Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday and a salute to volunteers and mums around the world

Today marks my third experience with Black Friday. For my friends from across the pond, that would be the day after Thanksgiving, when Americans get up at a ridiculously early hour in order to procure presents for the holidays at bargain prices.

I have found Pokeman cards for my kids, large screen TV's and today - the piece de la resistance - a Kitchen Aid mixer for my dear mum. Mum is amazing - she raised five wonderful daughters - led us by example and we are all productive members of our society. Mum gives to so many charities, I cannot keep count - even as her 401k and retirement funds are diminishing in the midst of this economic crisis, she maintains her commitments.

Some weeks ago, at her church - St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Hartsdale, NY - she volunteered to bake cakes for a fundraiser. She took orders, anticipating that she might make 10 cakes or so - that number quickly grew to 28 cakes and still countin last I knew.

These are not any old cakes - oh no - they are traditional Jamaican rum cakes - they are prepared with love and a huge time commitment. She is always looking for Jamaican rum to soak the fruits in for weeks, even months ahead of time, and deals on dried fruits to put in the mix. It is amazing to see what happens in preparation of this event.

As she has made this commitment, one thing is clear - she needed a better kitchen mixer in order to devote the hours necessary to preparing these cakes with love.

This morning, I was awake at around 5.oo a.m. I called a nearby Kohl's department store and was advised that they did indeed have the desired mixer, at a reasonable sale price and the store had been open since 4.00 a.m. and would have quantities to last until they ran out (I love really useful salespersons). Hey, I worked retail through a couple of Black Fridays myself - I know what good customer service is and can surely tell what bad customer service is, conversely.

We readied ourselves and set out for the store. It was full of eager shoppers. The lines resembled Russian food lines in another era, and I wondered again why it is that civilized people will stand for hours in a line to spend their hard-earned monies. I made the mistake of not taking my cell phone with me. Fatal when shopping with someone else on such a day as today. Mum could not find me in the huge store and tried to have me paged, only to be passed along, from one sales associate to another, all passing the buck, claiming that it was not their job to page guests. We finally found each other and I was guarding what I thought to be the desired mixer.

True to form, mum stated that based on the horrible feeling in the store, poor customer service, et al - she had no desire to spend her money there. I love that about mum - she really puts her money where her mouth is. This mixer cost a pretty penny. We were not going to stand in line for over an hour at a store where our business appeared to be unappreciated.

I called a local Bed, Bath and Beyond - no crowds, extremely friendly staff and their beloved 20% off coupon was being thankfully honoured in the store on Black Friday - the one day of the year when it is honoured without actually being in the hands of the guest - we saved a pretty penny on that mixer - enough that mum could purchase her long coveted stainless steel flip top rubbish bin for the kitchen in her condo. We found a few more things, stopped at another store - Home Goods - again - excellent customer service, no crowds and pleasant shopping, ate breakfast and came home.

Mothers are the ones who get things done in this world - yes, men do too, don't misunderstand me, but there is something about a woman who takes charge of situations.

I love my mother - she is my most-admired woman. Formidable, intelligent, with a strong conviction. I don't know if we got the best deal on that mixer today, and I suppose, it doesn't really matter - what I do know is that my mum has class and will only do business with those who have earned her respect. A good lesson for all of us.

Now off to make those 28 cakes - in 2 or 3 shifts, methinks. Either way, infinitely faster because we have a wonderful new mixer to help us along.

Happy Thanksgiving - or should I say - Happy Black Friday.

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