Taking the Pulse on Black Friday

Macys ShoppersAs the holiday shopping season got off to a strong start, exceeding the expectations of most retailers, Dollars & Sense reporters hit the stores late Thanksgiving Day and early Friday. From Manhattan to Danbury, Conn., they found sales promotions that fell short of customer expectations; tired retail employees — some of whom were delighted by the prospect of a lucrative Black Friday weekend and others who resented being pulled away from their family holidays — and much more.
Black Friday at Woodbury Commons:
The Bargain Shopper’s Pleasure and the Employee’s Pain

By Erica Hanger
Malina Lambach does not relish Black Friday.

“Imagine having to practically inhale your Thanksgiving dinner, say your goodbyes to your family and not be able to spend the rest of your holiday in a food coma like everybody else,” said Lambach, a sales associate whose 12-hour shift at Saks Fifth Avenue OFF Fifth at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley, N.Y., began at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, three hours before the store officially opened.

Every year thousands of shoppers from all over the tri-state area flock to Woodbury Common, a 220-store mall, for door buster deals that begin at midnight on Thanksgiving. However, some larger department stores, including Saks, require employees to arrive even earlier on Thanksgiving Day to prepare for the shopping madness. Read more…
Where Are the Sales?

By Ashley Tavoularis
Walking into the Danbury Fair Mall in Danbury, Conn., at midnight, on my first ever Black Friday outing, I was expecting to be ushered into the sale of all sales. Credit card in hand, I was ready to buy as much as possible of my favorite shopping indulgence — clothes — while spending as little as I could.

Long lines in front of Foot Locker, Victoria’s Secret, Champ’s Sports and Macy’s looked promising, as did signs displaying sales of anywhere from 20 to 60 percent off. Entering The Gap, which had one such sign, I was excited to see the sale items lined up in front. However, nothing was of interest to me. I moved toward the back of the store, perusing the clearance section, which was jammed mostly with tattered, damaged and unappealing summer clothes. Miraculously, I ended up finding everything I had wanted—but none of it was on sale. Buying a pair of black slacks and work blouse I desperately needed, I left feeling duped. Read more…
A Veteran Salesman’s First Black Friday at Macy’s

By Jason Volnick
Marvin Robinson, 50, has been a salesman in the second floor men’s department at Macy’s flagship department store on Herald Square for less than a year. But after Black Friday, he feels like a seasoned veteran.

Soon after the store opened at midnight, the men’s department, like most of the rest of the store, looked like a tornado had ripped through it, with shoppers in search of bargains tearing through the folded clothes, many of which ended up cluttering the aisles. Read more…
Black Friday Shopping in Harlem Has Just Gotten A Lot Easier

By Michael Smith
On 116th Street and the FDR Drive, the two-year-old East River Plaza Multiplex, which includes such big-box retailers as Target, Best Buy and Costco, was packed at midnight on Thanksgiving. Cars jammed the multi-level parking garage. And the line of pedestrians heading for the mall’s ramps and escalators stretched down the block.

Traditionally, Harlemites would have to travel downtown to 86th Street, Time Square or Herald Square, just to name a few infamous Black Friday war zones. Read more…
On Black Friday Weekend, the Queens Center Mall Becomes a Kids Zone

By Tiffani C. Dawson
Black Friday weekend at Queens Center Mall isn’t just for bargain-hunting adults. The busiest shopping weekend of the year has turned some stores into kids’ zones, with strollers and tired or unruly children filling the aisles. Read more…

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Dollars & Sense writers share their stories of meals with family, friends and strangers.
A Good Day at the Soup Kitchen

By Rena Nasar
When Shanae Johnson’s alarm clock went off at 5:30 a.m., she jumped out of bed and started getting ready. Johnson had been looking forward to this day all year, and there was no way she was going to be late. An hour later, after parking her car, she walked through the church doors, put on an apron, a hairnet and gloves, and took a deep, anxious breath as she started peeling potatoes. At precisely 7 a.m, the preparation began.

That Wednesday, Nov. 23, the Greenpoint Church Soup Kitchen was bustling with volunteers like Johnson, who together prepared a Thanksgiving meal for 70 people, and packed 500 bags of groceries to give out. Read more…
An Extra Seat at the Thanksgiving Dinner Table

By Andrea Kayda
As a chronic sufferer of “only-child syndrome,” one practice I never learned to perfect was that of sharing. I never enjoyed projects involving group work and I definitely don’t like to share my food. So earlier this month when my dad informed me we would be spending Thanksgiving with his girlfriend, Cathy, I wasn’t exactly thrilled.

