We’d dig through the dregs of the $5 movie bin, hoping for a forgotten treasure.  But it’s always just fifteen forlorn copies of The Emoji Movie.

And that, my friends, is how you did Black Friday.

But not anymore.

Now, the stores are opening earlier and earlier in an arms race of who can destroy Thanksgiving Day first.

We suffered through the years where the stores started opening at 3 am, 2 am, 1 am, and then they came right up to the wall and began opening at midnight.

Midnight is a very inconvenient time to buy sheets at JCPenney.  Going to bed early on Thanksgiving and getting up early, that’s my style.  Trying to stay up until midnight, then bringing your A-game is tough.  We even skipped one of those years.

Then the Thanksgiving wall was breached.  Stores started opening at 8 pm Thanksgiving Day, then 6 pm.  And this year, JCP  will be open at 2 pm on Thanksgiving Day!

2 pm!  So I have to do my shopping before my turkey dinner? 

This is madness.

Planning the route is now an act of logistical genius.  Some stores open Thanksgiving Day, some Black Friday, and Wal-Mart does this bizarre thing where they are open on Thanksgiving Day, but only for their advertised deals.  The rest of the store is roped off and you’re hustled through the place like cattle in a shoot.

There’s no more JCP Snow Globes.

Half Price Books no longer opens early.

And now, it’s not just Black Friday.  You’ve got Black Friday sales beginning the day after Halloween.  And Cyber Monday—which, by the way, shopping Cyber Monday on Amazon is the most confusing and unsatisfying experience of my life. You’ve got Small Business Saturday.

And when am I supposed to get my newspaper, now that it no longer comes to the house? Wednesday, to see the early Thursday deals?  Or is it still Thursday?

Neither, I suppose.  You just look it all up on-line.

And I know, I know, I know…we should all boycott stores on Thursday because people shouldn’t have to work on the holiday.  I agree. But the truth is we’ve crossed the Rubicon and there’s no going back,whether I stay home or not.

So it’s Black Friday, but I’m already finished shopping.  Got new fleece sheets for the bed and a pair of corduroy pants.

And another new blanket.  I know, I know.  But it was made of Sherpa Wool.  I don’t have one made of Sherpa Wool.

We’re gonna need a bigger basket.