As we start to see all of this year’s Black Friday ads trickle in, we also see that many of the sales are starting on Thursday evening (Thanksgiving), and not actually on Friday at all. Before we’ve even been given a chance to fully digest the turkey and the stuffing and wash it down with thankfulness and good cheer, we’ve got to kiss grandma goodbye and dash out the door to swallow long lines outside in the dark, cold, late November evening. Taking a number and marking our positions at the starting line to fight for a limited number of deals that are apparently too good to miss, even at the expense of not being able to linger around the dinner table and remembering that we just spent a month on Facebook counting the blessings of what we already have, for fear of missing out on the hot items of the season that surely must be too fantastic to live without. Sales start at 8pm, meaning lines at least by 5 and that translates to ’round the clock low paid employees to cater to all our retail needs and whims, cleaning up after our careless ravaging through shelves to find the last Tickle-Me-Elmo available in three counties.
For some shoppers, Black Friday sales are a fun tradition, a sport if you will, to map out the best deals. They race from store to store with fellow bargain shoppers, in the ultimate American sport of competitive shopping. Some people get their entire Christmas holiday done and shopped for on Black Friday. Shopper’s gift-lists reflecting whatever the retail giant decides are perfect selections to place under the tree this year and and strategically putting them on quasi-sale, so we scoop them up like obedient little shopping robots by the cart-full at a rapid pace that’ll even put Usain Bolt to shame. (Though I suppose, luckily the list also seems to be surely not inadvertently, the same as the one my kids have been compiling every-time I fail to fast forward through the bombardment of commercials on Cartoon Network). P.S. don’t forget the batteries, they are sold separately.
Some shoppers come out empty handed due to the limited availability of actual deal items, and some come home with useless crap, just because it was a great price, and others come out having been pushed, tackled or pepper-sprayed out of line or luck from other deal-hungry shoppers. Security needs to be beefed up to the nth degree because we just can’t control ourselves when it comes to good deals and because even Xbox games are worth turning psychotic over. Every year we hear of the customer fights, even customer deaths or how people were so blinded by the sport, they placed gobbling up holiday deals for their loved ones over common sense and humanity.
I remember several years ago when I bought up dozens of Inspi(Red) shirts at the Gap for 30 bucks a pop only to turn around and resell them on eBay for $100+ a piece. Don’t blame me, this is American consumerism in it’s finest hour; and I assure you, if it sounds hot, Shoppers. Will. Want. It. Mark my words: buy two Furbies this year. You will thank me.
There also has been a number of spin-off events that have sprouted from Black Friday, like Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday, encouraging each sector of shopping to get their piece of the retail pie. And why shouldn’t they? I’m only waiting for Return-it Tuesday to become a national holiday, since no one is ever satisfied anyway.
So what are we supposed to do? Are we just pawns in this retail game that we’ve allowed to be created and expanded and are forced to play along? Do we risk the vengeance of our whiney little kids that hate Santa now ’cause they didn’t get the best Nurf gun on the block? Obviously there is an interest in sales beginning earlier and earlier or they wouldn’t be happening. (Even as I write this snarky post, you bet your bottom dollar I’m going to find out if there’s any decent sales I need to pay attention to). Your local Walmart isn’t going to be throwing back the doors, waving their wares around, decking the halls with gigantic red and green signage and stock-piling shelving full of irresistible sales, if there weren’t customers lining up by the hundreds just waiting to trample each other to snag that $2 Harry Potter DVD or the $20 BLU-Ray player that they didn’t even realize they’ve been wishing for all year long, while the stores somehow fail to mention is also probably available at the same price for the rest of the year anyway. The same stuff will surely be marked down by 50% on January 1st to take advantage of gift-card shopping season or at the very least so shoppers can’t return their unwanted junk at full price.
I’ve heard rumblings of certain retail store employees planning a boycott on said nights and day, but chances are, if I’ve heard about it via Internet articles, said stores are already attune to the concept and have prepared for this in advance. In this economy, a handful of disgruntled employees probably don’t have much of a fighting chance against major corporations who have already interviewed double the amount of seasonal employees who can’t afford to be so bold as to boycott a pay check, even if measly, right before the holidays. If I had to bet, I’d guess any boycotts won’t barely be a blimp on any major retail company’s radar.
We can choose to be patrons of Small Business Saturday, which is ironically a concept that was founded by credit card giant, American Express. Their Facebook fan page (Liked by millions) comes equip with promotional material you can freely post on your business page or store window, which of course strategically dons their American Express logo, a card that many small businesses don’t accept, and even if they did, would end up costing the small business even more money from fees they pay when customers don’t use cash. So in this game where we are all simply well played pawns of a big business retail game, who wins? I think you don’t need to be a high stakes Sports Bookie in Vegas to predict that one. Remember, the house always wins-duh!
We also want to grumble ad nauseum that seasonal holiday merchandise is sprouting up earlier and earlier every year. We can hardly finish Back-To-School shopping in June and buying Halloween Candy in September, when in the very beginning of October, the Christmas trees and wreaths start sprouting up in every store from here to the North Pole.
