Unemployed and Eager to Shop on Black Friday ... for You Laurie Black, a 32-year-old preschool teacher from Auburn, Mass., finds herself out of a job this holiday season for the second year in a row. But she's not going to let it stop her from shopping on Black Friday.

Along with a few other enterprising -- and out-of-work -- shoppers, Black is offering her services to those who don't feel like hitting the stores and standing in lines on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Black will score you the "doorbuster" deals that come only for those willing to dedicate hours of waiting in cold, New England parking lots, in exchange for just 15% of your total purchases -- and she'll take cash or even prepaid Walmart gift cards.

Though the recession has ostensibly passed, unemployment is still high at 9%. And for many of the 13.9 million Americans still out of work, shopping on Black Friday has become a luxury they can no longer afford. But a few of the jobless with an entrepreneurial streak, like Laurie Black, are refusing to be left with empty bags.

Last week, the single mother of two posted a Craigslist ad advertising her services. She has yet to receive any calls, but it's still early. As the holiday gets closer, Black will post fliers around her town. Nursing homes should be a good bet, Black says, as elderly people desire good deals as much as anyone else, but might not be up for the Black Friday trip.

Black, who has shopped on Black Friday every year since her first son was born 15 years ago, tries to be optimistic about this year's holiday. "I love shopping and love shopping for other people," she writes in her ad. "Lets help each other shall we ..."

She would also love to buy presents for her two sons and her disabled sister, whom she supports. But with no income and an eviction looming, the family's shopping will have to be done in the discount aisle in January, if at all.

"It's a tight Christmas," Black says. But then again, Black Friday isn't just about the money. "I'd go shopping not even for the deals. You meet the nicest people."

Desperation Discounts

Retailers are counting on Black Friday this holiday season, investing in ad campaigns, seasonal hires, and ever-earlier store openings to get Americans shopping again. Target's (TGT) 1,767 U.S. stores will increase their staffs by 67% and open at midnight for Black Friday this year. Walmart (WMT) has instituted a price-matching program: All shoppers who find an item they've purchased at Walmart advertised for less at another store will receive a gift-card reimbursement for the difference.

Still, retailers acknowledge that spending isn't what it was before the recession. "Persistently high unemployment, an erratic stock market, modest income growth and rising consumer prices are all combining to impact spending this holiday season," said National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

Melissa Wolford, a 27-year-old student at Lincoln University from California, Mo., also plans to work as a Black Friday personal shopper to make up for lost income. Over the past eight months, business at her wedding-planning service has dried up.

"I went from having a steady stream [of customers] to nothing," says Wolford, who is also an ordained minister. "We're a small town in a rural area. There's not a lot of opportunities."

But even if people don't have money to throw big weddings, they still go Black Friday shopping in nearby Jefferson City, says Wolford. "Whenever I've been really low on money, I've always tried to go," she says. "So I thought -- why not offer to do it for other people?"

For every person like Wolford who can't afford to shop at all, she guesses there more who desperately need to get the best deals possible this season. "The economy is bad," she says. "People want to be able to buy their family stuff and can't afford regular prices. It's the one time of the year you can shop for a big purchase."

Wolford, like Black, has been doing Black Friday for years, starting when she was a little girl tagging alongside her mom. While she doesn't mind missing some of Thanksgiving to shop, many families don't have time to do both. This year, with stores like Target, Kohl's (KSS) and Best Buy (BBY) opening at midnight, people who want the hottest deals will have to get in line as early as 9 p.m. Thursday, Wolford estimates.

Kristal Braley, who also plans to work as a Black Friday personal shopper, says she expects the personal shopping service idea to catch on. The holiday season already creates around 500,000 seasonal jobs each year, according to the National Retail Federation. Braley, a 23-year-old student at the University of Texas, came up with her personal shopper plan on Black Friday last year, when she was hired to hand out fliers at 4 a.m. at the San Marcos Outlet Mall in Austin, Texas.

"It was a madhouse. Everyone was stressed out. Kids were tired and being dragged around," says Braley, who has a child herself. "I felt really bad for everybody and wished I could have helped. After seeing that, I thought, 'There's gotta be people out there who just don't want to deal with this.' "

Good Fun in Hard Times

So far, neither Braley, Wolford nor Black have received any calls from potential clients. Maybe it's too early, they speculate. Other women advertising the service on classified boards claim to have done it for years. One "Personal Holiday Wrapper and Shopper" from Phoenix, Ariz., says she has "had great success the last two years." She promises to line up at Target, Toys R Us, Kohl's and Best Buy for a flat rate of $50, though reminds clients she can't guarantee she will land specific items.