I knew that my dad was dating, my parents have been divorced for years and I had met other girlfriends of his in the past, including Cathy briefly, but none of them were ever included in the holiday lineup. I have always spent Thanksgiving in my home state of North Carolina with just the three “F’s” — my father, food and football; but this year, I struggled with the idea of incorporating a “G” — girlfriend — into the mix. I had nothing against Cathy; I barely knew her, yet I couldn’t help but feel wounded. Read more…
Thanksgiving ThoughtsAcross the Cultural Divide,
a Thanksgiving Welcome

By Daniel Collins
I had a very different Thanksgiving this year.

A turkey glazed with homegrown habanera peppers was just one small difference I experienced. I was afforded the opportunity of spending Thanksgiving with an Afghani Muslim family with El Salvadoran relatives, and it turned out to be very different from what I had imagined. All the same, it was Thanksgiving and I was thankful to be spending it with my boyfriend’s family. Read more…
New Elements, Old Traditions

By Christine Dayao
Imagine pork and intestines stewed in blood served alongside the Thanksgiving turkey. Or instead of the traditional mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes seasoned with masala and paprika.

Many families celebrate Thanksgiving the traditional way: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and sweet potatoes. But this menu isn’t set in stone. Two young women and their families have taken the main elements of this American holiday and put an ethnic spin on it. Read more…
Happy “Turkey-Free” Day

By Elisha Fieldstadt
More than 45 million turkeys are slaughtered for Thanksgiving each year, according to PETA, the animal rights group. It also reports that Tom Savage of Oregon State University says turkeys are “smart animals with personality and character and a keen awareness of their surroundings.”

Meat-centered holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a nightmare for a vegetarian whose conscience is stung by these findings. Still, vegetarians can at least make a nice plate of side dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes and then finish the night off with as many helpings of pie à la mode that they desire.

It’s harder for a vegan — one who abstains from all animal products, including milk and eggs. For vegans, the Thanksgiving table becomes a battlefield of inedible but enticing landmines. Read more…
A Liberated Turkey Hangs Out

By Anam Baig
A wild turkey has recently been hanging out at the intersection of Victory Boulevard and Clove Road in Staten Island.

Dubbed Bernice by the locals (who refer to her as a female although it’s a male), the turkey has become a common sight, a companion to those waiting for the s62 and s61 buses that lead to the Staten Island Ferry.

“She’s tame and complacent, a very elegant but simple creature, definitely a Bernice,” remarks Michael Cuttita, a commuter waiting for the bus. Read more…
Feeding the Five Boroughs

By Andrew Tang
Three thousand New York City families received turkey dinners this year through the good works of Feeding NYC, an organization founded by Rob LoCascio that is dedicated to feeding to the needy at Thanksgiving. These dinners were boxed at Pier 60, at Chelsea Piers, on Nov. 22, loaded into storage trucks and shipped across the five boroughs. Read more…

New Elements, Old Traditions

Thanksgiving Features

By Christine Dayao

Imagine pork and intestines stewed in blood served alongside the Thanksgiving turkey. Or instead of the traditional mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes seasoned with masala and paprika.

Many families celebrate Thanksgiving the traditional way: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and sweet potatoes. But this menu isn’t set in stone. Two young women and their families have taken the main elements of this American holiday and put an ethnic spin on it.

Manpreet Kaur, a junior at Baruch College, migrated to the United States from India almost 11 years ago at the age of 10. Unable to speak English, she was put in an English as a Second Language class at P.S. 54 in Queens. There in the fifth grade, she first learned about Thanksgiving.

“I remember making little turkeys and coloring them in,” she reflected.

When she went home, she told her parents about what she learned at school. “As a foreign family, we decided to cook a little meal,” she said—the first time Kaur and her family celebrated an American holiday.

Every Thanksgiving for the past decade, Kaur has sat down with her parents and two younger brothers for a holiday meal that integrates their Indian culture.

Because they don’t have a great fondness of turkey, they swap out the main dish for spicy curry chicken.

In place of mashed potatoes, they serve up roasted potatoes seasoned with masala and paprika. Rather than making the customary stuffing, the family feasts on chole bature, which Kaur describes as the Indian version of an empanada or beef patty: fried dough stuffed with peas and potatoes.