I also find it amusing that the retailer, Nordstroms has announced how they will altruistically refrain from decking their stores for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. their flyer stating their grand plan has been floating around Facebook for a month patting themselves on the back as we all give three cheers for their selfishlessness, meanwhile giving them oodles of free viral marketing. Congratulations Nordstroms, you have mastered free advertising at its finest, having us post and repost your name millions of times in the guise of holiday spirit and good cheer. Huzzah! Congrats American Express and Nordstroms, I applaud your marketing team’s absolute genius ideas: making yourselves look very giving while taking advantage of the situation at hand. Meanwhile, let’s not think for a minute that a company would ever dream of participating in a toys for tots-esk program without their company logo displayed visibly in the forefront. On a completely separate, but related side note, this reminds me of how McDonalds is a proud sponsor of the Olympics, as if any Olympic athlete has eaten a Big Mac… Like ever. But it’s not about that, it’s about advertising genius and taking advantage of what they know we want, or at least what we are tricked into knowing what we want, a lá $100 craptop from Walmart. And make sure you’re there before midnight to get your free R2-D2 USB port. And free is way better than cheap, and nothing says free like standing in line for hours as media vans roll around snapping screen shots for the nightly news in front of your store front as hundreds of people wrestle out front- the heathens!
American holidays as retail marketing schemes are hardly a new concept. What better way to spend Veteran’s Day than a free meal for soldiers at Applebees, the good ole, ‘ pat ourselves on the back’ approach for offering free stuff and in turn having our names tweeted and retweeted, not to mention tripple their patronage, all day long since they’re so supportive of our Veterans. *Snort*
You can’t really even think about President’s Day anymore, or really as far back as I remember, (again, this isn’t a new concept) without getting bombarded by furniture companies (and the like) flashing George Washington relaxing pleasantly on the perfect couch, which you should buy to feel oh so American. Even complaining about retailers is the new perfect advertising strategy. While you’re sick to your stomach and bitching and moaning that Walmart is opened at 8pm on Thanksgiving, there’s 20 people that just said, “Sweet! Let me go check out these must-have deals that I need to rush through dinner to scoop up. Where can i find their ad!” I’m sure you’re going to google it after you read this blog, right?! And usually during every holiday I hear half the people on social media complaining about retail domination, the other half complaining that the grocery store isn’t opened still and shoot, they forgot to buy cranberry sauce.
Even the creator of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, who had started the day to remember and celebrate Motherhood, had eventually campaigned for the end of the holiday because in only a few short years it went from a simple memorial day to an all out shopping bonanza that would make any modern American retail giant proud; because nothing says I love my mom
More than giant overpriced bouquet and a $9 card from Hallmark.
The precise date of Thanksgiving actually was on shaky ground for a few years, because in 1939 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to move the holiday up a week at the request of retailers to try and boost the floundering economy and allow one extra week of Christmas Shopping. Christmas shopping was always traditionally done immediately after thanksgiving, well at least for a very long time; although I’m guessing the three kings didn’t stop by the nearest merchant on Black Friday to see what was on sale, (don’t quote me on that). The interesting thing is, only half of the states followed FDR’s lead and it did in-fact influence shoppers. The states that celebrated the early Thanksgiving didn’t see an increase in (over-all) sales, but their sales were now spread out evenly over the time between the new Thanksgiving and Christmas, bringing relief sooner from the effect the depression had on their establishments. The 23 states that did not change the day, experienced the same sale volume, but it was neatly distributed between the exact days from (their) recognized Thanksgiving to Christmas.
And let’s not forget about the War on Christmas which may or may not be an actual thing, but just the retailers cooperating one way or another with how best to term what they call their biggest money making time of the year. You complain enough and Gap will call it whatever-the-hell-you-wanukkah, because frankly they want to sell their scarves to whoever-the-hell-will-buy-ukkah. Call it Christmas, call it The Holidays.. Call it a Christmas Tree or Holiday Tree, who cares because that crap will still be out promptly on shelves in October and half-off by November and picked over by December.
Black Friday was coined as such anyway because it was the one day a year that retailer’s sales were guaranteed to be written in black ink, meaning turning a hefty profit, and not the dreaded red (loss of profit). Stores would be almost stupid if they didn’t dream even bigger and make it into a week long, even month long shopping extravaganza. Black Friday has firm roots in this nation since at least the 1860’s, way before any of us current day holiday pundits were even born. So who are we to complain anyway, it’s not as if the day comes as some big surprise, as if we thought all along it was something the pilgrims did, hand in hand with the Natives in search for the best wares as they digested the leftover pumpkin pies they no doubt consumed the day before. *Side Eye*
What do you think? Has Black Friday become out of control, or do we make the bed we love to lie in? Are you avoiding the tradition of a Black Friday or do you revel in it’s juicy consumerism goodness?