Even if Wolford could afford to pay someone to shop for her, she would never do it, she says. Black Friday may stress everyone else out, but she still thinks it's fun. "I really, really like a sale," Wolford explains. "[Black Friday] about getting stuff you couldn't get the rest of the year even cheaper."

For some, Black Friday is too important of a tradition to be missed, even if the money's not there. Black remembers what it was like in better times.

"My brother will watch the boys for me. We'll all go at 11 p.m. and sit until the store opens at 5 a.m. with our hot drinks, chairs, umbrellas. Everyone's talking about what they're going to get and who they're going to make happy. It's nice. It's not all about me, me, me."

This year, Black just hopes she gets a few calls in response to her ad so she can buy Christmas presents for her kids. But she's not overly optimistic.

"It's the same for everyone around me," she says. "No jobs."


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July 31 2013 at 9:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gloria Delgado

Great idea's for people who are struggling this holiday season. They say that unemployment is 9% but in the Inland Empire its 30% or even higher! Black Friday may pull in customers but it won't be nothing like it was before. -gd

November 11 2011 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
palabon

Who the heck will give there money to a stranger to shop? I bet there will be some dummy who will go it.....there allways will be!.....SUCKERS.

November 08 2011 at 7:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wingamble

So this person wants your money up front and you should trust her because she is broke?

November 08 2011 at 5:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jose Dejesus

EVEN PEOPLE WHO ARE LUCKY TO STILL HAVE A JOB ARE ONLY BUYING WHAT THEY NEED....THEY HAVE A JOB , BUT THEY ARE NOT GOING TO GO CRAZY SPENDING, I WOULDN'T .. I SAY 50 MILLION AMERICANS ARE NOT BUYING...IF YOU HAVE A JOB ? MY ADVISE SAVE YOUR MONEY BECAUSE YOU COULD BE NEXT TO BE UNEMPLOYED....

November 07 2011 at 11:27 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
donny3666

Who is this article kidding? I am learning that most of the unemployed either don't want to work or have given up. I am amazed at what my friends that own small businesses told me about their need for help and who are showing up for employment.
The only cure for this is tougher empolyers that crack the whip. The mind set of the modern employee is that their is never time to do it right,but plenty of time to do it again.

November 07 2011 at 10:26 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to donny3666's comment
alucky1128f8@aol

IF BLACK FRIDAY IS SO GOOD, WHY NOT USE ANOTHER WORD LIKE GOOD FRIDAY !!!!!. I HAVE NEVER SHOPPED OWN THIS DAY AND NEVER WILL, BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN SAVING MONEY AND BUYING WHAT I NEED AND NOT WHAT I WANT. GROWING UP IN A FAMILY OF 10, YOU LEARN TO DO WITHOUT THINGS YOU DON'T NEED. I HAVE LEARNED IN LIFE TO SAVE AND HELP OTHERS . LORD KNOWS IF KIDS GOT WHAT I GOT FOR CHRISTMAS THEY WOULD HAVE A FIT !!!!!. I CAN REMEMBER THAT BROWN PAPER BAG FROM CHURCH ,FULL OF FRUIT AND A CANDY CANE, I MADE THAT CANDY CANE LAST AS LONG AS I COULD. CHRISTMAS AT OUR HOUSE WAS ALL ABOUT JESUS CHRIST AND OUR LOVING FAMILY. POOR WE WERE, BUT RICH IN JESUS.

November 06 2011 at 9:58 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to alucky1128f8@aol's comment
Royal Dudness

It's called "Black" Friday becuase this is the day that a business is either going to be in the black, or positive cash flow, or stay in the red or negative cash flow. It has NOTHING to do with race or religion. Get a life, there is no god.

November 06 2011 at 10:29 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
ctokeng

If posting an ad will get someone to help me buy presents for my family
I would sure appreciate it. I don't have a job either and don't draw un employment
so some have it better than others, All the help I can get would so be appreciated!
Happy Black Friday To All even if you can't go shopping
Merry Christmas To all that can't go shooping on Black Friday!!

November 06 2011 at 9:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Just saiyan

Everywhere is freaks and hairies,Dykes and fairies, tell me where is sanity!
Tax the rich, feed the poor Till there are no rich no more? I'd love to change the world
But I don't know what to do So I'll leave it up to you.Population keeps on breeding
Nation bleeding, still more feeding economy Life is funny, skies are sunny
Bees make honey, who needs money, Monopoly.
I think that explains it Compliments to 10 YEARS AFTER (1972)

November 06 2011 at 9:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
someoneole

RIP Tea Party

November 06 2011 at 6:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to someoneole's comment
savemycountry911

RIP, USA..................thanks to Obama.

November 06 2011 at 9:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to savemycountry911's comment
alucky1128f8@aol

GOODBYE OBAMA IN 2013 !!!!!!

November 06 2011 at 10:08 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down