Shopping in Manhattan the day after Thanksgiving is only for the bravest bargain hunters. Think you're tough enough? Then get set to fight through the crowds and chaos of New York's Black Friday
New York on Black Friday is strictly for the brave. The day after Thanksgiving is when the big stores do all they can to get your shopping dollar by slashing prices and inviting carnage in the aisles. You've never seen anything like it!
We arrived on Wednesday, the day before the turkeys are carved and Macy's parade takes over town. The Woogo apartment we rented (www.woogo.com, £861 for two in a one-bedroom apartment, four-night stay) was comfortable and airy, with a big-screen TV, shower and bath and a small but adequate kitchennette.
Two blocks from Central Park made it an ideal location for getting to the parade route, and handy for the subway at 72nd and Broadway. Just across from the subway was something I'd missed the last time I was in town - Gray's Papaya. This small chain of 24/7 hot dog vendors will give you the best dogs in the city, crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and only $1.25 for two.
After watching the floats go past Central Park on Thanksgiving morning, we strolled downtown to the Village to get some new glasses for my friend Stacey.
Fabulous Fanny's (store.fabulousfannys.com, 335 E 9th Street) stocks a range of frames to suit everyone from Elton John to Bill Gates, but at prices we can all get down with.
We then headed back uptown for a non-turkey lunch, and hit upon Spanky's in the Theater District. Stacey wanted glasses, I wanted barbecue - and thanks was truly given. If you like ribs, wings, pulled pork, barbecue in any form, Spanky's has it at moderate prices a stone's throw from Times Square. I enjoyed a mixed platter including pork, chicken, ribs, cornbread muffins, coleslaw and fries, and Stacey was more moderate with a barbecue chicken sandwich. Including drinks and tip we spent less than $30 combined. And then I needed a taxi home and good lie down.
After a trip to the cinema we decided to plan the shopping expedition over a few drinks at PD O’Hurley’s on E 73rd Street, a small, dark, and very welcoming Irish bar where the genuine Irishman at the bar, Dave, never forgets a round. I quickly realised I was an amateur when it comes to shopping – Stacey really knows her business.
Black Friday had been planned with military precision. Up at 5am, out by 6am. That’s late by the standards of the day, but early enough to pick up bargains. Hit Tiffany’s (57th & 5th Ave), Saks 5th Avenue (47th and 5thAve), Bloomingdales (59th & 3rd Ave), FAO Schwarz (58th & 5th Ave) and the Apple Store (right next to FAO Schwarz) by 9. And then faint. Then have brunch and shop some more.
It all worked extremely well until 6.15am. That was when we saw the queue for Saks 5th Avenue. Around the block, across the street, and to the end of that block too. For one store. And that was just to get in.
We decided to revise the plan, partly as neither one of us felt like queuing for three hours to get in, and partly because we had forgotten our elbow pads. You will need your elbows on Black Friday.
Forget your natural polite and genteel nature. In the quest for a Donna Karan cashmere sweater at 80% off, people will strike out sideways with every pointy body part they have just get into the shop.
We did likewise at Bloomingdales, where the queue was shorter but equally focused. Once Inside a New York department store, don’t head straight for the goods. Head for customer service, show them your passport, and as on overseas visitor you will be entitled in most cases to 10% or more off your purchases. It’s worth taking a flying elbow off a native New Yorker as you get to the Gucci wallet first if you know that not only did you win the battle, but it’s even cheaper than the sale price too.
After buying iPods, Nintendo DS consoles, shoes, bags, coats, handbags, and lots of, well, let’s call it stuff, we headed back to the apartment to dump our hoard and then hit PD O’Hurley’s again to count our remaining cash and lick our wounds.
Dave came over with a beer and a gin and tonic without even asking the question (my favourite barman ever, by the way) and we decided we needed to hit the shops again to buy two more suitcases to cart it all home.
Saturday was spent packing and eating the $41 Kobe burger - the finest burger I’ve ever enjoyed, and I’ve enjoyed a few - at the Old Homestead Steakhouse(56 9th Avenue), chicken for Stacey. We shared a nice Merlot, and realised we were going to be at home this time tomorrow.