Family plans Black Friday like military operation

SYNCHRONISED STRATEGY: The Mvula family plan their Black Friday shopping a year in advance. Cashing in on some bargains on Friday were, from left, Mise Mvula, Niki Tyala, three-month-old Alu Tyala, Ndende Gulwa and Shoprite teller Angel Jacobs
SYNCHRONISED STRATEGY: The Mvula family plan their Black Friday shopping a year in advance. Cashing in on some bargains on Friday were, from left, Mise Mvula, Niki Tyala, three-month-old Alu Tyala, Ndende Gulwa and Shoprite teller Angel Jacobs
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

For four years now, the Mvula family have planned their Black Friday operation with military-like precision.

From January, each adult in the family already knows the specific amount of money they need to save by November. During the course of the year discussions over who will be deployed to which shops take place.

And then, on the big day, they fan out from early in the morning.

From three-month old baby Alu to 61-year-old matriarch Aunt May, as her family fondly refers to her, it was all hands on deck from 6am on Friday for the family of 10.

Waiting at the door at Checkers in Greenacres at 5.45am were Niki, 35, carrying baby Alu, Aunt May, Zozo, 40, Mantombi, 39, Anelisa, 21 and Niki’s colleague, Nomonde Gulwa, 40.

Meanwhile, other members of the family queued up at other stores, some at Shoprite, Spitz, Street Fever, Mr Price and at the liquor store — all on the hunt for Christmas goodies.

“Since 2015 we haven’t  missed Black Friday,” Aunt May said. “We plan well ahead so we know how to work when the day comes.

“Throughout the year we discuss who is going to do what and when the shops release pamphlets for their specials, we mark what we each want.

“For example, the group that started at Checkers bought for everyone, including the ones who were at Shoprite, while the [latter] bought for us, too, because there are some good bargains available at Shoprite but not at Checkers and vice versa.”

Referred to as the mastermind of the day, Aunt May said the plans were discussed when the family visited one another between Motherwell, St Albans and KwaNoxolo.

One of Aunt May’s daughters, Niki, was among those who drove from St Albans, setting herself up well when she was the fourth person to join the queue outside Checkers.

“We are always early for Black Friday and today was no different,” Niki said.

“We were actually number four in the queue, but the queue lost its order when a Fidelity employee came and addressed people and it became chaotic — everyone was pushing their way in by the time doors opened at 7am.” 

By 9am the Checkers group had finished paying for their items, with about four large trolleys packed with groceries. Among their most popular items were several 18-roll packs of toilet paper and boxes of Liqui Fruit juice.

They then made their way to join the group at Shoprite.

“We mostly buy groceries on Black Friday and look out for bargains on expensive sneaker brands, but we buy the more affordable of the kids’ Christmas clothing in December,” Niki said.

They encountered minimal drama in the form of pushing and shoving and it had been less dramatic than previous years, they said.

Last year’s shopping took a traumatic turn for Zozo, who was shoved into a fridge by another shopper while shopping for cheese.

“It was a really traumatic, especially because Zozo is the softest person in the family. We almost left  without shopping,” Niki said.

Zozo said the incident had not stopped her from returning this year because she loved a good bargain.

“I was wearing flip-flops when they shoved me into the fridge last year, so I decided to wear sneakers this year, just in case.


“I always reserve leave from work for Black Friday and the following day so I can rest after the madness,” Zozo said.

As you can already tell, the family’s shared passion for a bargain runs deep, so it is little surprise that  Aunt May braved the pain of an operation to shop it up in 2016 on Black Friday.

The day came just weeks after she underwent a gallstones removal operation, but she could not miss it for anything.

“I was actually still in pain from the op but I was here bright and early,” she said.

“The worst part is that the mall was even fuller that year, but I was within the masses and had to find ways to protect myself because people didn’t know or care that I was in pain.”

At Shoprite, the family divided the groceries among each other while braving a queue of about 40 people and each paid for their own before heading out to wait for those who were at the liquor and clothing stores.

“This is how we always shop for Christmas, but back when we started there were much bigger discounts than there are now.

“These days, you find small discounts of R20 or more, but they still make a difference in our shopping,” Niki said.

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