One American tradition that Kaur has picked up on is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “Even though I’m almost 21 and I didn’t grow up watching it, seeing the balloons brings out my inner child,” she said.

This year, she said she was especially excited when her childhood crush, Daniel Radcliffe, performed a number from his musical How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying at the parade.

But Kaur insists that the food and parade aren’t nearly as important as what the day is really about. “We don’t have Thanksgiving in India so to have a holiday where you stop to give thanks for what you have—family and friends—was a pleasant change for me,” she said.

For Nicole Caballero’s family, Thanksgiving is one of the few days throughout the year when they can bring their adopted American culture and native Filipino cuisine together. Because she said her mother has become more Americanized in her cooking, Filipino food is cooked less frequently than years past but is still cooked on special occasions.

“It’s weird but when my parents came here from the Philippines, my mom wanted to do Thanksgiving but she only knew how to cook Filipino food. I mean, isn’t it all about stuffing and potatoes?” the 24-year-old aspiring teacher said.

Caballero said her mother began cooking turkey her second year in the United States, 30 years ago. Alongside the turkey, Filipino trimmings were served. When the children came along, the tradition stuck and is still carried out decades later.

“When I was a kid, I always wondered why I couldn’t be like my friends—they had normal Thanksgivings. This is the only Thanksgiving I know, though,” she said.

Caballero said that after observing the holiday in such a unique fashion for all of her life, she embraces it now more than when she was a child. “When I have kids, this is how we’ll celebrate,” she said.

Filipino dishes such as diniguan, pancit, turon and torta join the turkey at the dining room table. “And of course you have to have rice,” she said.

Diniguan is pork and intestines stewed in blood, which gives it a near-black color. “It tastes better than it sounds, trust me,” Caballero said.

Pancit is stir-fried noodles with vegetables such as peas and carrots. Lumpia are miniature vegetable wraps similar to spring rolls. Torta is a ground beef omelet and turon is a thin piece of dough wrapped around a banana and brown sugar, which is then deep-fried.

Caballero shares a similar sentiment to Kaur about the meaning of Thanksgiving: “I love Thanksgiving but at the end of the day, it isn’t about the food. You could even eat a bag of chips, but as long as you are with your loved ones, that’s what’s important,” she said.

Happy “Turkey-Free” Day

Thanksgiving Features

By Elisha Fieldstadt

More than 45 million turkeys are slaughtered for Thanksgiving each year, according to PETA, the animal rights group. It also reports that Tom Savage of Oregon State University says turkeys are “smart animals with personality and character and a keen awareness of their surroundings.”

Meat-centered holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a nightmare for a vegetarian whose conscience is stung by these findings. Still, vegetarians can at least make a nice plate of side dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes and then finish the night off with as many helpings of pie à la mode that they desire.

It’s harder for a vegan — one who abstains from all animal products, including milk and eggs. For vegans, the Thanksgiving table becomes a battlefield of inedible but enticing landmines.

While ethical vegans undoubtedly choose to make a great sacrifice on Thanksgiving, it is not any more difficult to be vegan on Thanksgiving than it is during the rest of the year. Vegans want to help other vegans succeed in their animal-product-free lives, and the vegan community of New York is very dedicated to supporting one another by opening vegan businesses, hosting vegan events and blogging to make people aware of vegan goings-on.

As a result of this community effort, opportunities for a vegan meal on Thanksgiving are actually greater than on any other given day of the year.

This year, for example at the Woodstock Animal Farm Sanctuary’s Thanksliving dinner, in Woodstock, N.Y., you could eat among the turkeys instead of eating the turkeys. Guests were free to take tours of the grounds and visit with the animals for a powerful reminder of their natures.

The program coordinator, Elana Kirshenbaum, says that attendees “rave about” the event, and she has seen some of the same people return year after year. At $100 to $150, 250 seats have sold out every year since they first held the event six years ago, Kirshenbaum says.

This year was no different, and Kirshenbaum says they maxed out at 260 guests, which is great for them since it is their “largest annual fundraiser.” The Woodstock website page, recapping the event, says “We folk at the farm, along with our rescued farm animal friends, are deeply grateful for and touched by the enthusiasm of our supporters and volunteers who enable us to continue the critical work of rescue and education.”

Terry Hope Romero, the author of four best-selling vegan cookbooks, was this year’s master chef and the Woodstock website said “people couldn’t get enough of the Cornbread Sofrito Stuffing with Veggie Chorizo.”

