2,900,000 square feet of retail floor area. Five parking lots, three parking garages. 400 stores. All completely full. Welcome to the King of Prussia Mall on Black Friday.
I am proud to call myself a two-time survivor of the crazy madness of Black Friday at America’s second biggest mall. In 2015, a friend and I woke up bright and early, and we arrived at the mall at about 6:00 AM, when many of the mall’s stores opened. The mall wasn’t crowded, the majority of the parking spaces remained vacant, and I didn’t see any of the crazy long lines of crazed customers waiting outside of stores that I had expected from years of watching the media’s portrayal of Black Friday. In fact, I decided the day was highly overrated. My friend and I shopped for a few hours, and we left the mall by 10:00 AM at the latest without a problem.
This year was different.
I figured that, since 2015 was harmless, there wasn’t a point in waking up super early and scrambling to the mall if the mad competition for parking spaces and breathing room in the mall was practically nonexistent. I picked up my friend at about 9:00 AM, and we arrived at the mall at about 10:00 AM.
Finding a parking spot was a bit more difficult. Most of the parking spots were taken, but the huge parking lot near the high-end stores had a lot of available spaces. My friend and I parked and entered the closest store, Bloomingdale’s. No problem.
The King of Prussia mall is so huge that it’s actually two malls – the plaza and the court – which were recently connected by a construction project in August. The fastest way to get to the larger half of the mall, the plaza, from where we were, the court, was to exit the plaza through the Macy’s store, take the walking path between the two halves, and to enter the court. Simple.
So that’s just what we did. We navigated past all of the expensive stores until we finally reached Macy’s, the last obstacle separating us from the plaza. We entered a madhouse swarming with shoppers in every corner. I’d never seen a department store so packed before. The makeup section, the handbags section, every other section: filled with people of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I couldn’t believe my eyes; I’d entered the human Coral Reef.
My friend and I swam past the hustle and the bustle until finally we reached the doors. We let the fresh air flow into our lungs as we made our way to the plaza. Now the good stuff was about to happen.
We hit all of the major hot-spots: American Eagle, Hollister, Cold Stone Creamery, H&M, Forever 21, and our beloved Primark. Now, I’ll break down my experience with each.
If I were to describe Black Friday in three words, I’d choose “American Eagle Outfitters,” hands down. Walking into the store was like attending a concert. Everyone was packed tightly together with barely any breathing space, but they were all there for one reason and one reason only: pure enjoyment. The thrill of experiencing the concert of your favorite band parallels the thrill of soaking in the shopping experience of your favorite brand. You feel disgusted and claustrophobic, and you wonder how the line can be so packed together in such tightly-woven curves. You feel bad for the employees for having to deal with all of these people. But most of all, you feel proud of your favorite brand for the huge crowd it attracted. Its hard-earned fans are all here, fighting for their products, and willing to wait thirty minutes to buy a scarf for half-price (I know, but come on, it was only $12! You won’t understand until you feel the softness for yourself). And you also feel a twinge of excitement that literally everything in the store is 50 percent off.
Hollister was fairly crowded, but nothing compared to AEO. I found my Black Friday shopping experience there to be extremely frustrating due to its false advertising. “50% off everything!” it advertised. I entered the store, only to find several racks of all of Hollister’s newest and trendiest clothing, whose prices were “excluded from the store-wide sale.” Needless to say, I will not be returning to Hollister on Black Friday.
Cold Stone Creamery was amazing, as always. It’s expensive, but the rich, creamy flavor is worth every penny. I was feeling lowkey salty that it was out of cookie dough at 11:30 in the morning. It’s okay, though; the high quality of the ice cream always pardons them.
H&M and Forever 21 barely had any sales, but they did have the slowest employees ever! I’m not one to complain, but they really should have scheduled more than four cashiers on Black Friday!
Last but not least, we hit Primark, the retail love our lives. I never have a bad thing to say about Primark. The prices are low, the product quality is high, the lines are fast, and it’s really one of the happiest places on earth. Primark was great on Black Friday. And on every other day.
After a long day of fighting the crowds, my friend and I headed to the food court for some lunch. We weighed our two options: a long line, or risky food quality. After walking around the mall all day, we chose to take the gamble. We headed to the station with the shortest line: a Chinese restaurant towards the back of the court. We tried a sample of some type of chicken. The sample was pretty good, so we considered this place our best bet. My friend ordered General Tsao Chicken with fried rice. Then, I asked the employee, “do you have sesame chicken?” The employee nodded his head, took a scoop of the General Tsao Chicken, sprinkled sesame seeds on top, packed it up in a box, and handed it to me. So many question marks darted through my mind. I didn’t inquire, though; we were too hungry.
Finding a place to sit was like searching for gold during the California Gold Rush: it seemed like it’d be easy, but it was actually close to impossible. We waited for about fifteen minutes for a couple to finish their food and leave so we could snag their spots.
We plopped down, and we dug in. I didn’t really consider the taste of the food until about halfway through, when I realized I wasn’t hungry enough to finish the nasty chicken the man had given me. “This food is horrible,” I said to my friend.
“It is! I just ate it because I was starving, but now that you mention it, this is really bad.” We tasted the food again after the epiphany, but we couldn’t consume any more. It was too dreadful. We laughed, and we threw the nasty “sesame” chicken in the garbage.
It was about 1:30 PM by this point. We headed back to the Bloomingdale’s store in the court section of the mall. When we left the building, a perfectly filled parking lot welcomed us. I kid you not, every single spot was taken. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
My friend and I walked back to my car. While loading my trunk with our new haul, we heard an engine sniffle up behind us. “Hey, are you guys about to leave?” asked a twenty year-oldish guy from his car.
“Yeah,” I said, a little creeped out, but sympathetic for the mutual struggle of not being able to find a place to go.
“Thanks,” he said. I pulled out of the spot, he pulled in, and we were on our way.
Early morning Black Friday 2015 and afternoon Black Friday 2016 are two separate worlds.
At school on Monday, another friend was discussing her own experience with attempting to find parking near the King of Prussia Mall. She wanted to find a space in a parking lot of a nearby restaurant, but none was available. Then, she intended to settle for a spot in one of the King of Prussia Mall’s parking lots. When she drove up to the entrance, a parking lot attendant denied her access. “Sorry, you can’t park here. The lots are all full,” he said. I couldn’t help but to laugh; how could every single spot be filled?!
Overall, if I were to rate Black Friday on a scale of sketchers to chocolate cheesecake, I would definitely rank it somewhere close to a new laptop computer. It was fun, exciting, and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. And after experiencing it for yourself, it’s way less intimidating than it seems.
I’ll close this story with a quote my uncle mentioned on Thanksgiving: “Black Fridays Matter.”
Thanks for reading!