I came. I saw. I bartered.
Phillip Lim came to Target and I was determined to have the whole experience. So instead of shopping online in my pajamas (or in my case, my work clothes), I opted to head to the only Target store in Manhattan and snatch up my goods the old-fashioned, Black-Friday way. After a lot of yelling, a few laughs and a little negotiating, I have for you a play-by-play of my #PhillipLimForTarget adventure on Sept. 15, complete with some tips for the next high-profile collaboration:
After telling my coworkers about my plans to hit the Target for the in-store premiere of the Phillip Lim collection, one of them emails me a video of the T by Alexander Wang giveaway madness in July. Thanks… I guess.
I start perusing the Target website to get an idea of the items I want to home in on during my Supermarket Sweep. Apparently some items not sold in stores—the horror! My top picks are a matching animal print pullover and skirt; a floral shirt dress and carryall tote; and something called a “Grab&Go Pack”that will make for cute loungewear. I’m a sucker for loungewear.
Tip No. 1: Scope out the goods online before you show up. But you knew this.
I leave work (I promise I’m not a dancer) and hail a cab. Next stop: Target.
Taxi driver, to Tarzhay, please! #philliplimfortarget
— Ashley Calloway (@ashleycalloway) September 15, 2013
I arrive to about 20 people in line ahead of me. A woman two people ahead of me asks how I’m dressed so well at 6:30 in the morning. Everyone is trying to sneak pictures of the line on their smartphones. Almost half the people in line are men, which makes sense because there’s a men’s collectionas well. People are chit-chatting with strangers in the line, and other customers are trickling in.
A Target employee (whose jacket says he’s security) shows up and makes us get in a more organized line against the wall.
Girl behind me to boy behind me: “Do you know where the stuff is in the store?” I eavesdrop. The boy starts looking up items on his phone.
CNBC News show up. My makeup has worn off and I make sure I turn away from the camera.
Tip No. 2: The news will probably be there to film the crazy people waiting in line. Dress accordingly.
People are talking to each other about what they already bought online. The girl in front of me wants a yellow satchel, which she says was sold out online. She said her friend has a discount at Barneys, but she and the two women she’s speaking to agree that it’s more special buying it from Target: “Anyone can go to Barneys.” We have some true Target devotees here.
Tip No. 3: Try buying the items you want online first, just in case. You can always send back what you don’t want.
The news reporter is talking to a girl a few people down, and wants to know, “How early did you get up this morning?”
A police officer or mall cop (I can’t tell the difference) shows up to make an announcement: “You can get two things”—people groan and make noises of disbelief, and he corrects himself—“two of the same item. No running, no fighting. No videotaping. You will be escorted off if you videotape or run.” My roommate shows up, and counts 60 people in line. Another friend texts me to say she saw me in the line, a big family skipped her, and she wants to know if she can join me. To which I reply, “At your own risk.”
The security guard says they’re letting in the first 30 people in line, and then the next 30. I assume this is for safety. I count myself as the 26th person in line.
Tip No. 4: This should go without saying, but get there early. This isn’t a game.
The guy behind me is buying up Phillip Lim for Target items on his phone. He asks how close a Dunkin’ Donuts is, because he was thinking about going to get something to eat. Just starve, I say. As I said, this isn’t a game.
My roommate does a new count: 83. The police officer was apparently serious about his warning, because the news people have to leave the premises. The employees now say we can’t take pictures either, or we will be escorted out of the building.
The security guard now says he will be letting in the first half of the line first, instead of the first 30 people in line, and we have 60 seconds before the next group of people is set loose. My friend farther down in the line has changed her mind about trying to skip, but my roommate and I plan to grab a red bag for her if we see it.
Tip No. 5: Try to get a helping hand—literally—from a friend farther up in line.
A woman comes up with a baby on her back and a video recorder in her hand, filming the people in line. An officer approaches her and tell her she can’t record. She points her camera at him: “Why?”
The doors open, and we’re off. We try our best not to run but then break into a speed walk. I cut people off as politely as I can. I get hit in the face by a hanger or an elbow. I grab a green shirt I kind of liked and the shirt version of the floral shirt dress I wanted. I keep making circles around the small section housing the collection. I can’t find the loungewear. I am panicking. “Where’s the lingerie, where’s the lingerie?!” I ask no one in particular. I hear a girl ask an employee about a “Grab&Go Pack” and remember that’s what it’s called.