Still, for some people, paying $100 for a ticket would have meant Christmas shopping at the dollar store. Luckily, a catering company called Vérité hosted a vegan meal at the Gramercy School House in Manhattan. At $15 apiece, tickets are less than that gourmet pie you might have felt obligated to bring to a friend’s house.

A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute and founder of Vérité Catering, Daphne Cheng did all the cooking. She said this was her first year hosting such an event and she was excited to feature dishes like roasted seitan (a meat substitute made of wheat protein) with cornbread stuffing and a gluten-free baked macaroni and cheese with shitake “bacon” crumbles, for those who have celiac disease and are vegan.

Cheng had hoped to fill 90 seats and a week later, the Facebook page for the event announced that it had sold out. “The event went well, but not perfectly as this was our first event of this size,” Cheng says. “We will definitely be doing it again next year.”

For some, dining with people they do not know on such a family-centered holiday is not their slice of pie. Last year, Tomer Versano, a manager at Terri Vegetarian Cafe in the Flatiron district of Manhattan felt the same way. He and the owner of Terri, Craig Cochran, spent four days preparing the meal and as a result, had plenty of vegan food to impress their vegan and non-vegan guests.

This was his first vegan Thanksgiving, because Versano recently moved to New York from Tel Aviv. As a result, he says he is used to traditions that conflict with his vegan lifestyle because of holidays that include “tons of dairy during Shavuot, fish head on Rosh Hashanah, and chicken leg and eggs for Passover.”

Still, he said the craziness around Thanksgiving was kind of a shock to him and he wanted to show his omnivore friends that “a vegan meal is always cheaper and of course, healthier than an omnivore meal.”

This year, Versano says, he did not have time to cook but still had a group of people over and served a “Tofurky,” with some roast corn and sweet potatoes. Everything was “delicious and simple,” he says, and he was able to prove to his friends not only that vegan food can be delicious to eat but also easy to make.

Here’s a vegan pecan pie you can make in under an hour and serve at any holidays.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ½ teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer powder (can be found at Whole Foods), mixed with 6 tablespoons of water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons melted Earth Balance butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups raw pecan halves
  • 1 nine-inch frozen pie crust

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Beat the egg replacer with the water to mix.
  3. Add the sugar to the egg mixture, stir in the corn syrup, then add the melted butter, vanilla and salt.
  4. Fold the pecans into the mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture into the pie crust.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes and remove from the oven when the filling puffs up a bit

Black Friday Shopping in Harlem Has Just Gotten A Lot Easier

Thanksgiving Features

By Michael Smith

On 116th Street and the FDR Drive, the two-year-old East River Plaza Multiplex, which includes such big-box retailers as Target, Best Buy and Costco, was packed at midnight on Thanksgiving. Cars jammed the multi-level parking garage. And the line of pedestrians heading for the mall’s ramps and escalators stretched down the block.

Traditionally, Harlemites would have to travel downtown to 86th Street, Time Square or Herald Square, just to name a few infamous Black Friday war zones. In years past, the need to travel has limited the amount of shopping a New Yorker who has to rely on public transportation can do. For some, the long distances to major retail shops, and the inconvenience of coming back uptown with arms laden with heavy packages, has kept many shoppers at home.

“Black Friday shopping for me has been more trouble than it should be in the past,” said a mother of two who would give her name only as Sharon. “This mall being here is a blessing. I love that I can make a huge dent tonight.” Sharon said she was looking forward to shopping at Best Buy for some video games for her son and some house wares at Target. Since she doesn’t own a car, she also feels much safer making the two-block walk back to her apartment than she did in earlier years lugging packages on the subway. “It wasn’t safe,” Sharon added.

During the early morning hours of Black Friday, the Best Buy, which is located on the third level, was definitely the most popular destination for shoppers, with many hoping to take advantage of well-advertised deals on electronics.

“I’m here for a new TV and some video games … that’s it,” said Manny, 22, a shopper who would give only his first name. Manny, who lives nearby at 112th Street and Lenox Avenue and works at Macy’s downtown, said he was determined to purchase only deeply discounted items. In particular, he was eager to snag a television on sale at Best Buy for $118.

“Yeah, this is an easy trip for me,” he added. “It’s going to be a madhouse at my job later. I told my boss that if he insisted on scheduling me to work on Black Friday, then it would have to be a night shift. I have to be here right now.”

