By Elisabeth Buchwald
Anna Gillis, 20, woke up at 4 a.m. on Black Friday, but she wasn’t racing to get a spot in line at Walmart (NYS:WMT) , Target (NYS:TGT) or Best Buy (NYS:BBY) to get a TV or the new PlayStation 5 but rather a COVID-19 test.
She and her mom arrived at a testing site located in the outskirts of Boston at 4:30 a.m., three and a half hours before the testing site opened — and there were already two people ahead of them.
“I was so shocked to see that we weren’t the first people there so early,” Gillis, who resides in Plymouth, Mass. said.
Two days prior, Gillis’ boyfriend’s brother tested positive for coronavirus so she wanted to “get tested as soon as possible.” Because so many people were getting tested on the day of Thanksgiving, she decided to self-isolate on Thursday and wait until Friday.
To kill time while waiting, she and her mom ate a breakfast from McDonald’s (NYS:MCD) while sitting on the curb, and took turns sitting in the car to warm up.
Around 7:30 a.m., she saw a man in front of her switch places with an older gentleman. “He must have been saving it for a family member and waited all that time for them,” she said.
She said the act was heartwarming, especially one day after Thanksgiving.
“It was kind of funny to be in a long line so early in the morning on Black Friday and not even be making a gift purchase,” she said. “I was thinking they should do a Black Friday sale for the cost of rapid tests.”
By 10 a.m. Gillis and her mom found out they tested negative for the coronavirus in the rapid test, and are currently awaiting their results from the non-rapid test.
Gillis’ Black Friday experience is hardly unique.
Across the U.S., there is exponential growth in new cases of coronavirus, causing more Americans to come into contact with people who test positive for the virus, prompting them to get tested.
On Friday morning, in parts of New York City, some lines were 35 people long while others stretched around corners, according to Francine Ricchi who runs the Twitter (NYS:TWTR) account @CityMDline that shares real-time updates from other users regarding wait times at CityMD urgent care clinics.
Because of the health risks associated with crowding and the chaotic sprint into stores once they open on Black Friday, in some cases resulting in severe injuries and even deaths , many retailers offered traditional in-store-only Black Friday sales online or, instead, stretched comparable deals out over the entire holiday season .
In states with tighter coronavirus restrictions, “online sales growth was 47% higher… compared to states with fewer COVID restrictions,” according to an Adobe Inc. (NAS:ADBE) Black Friday report. Thanksgiving Day sales totaled $5.1 billion, up 21.5% from last year , and an all-time high. Nearly half of the transactions (46.5%) were on mobile devices.
Curbside pick-up was popular this year and “has seen a whopping 116% year over year growth so far this week,” the report notes. “While expedited shipping has experienced an increase of 49%.”
In that regard, Sam Martel, a Chicago, I.L. resident, was an outlier.
Martel got in line at GameStop (NYS:GME) at 6 A.M. on Black Friday in hopes of purchasing one of the two remaining PlayStation 5s (NYS:SNE) . He was fifth in the line of eight people so he was nervous that the people in front of him would snatch up the two PS5’s which were not being sold at any discount .
The gaming system has been impossible for people to get their hands on since it came out earlier this month. Now it is being resold on eBay (NAS:EBAY) and Facebook Marketplace (NAS:FB) for upwards of $1,200 — more than double the $499.99 original price Sony announced in September for the next-generation disc-based gaming version.
“Before 7 a.m. the store manager came out, and said that the consoles were already sold out,” Martel told MarketWatch.
Martel was stunned. Nowhere on GameStop’s website did it say that he could get a ticket to secure a PS5, he said, adding that “their websites did not allow pre-purchase or pick up either.”
GameStop did not respond to a request for a comment.
Martel said he wanted to purchase the new PlayStation and Xbox in time for the holidays. “This has been a nightmare for myself and many families,” he added.