I have spent many years perfecting the art of minimal shopping at Christmas time. I can honestly say that in the last decade I have not had to face the boorish crowds in the stores or have had to become one of the boorish myself. From the presents that are bought in August to the online purchases (Online shopping does not count as shopping since you have no photos to send into "The People of Walmart"), I rarely have had to brave the stores at Christmastime. The remainder of the presents can usually be picked up at Costco and since we would be attending the store anyway for regular household stuff I get a pass on calling the bi-monthly trip "Christmas Shopping." Even the past couple of years has not been a huge stress since the boys are not yet of an age that they know what they "want" for Christmas and even the presents that are purchased for their enjoyment often sit next to them as they play with the wrapping and the box the said present came in. This year has brought a slight increase in the whole Christmas shopping stress level. I have been discussing with Andrea for a couple of months now that we should probably get the two older boys a kids version of an IPad. This would relive a bit of redness on their backsides while protecting a valuable piece of electronics that is Andrea's main computer. I had noticed that Leap Frog had already stocked the stores with a LeapPad and the VTech would be marketing theirs around Thanksgiving. Having not had too much time to delve deeply into the pros and cons of each kid friendly tablet I kept reminding myself that I "really need to do the research" so that I knew what brand to buy the boys from Christmas. My schedule finally became manageable right before Thanksgiving and once the proper mental recovery was completed I set out to get my research done, Christmas being 4 weeks away. Black Friday started for the maniacs while I was in dreamland at midnight. Even the slightly more sensible people starting Black Friday at 6:00 am would find me barely rising from a slumber. Get on the computer slightly after 8 and start my online shopping. All the stores basically had the same prices for both the VTech ($79) and the LeapPad ($99) and carried them in stock so I started looking up the numerous ratings and comments forums from several websites. Within an hours time I went downstairs to discuss the options with my wife and to fix her something to eat since she stubbornly refuses to cook when I have a day off. Back upstairs to the computer to purchase the two LeapPads and my shopping for the season would pretty much be complete. Wait. What!? I am on the Amazon website the clicking the link to check out but I must be on the wrong one, this one is priced at $199. Go back to the beginning, clear out my history and start from the home page. Same thing. I was just on this an hour ago and I am sure the price was only $99. Go to another site. Sold Out and no price listed. Now I am getting a bit concerned. I have one very simple task and it is becoming not so simple. Well, there is no hope for it. The Amazon price is now at $215 and I notice that the only options are from approved sellers and not Amazon itself. Time to contemplate going out into the maddening world of Black Friday. I cannot recall a time that I was actually in a store on such a hectic shopping day. I have avoided Black Friday like it was the Black Plague. Black Friday is for skiing and attempting to set new eating records that were not accomplished the day before. No one in their right mind attempts to shop on Black Friday. But these are my boys and the decision is made to attempt this monumental challenge. ToysRUs is only 5 miles away but oh, it takes so much longer to drive there than it should. With all the once-a-year drivers on the road seemingly not even aware that driving with their car on the dotted white line at 18 mph in a 45 mph zone would be a traffic offense if the normally numerous patrol persons were not hiding for the day. Arrive to find the store not overly crowded but with the remains of the yellow caution tape still strewn down the sidewalk as a reminder that this whole thing started over 15 hours ago. My mind starts to comprehend that the chances that the one and only item that I want will be in the store is about as probable as my numbers for the lottery are coming up any time soon. Found the isle, found the shelf, found the big empty hole where boxes of LeapPads once sat. Do I even try and find an employee to see if any have been stashed in the back for procrastinating shoppers? It is just not going to happen.
A little side note: This morning, I heard rumor that ToysRUs had four and that two Targets had some as well. I woke Michael up at 7:15 and he was out the door at 7:20am ToysRUs opened at 7am and by the time Michael got there they were sold out. He headed to the first Target that said that they had three, Michael got there fifteen minutes before it opened and there was a line of five. He decided to head to the next Target that had an undisclosed amount. Michael was the twelfth person in line and ran to the back of the store the minute it opened to find one... Michael being the good guy gave the lady that got there next. I guess he figured to have one would be silly... in my mind I would have scored the one and then next time we only have to worry about swiping one. Ruthless?!?!