A penny saved is a penny earned, and, a penny 'bargained' is a penny saved, along with the bonus of a satisfied feeling of getting a good deal. In India, bargaining is almost an art form, from haggling with the vegetable vendor to bargaining in the bigger stores hoping for a discount. Here in the US, prices are cast in stone and bargaining is an alien concept. The next best thing, however, are 'SALES' and 'DISCOUNTS'. And the biggest sale of the year is the post-Thanksgiving sale. Back in India, the one day of the year I would wake up at the crack of dawn was during Diwali. Here in the US, I did a repeat performance this year but this time, it was during the day after Thanksgiving. My American friends can look forward to family get-togethers and Turkey dinners. For vegetarians like me, Thanksgiving basically means 2 days off from work and SHOPPING SPREE!! The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday - an economic term signifying that most retailers, whose accounts are in the 'red', are able to recoup as a result of the sales during this day and move to the 'black'. The hype catches steam as the day approaches, a lot of the stores advertise early bird sales from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Some stores such as 'Target' even have an early morning wake up call service. What with all the advertising and the thanksgiving conversations with my friends, I decided that I wanted to be a part of the much-touted early morning sale this year. My husband did the market research and decided that a good place to hit the circuit would be Circuit City - an electronic goods store. He made a wish list of all items on sale and we set off on our shopping expedition. I must say that it gave me a kick, waking up at 4:00 a.m., having a steaming mug of coffee and setting off to the nearest Circuit City - it had all the flavor of a Scavenger hunt. It was 4:30 a.m. when we arrived at the store and the air was chilly and foggy as we stepped out of the car. We saw that our fellow shoppers had already arrived and there was a longish line before the store. The earliest among the early birds were being handed coupons for the most prized items on sale. We reached the fag end of the line and stood awaiting our turn. The air was thick with expectation. We surveyed the competition and hubby went through his short wish-list. Right on top was a Samsonite camcorder bag - apparently the item was available for FREE after a rebate. Other items were a USB kit available at half-price, camcorders, DVD players and digital cameras that were available at huge discounts. A lot of the people in the line seemed to have chalked out strategies for shopping. For instance, a couple of college kids standing ahead of us were talking into their cell-phones to their friends whom they had stationed at 'Good Guys' - another electronic goods store. At that point, I realized that thanksgiving shopping is serious business!! Finally, the doors were thrown open and we filed in along with the four hundred other faithfuls. When we stepped in, it was quite crowded and hubby and I made a beeline for the camcorder bags section only to find that all the bags had pretty much vanished by then. So hubby took off to get his USB thingy and I was left to my own devices. A gentleman next to me was wandering around hunting the shelves and muttering 'Samsonite, Samsonite, Samsonite' under his breath, like a mantra. Meanwhile, another lady had collected around 10 camcorder bags and was standing over them in a corner like a hen guarding her chicks. Someone tried to pick up one of her bags and she reacted like she had been electrocuted - "These are already shopped", she screamed. The poor man jumped back stunned, muttered apologies and left. Meanwhile another gentleman was giving instructions to his family over the cell phone, apparently his wife and mother were in other parts of the same store. His philosophy was simple, pick up anything that is discounted. And his son was stationed at 'Best Buy', looking for bargains. As for me, I wanted to have something to show for waking up at 4:00 a.m. So I wandered around and lo and behold - there it was - a solitary Samonite camcorder bag sitting innocently on a shelf unnoticed by anyone. I looked around, no one had seen it. So I walked up to the bag and picked it up, feeling like I hit the jackpot. Envious eyes followed me as I walked away beaming. Many of the people I passed asked, "Where did you find that bag?" "Oh, I think they are all out", I said. It was dumb luck, but I felt pleased anyway. Next, I walked around and saw some one pick up a box from a bunch lying together and blindly, I picked it up and took it to where hubby was standing "Wow", he said, "that is a Flash Memory at half price - how did you find it" "Well", I said, "I just saw someone pick it up and followed his example." From then on, I had a clear strategy. Watch what others are picking up and pick up the same. So in this manner, I picked up printer cartridges, rechargeable batteries, CD-R's, DVD's, earphones and few other items which to me were unidentifiable but which threw my husband into convulsions of delight. At the end, we bought around 12 items including the much-vaunted Samsonite Bag and then decided to stop by Robinson's May for some clothes. This felt closer to my domain and I scoured the store for goodies. Finally we stopped for brunch at a local deli and went home with the trunk of our car filled with the pickings of the day. Next year, maybe, just maybe, I'll tackle Wal-Mart!!!