After he finishes his Black Friday shopping, Manny will head down to Herald Square in time for his 4 p.m. shift to help other Black Friday shoppers.

Meanwhile, many Harlem residents are enjoying the first holiday shopping season when they don’t have to stray far from home. And for those too laden with packages to walk home, they can always grab a ride from the El Barrio Taxi Service, which operates out of the mall and was also doing a brisk business on Black Friday morning.

Feeding the Five Boroughs

Thanksgiving Features

By Andrew Tang

Three thousand New York City families received turkey dinners this year through the good works of Feeding NYC, an organization founded by Rob LoCascio that is dedicated to feeding to the needy at Thanksgiving. These dinners were boxed at Pier 60, at Chelsea Piers, on Nov. 22, loaded into storage trucks and shipped across the five boroughs.

LoCascio, who is also the founder and chief executive of Live Person, a business communications company, says he started Feeding NYC as a response to the 9/11 attacks and decided to organize his employees to feed 40 families in 2001.

Eventually, the program expanded to directly feed 3,000 families and about 7,000 other families through support groups. LoCascio says he chose Thanksgiving because it’s an American tradition, whereas Christmas is more of a European one. He says he’s pleased so many people are willing to volunteer and help out.

After boxing the dinner, six trucks were loaded with the 3,000 dinners and sent off to different boroughs a little past noon. I went with 17 volunteers of the “Red Team,” all of them British Airways employees. We distributed our 470 boxes to three community centers in Brooklyn, a total of about 18,000 pounds being moved back and forth from the trucks.

One recipient of a turkey dinner, who gave his name only as Andre, says he is a single dad who works as a security guard and lives with his daughter. Without the turkey dinner, Andre says, “I would have tried to attend another family member’s Thanksgiving, but now with this dinner, I might just make my own.”

He intends to teach his young daughter about the deed of giving back. “I was teaching my daughter about this last night,” he recalls. ”If you had a turkey a farm, it’s much better to give than be greedy. After you sold to companies, and warehouses, after you turn around, what do you do with the rest of your turkeys? You give them away to the people in need. Shelters, the homeless, Community centers, people than can’t afford these things.”

A Liberated Turkey Hangs Out

Thanksgiving Features

By Anam Baig

A wild turkey has recently been hanging out at the intersection of Victory Boulevard and Clove Road in Staten Island.

Dubbed Bernice by the locals (who refer to her as a female although it’s a male), the turkey has become a common sight, a companion to those waiting for the s62 and s61 buses that lead to the Staten Island Ferry.

“She’s tame and complacent, a very elegant but simple creature, definitely a Bernice,” remarks Michael Cuttita, a commuter waiting for the bus.

Another Staten Islander, Paul Costello, recalls: “I first saw the turkey around the beginning of November. It was like 7 in the morning and I was waiting for the bus. I was mind-boggled, you know? What is this thing doing at the bus stop? Is it an escaped turkey? I just took a picture of it and shook my head.”

Heavy traffic flows through the intersection each morning, which is surrounded by five bus stops. From 6 to 8 a.m., almost 10 different MTA buses are moving along the street, along with hundreds of cars heading for the ferry, the mall, Brooklyn or the West Brighton neighborhood.

Weaving among this congestion is Bernice, a full-sized wild turkey whose plumage is usually erect as se crosses the street or approaches people. Oddly, he tends to loiter in front of Indian Clove, a local restaurant with a Lunch Special sign posted up by the door.

“She reminds me of Thanksgiving,” says Dustin Felice, a 9-year-old student waiting for the bus with his mother. “I want to have her as a pet!”

A sentiment not shared by business owners around the Clove Lakes area, who say the entrances to their shops are littered with turkey droppings.

“This is gross! It poops all over the place!” says Shen Ling, who works at the nail salon where Bernice frequently leaves little presents. Ling, who opens the salon at 11 a.m., has to sweep up the mess every morning before customers arrive, and says she comes out of the salon throughout the day to shoo Bernice away from the front entrance.

But Bernice is just one turkey.

Recent reports by the state Department of Environmental Conservation have shown that the population of wild turkeys is increasing in Staten Island and is now more than 100, just in the eastern shore area of South Beach and Dongan Hills, more than three miles from Bernice’s spot on Clove Road. These gobblers are becoming a homeowner’s nightmare: they travel in gangs, make odd screeching noises during the wee hours and peck at plants and crap up yards. Some have been found nesting in trees and on rooftops. And many of them saunter out into traffic and end up under the wheels of a passing vehicle.