Tip No. 6: Remember what stuff you want is called—especially if it’s called something like a “Grab&Go Pack”—just in case you need to consult an employee.
The employee points the girl in the right direction. I follow behind her a snatch up the third to last pack. It’s in the same animal printas the pullover-skirt set I wanted. Angels sing.
People have pretty much grabbed everything they wanted that they could get their paws on. The purses did not stand a chance, and neither did most styles of the long-sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, or Grab&Go Packs. The rhinestone shirts and dresses were clearly not a crowd favorite. Employees confirm that they are bringing more stuff out, but not necessarily what people are asking for.
Tip No. 7: Keep calm; there may be more available than what is initially on the floor in the first five minutes.
People are crowding the storeroom door. Employees tell people not to rush them. An employee pushes out a trolley of handbags and people rush the trolley anyway. The bags disappear in seconds.
Employees say they are bringing out more bags.
Employees say there are no more bags.
The employees say they are bringing out more bags, but everyone must move down to the jewelry section. We are herded away from the clothing section and the storeroom door to wait by the jewelry.
The employees roll another trolley of bags toward the customers “waiting by the jewelry.” Half of said customers bum-rush the trolley before it can get halfway to the crowd.
An employee announces that’s it, they’re done.
The customers are not done. People start trading merchandise.
The security guard tells us we can’t hang out in the aisles. No one listens.
The woman who was in front of me in line tells her friend to keep a bag she isn’t feeling so she can trade it for the one she wants.
Tip No. 8: Hold on to what you grab if you think it’s a hot item, even if it’s not your size or exactly what you wanted. You can swap it for something you really want later.
A customer says she thinks the staff is “fucking with us” by withholding extra items, but she’s tired of getting hit by the mob anyway.
People are still hanging out by the storeroom door, holding on to hope.
Frustrated customer trying to figure out her next plan of action: “It’s too early for this shit.”
My roommate talks to the employees and finds out they will be restocking the collection after noon.
Tip No. 9: The collection might get restocked a few hours later. If you have a few hours to kill in Target, that is.
Another customer is fascinated by all the bum-rushing and swapping clothes: “This is a sociological experiment.”
A girl with a cart full of stuff asks if I want to see what she has to possibly trade for my Grab&Go Pack. I politely decline.
The girl comes back to ask again. Again, I politely decline.
People are still hovering around the door like sharks, and still making trades. Stuff people decide they no longer want is getting hastily put back on shelves, including the coveted purses.Other people quickly snatch the abandoned items up. One girl gets to a black purse too late. “Can I just feel it?” she asks the girl who scooped it up.
Tip No. 10: People will put things back without a fight. Stick around.
Three girls hurry in, looking surprised at the almost bare shelves.
Tip No. 11: Don’t be those girls.
A girl wants to see another customer’s bag before she makes an online order.
Tip No. 12: If even if you can’t get your hands on everything you wanted, see if your fellow shoppers will allow you to inspect their items so you can determine if you really want to order it online.
On my way to the fitting room, the persistent girl asks me a third time if I want to trade my Grab&Go Pack for something else she has. While in a separate fitting room, my roommate yells to me that she’s worried the dress she has won’t look good. “The dress with the skirt on it?” I ask. “Does it say ‘Boom’on it?!” another hopeful voice asks from another fitting room.
There are leftover goodies on the reject rack at the fitting room, but the Target employees are telling people they can’t shop from there and have to wait until the items are back on the floor.
I overhear the security guard saying he counted 100 people in line, so this collaboration has been ‘the worst one.’ He said some people said they were at the store since 4 a.m.
My floral shirt is too big, but instead of handing it over to the employees in the fitting room, I hold onto it with hopes of trading it for something else. I find someone with the same shirt in my size, and they are willing to switch with me. Success!
Tip No. 13: Don’t leave clothes that don’t fit in the fitting room. You can use them as bargaining chips.
My roommate sees someone place a navy blue blazer back on a rack. She finds a girl she met earlier to give her the blazer, which she apparently really wanted but couldn’t find in her size. The girl gives my roommate a hug: “You made my day.”
People are still hanging around by the storeroom door. My roommate and I leave the clothing section to go get paper towels for the apartment. It is still Target, after all.