Sometimes Bernice wants to cross the street himself, perhaps to some appealing bags of garbage by the s53 bus stop.

“This is definitely some sort of traffic violation, maybe even a health hazard,” says Joleen McCully as she watches Bernice cross the street during a Don’t Walk signal. Cars screech to a halt and horns blare while Bernice slowly struts across the street, blissfully unaware of the commotion.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is attempting to determine how the community feels about the turkeys’ presence, sending a survey to approximately 700 residents. Questions range from how they would feel about slaughtering the birds and donating the meat to local food banks to whether they are nice to look at.

From far away, Bernice looks like an awkward peacock, but up close, the beauty of a wild turkey is almost startling. Iridescent feathers of blue, green, and purple race along its back, leading to a fanned tail of browns and whites, which is a pleasantly distracting sight from its wrinkly bald head.
But even this subtle splendor is not enough to take away Curtis High School student Skye Wright’s disdain.

“I think this turkey needs to be taken out of here,” she says. “It freaks me out when I’m trying to read or listen to my iPod. It just bobs its gross head toward me and stares at me, like it wants to eat me. I’m supposed to be on that side of the dinner plate.”

An Extra Seat at the Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Thanksgiving Features

By Andrea Kayda

As a chronic sufferer of “only-child syndrome,” one practice I never learned to perfect was that of sharing. I never enjoyed projects involving group work and I definitely don’t like to share my food. So earlier this month when my dad informed me we would be spending Thanksgiving with his girlfriend, Cathy, I wasn’t exactly thrilled.

I knew that my dad was dating, my parents have been divorced for years and I had met other girlfriends of his in the past, including Cathy briefly, but none of them were ever included in the holiday lineup. I have always spent Thanksgiving in my home state of North Carolina with just the three “F’s” — my father, food and football; but this year, I struggled with the idea of incorporating a “G” — girlfriend — into the mix. I had nothing against Cathy; I barely knew her, yet I couldn’t help but feel wounded.

So when Dad called a few days before my trip to let me know Cathy would be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner, the news came as quite a surprise. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. My dad must have been able to sense my discomfort because he immediately assured me that I would love her once I got to know her. I wasn’t convinced, but was too embarrassed to challenge him. This didn’t sit right with me. My dad and I have always been so close; I worried that Cathy would create a wedge between us. I was nervous about being replaced in his life.

After brooding for a few days over the change in plans, I decided to embrace the holiday spirit and accept spending the evening with my dad’s plus-one at the dinner table. I packed a dozen recipes and boarded the plane.

Waking up on Thanksgiving morning, I felt anxious about seeing Cathy. Thankfully, I had the distraction of cooking and getting everything ready in time for dinner, which, for Dad and me, has always been a casual meal with no-frills turkey, gravy and stuffing, before retiring to the couch to watch football.

But this Thanksgiving was different. I could tell my dad wanted to make the day a memorable one: he spent extra time in the kitchen, was more hands-on with the menu and even, shockingly, turned off the television while we were getting ready.

Four dishes and three burned fingers later, Cathy arrived with a pumpkin pie. My dad left us alone to “do what women do best” — talk. She wanted to know about my classes and whether or not I was dating anyone. She was just as I remembered her — skinny with blonde, curly hair; but somehow she looked more beautiful to me that day. I found we shared a sense of humor and bonded over teasing my dad about his bad jokes. We cooked the last Thanksgiving dish, a green bean casserole, together.

It was refreshing to see my dad and Cathy interact because they seemed to genuinely complement one another. They were silly and fun and were constantly giggling at something the other person said. My dad seemed younger in her presence and, I had to admit, I had not seen him so happy in years.

I was suddenly ashamed for not accepting Cathy more readily. She clearly loves my father. I was reminded that this is, after all, a day of giving thanks and showing appreciation for what we have. I realized that I was grateful that my dad, who spends most of his time alone, especially as my visits become less frequent, now had Cathy in his life

From this Thanksgiving forward, the three “F’s” will become the four “F’s,” because, also over the weekend, my dad made Cathy his fiancée. And I couldn’t be more thankful.

On Black Friday Weekend, the Queens Center Mall Becomes a Kids Zone

Thanksgiving Features

By Tiffani C. Dawson

Black Friday weekend at Queens Center Mall isn’t just for bargain-hunting adults. The busiest shopping weekend of the year has turned some stores into kids’ zones, with strollers and tired or unruly children filling the aisles.

“Does the whole family really need to come shopping with you?” complained Julia Rodriguez, as she dropped her three large shoe bags on the floor and plopped down on a bench in the mall’s seating area. “I came out yesterday and I came back today and the amount of little rugrats running around Steven Madden was ridiculous. And there were just way too many children in Michael Kors. They touch everything!”

Rodriguez, a real estate agent, began shopping on Black Friday. It was now Saturday, and she had spent almost $1,200 in two days on shoes and bags. She said the Black Friday weekend is a great time to treat herself, especially since she just made a big commission off of a house sale. But, Rodriguez adds, she would have spent even more — her maximum budget was $1500 — if it hadn’t been for the little girl who collided with her at Macy’s, causing her to drop her iced coffee down the front of her dress, producing the big brown stain now visible on her tan dress; so, instead, Rodriguez cut her shopping spree short.

Rodriguez wasn’t alone in her frustration. A sales associate at Aldo, a shoe retailer, who would give her name only as LaTasha, said more women seemed to be shopping with their children than usual on Black Friday weekend.

Aldo was offering 30 percent discounts on some limited shoe displays. And the store was crowded even on Saturday, mostly with women, at least five of whom were shopping at Aldo with small children still in baby carriages. One little girl threw a tantrum, throwing a shoe from a display out into the hallway, after her mother told her that she could not go to McDonald’s.

“The kids are aggravated,” said LaTasha, before going in the back of the store to retrieve a pair of red patent leather pumps for a costumer. “Their parents woke them up in the wee hours of the morning to stand on long lines. And little kids don’t understand compromise, it is one thing for them to have to wake up to be in Toys ‘R’ Us, but we don’t sell baby shoes in here.”

When asked if she felt that the children were affecting sales in the store LaTasha laughed. “People with kids are just smarter shoppers,” she explained. “We always joke that the more kids they have, the less stuff they’re actually going to buy. People with kids rarely spend over $200 in here, but a woman in her mid-20s to early 30s, who comes in by herself or with some friends may easily spend over $400.”

At some stores, strollers put a damper on business. “I’m a mother as well but this store isn’t big enough for these strollers,” said a sales woman at Michael Kors who would only give her name as Rebecca. “Our customers don’t want to have to shimmy their way through the aisles because people decided to bring their bad little kids in here. It’s difficult to make a sale when I can’t quickly get to a customer admiring a bag because I have to navigate around two little kids running around the store, and hoping over a baby carriage.”

A Veteran Salesman’s First Black Friday at Macy’s

Story and photos by Jason Volnick

Marvin Robinson

Marvin Robinson, left, assists a shopper in the men’s department at Macy’s.

Marvin Robinson, 50, has been a salesman in the second floor men’s department at Macy’s flagship department store on Herald Square for less than a year. But after Black Friday, he feels like a seasoned veteran.

Soon after the store opened at midnight, the men’s department, like most of the rest of the store, looked like a tornado had ripped through it, with shoppers in search of bargains tearing through the folded clothes, many of which ended up cluttering the aisles.

With almost 30 years of experience in retail — most recently at NJB, a women’s boutique in the Village — Robinson was eager to help customers cash in on the promotions offered by Macy’s. Robinson, who gets an eight percent commission on all sales, opened several new Macy’s credit card accounts for shoppers who could take advantage of the 15 percent discount off of all purchases paid for with the new cards. When Robinson had to turn down the request of two Chinese customers who wanted to open a credit card account because they lacked a U.S. address, he offered them the next best thing by directing them to customer service to get an out-of-town resident’s discount of 15 percent.

Macys Shoppers

Crowds flock to Macy’s the morning after Thanksgiving.

Robinson also rang up several so-called pre-sales, in which customers took advantage of a 25 percent discount on purchases made on Wednesday. Robinson was able to give an additional 15 percent off for certain sale items in the Kenneth Cole section. Shoppers seemed to respond to his charm and easy-going personality.

At times, though, Robinson had to deliver the unwelcome news that shoppers could only use one coupon per purchase. Many customers tried to use three and four discount coupons that they received in the mail from Macy’s.

“It’s by the clock; Macy’s has been doing this a long time and they know what works,” said an exhausted, but happy, Robinson. By the end of his shift, Robinson had done quite well, racking up $5,000 in sales and $3,000 in pre-sales.

css.php